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May 1941 - Germany Invades Crete

on Thu, 08/18/2011 - 21:28

The wisdom of the two-week German campaign in Crete remains heavily debated to this day. On the one hand, there is no doubt the loss of Crete weakened Britain's position in the Eastern Mediterranean at a crucial point in the war. On the other hand, some have argued the Germans lost an opportunity to seal off the Central Mediterranean via attacking Malta, astride Axis supply lines to North Africa. Regardless of today's arguments, Germany took Crete on the back of a combined air-sea operation that in spite of succeeding in its objective resulted in horrific losses to Germany's expensively trained and elite paratroop force.

The German airborne assault began on May 20th. The British Army and British Commonwealth forces put up intense opposition, however within days German forces totaling over 20,000 men had broken the back of the Allied resistance. The cost to both sides proved steep. The Germans lost over 4,000 paratroopers, and 170 Ju-52 transports. The Allied defeat was as expensive as the German victory. In particular, the British Royal Navy endured substantial losses against Axis aircraft; mostly while attempting to evacuate the Allied garrison. The Royal Navy lost nine warships and suffered damage to another seventeen warships. Politically, the loss of Crete also dealt a blow to the Allied war effort as Turkey gravitated further toward the Axis and began providing economic support for Germany.

By Steven D. Mercatante

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