I’ve been staying on a small Greek island, and from the home I’ve been in a position to look throughout the wine-dark sea to the distant blue mountains of Epirus within the northwest a part of mainland Greece. It’s laborious not to consider Odysseus crusing these waters, however my ideas additionally flip to the Greek tragedy of the warfare years, a darkish interval within the nation’s historical past, if ever there was one.
Epirus witnessed the Italian invasion in late October 1940, the Greek counterattack, after which the German invasion just a few months later. It additionally noticed not solely guerrilla actions however civil warfare, between the Communist-organized ELAS and the extra liberal however anti-monarchy EDES partisan actions. A whole bunch of 1000’s of civilians have been killed throughout these years, and 1000’s—actually—of villages have been wiped from the face of the earth.
The Allies, and the British particularly, additionally performed their half in Greece’s warfare: first, sending some 48,000 British troops plus a handful of Royal Air Power planes when the Germans and Bulgarians invaded in April 1941. The Germans swept all earlier than them in a matter of weeks, the British unexpectedly evacuated, and, thereafter, their involvement continued within the type of the Particular Operations Govt (SOE).
SOE brokers infiltrated Greece with little understanding of what was happening internally. Pointers from London have been to incite armed resistance in opposition to the Axis, but additionally to advertise loyalty to the exiled Greek king—though, for all of the completely different politics inside Greece, one unifying issue was a rising want to eliminate the monarchy.
The SOE in Greece, led by Main Eddie Myers, quickly started to grasp the advanced and immense challenges they confronted, and navigating these difficult waters swiftly led to some uncomfortable ethical compromises. Certainly one of SOE’s roles was to sabotage Axis provide traces, however one other, in the summertime of 1943, was to influence the Germans and Italians that Greece was the primary goal for an imminent Allied invasion, somewhat than Sicily, the true goal. That meant additionally persuading theELAS and EDES partisans that Greece was about to be invaded. In different phrases, they needed to dupe their allies into believing one thing they knew to be wholly false. The results of Operation Animals—blowing up bridges, attacking Axis troops and locomotives—have been the roundup of Greek civilians, abstract executions, and the destruction of villages. Many Greeks misplaced their lives in an effort to make the Axis consider the Allies supposed to land in Greece and never Sicily.
A lot has been made of those deception measures, particularly with Operation Mincemeat, the British plan to ditch a physique into the Mediterranean with incriminating papers connected that pointed to an Allied invasion first of Sardinia, then of Greece. The story has simply been tailored into a movie with all of the hyperbole of fixing the course of historical past one would anticipate from a film launch.
It’s true two German divisions have been despatched to Greece, however this was extra in anticipation of the approaching Italian collapse: there have been some 750,000 Italian troops all through Greece and the Balkans that would wish changing ought to Italy drop out of the warfare. In reality, Hitler was satisfied Greece can be the following goal as a result of he was paranoid in regards to the Allies taking the Ploesti oil fields in Romania, and an Allied assault in Greece appeared to offer them the perfect probability of reaching that. However Albert Kesselring, his senior commander within the Mediterranean, and the Italian excessive command, Mussolini included, all assumed the Allies would assault Sicily, as a result of it was so blindingly apparent. Solely Sicily allowed the Allies fighter cowl from bases in North Africa, a prerequisite for such an amphibious assault. Operations Animals and Mincemeat bolstered what Hitler already believed and dissuaded nobody else that the goal can be Sicily.
Fortuitously immediately, the mountains of Epirus are altogether extra peaceable, however gazing throughout the ocean I cannot assist questioning in regards to the nature of the ethical campaign on which the Allies embarked in the course of the warfare. For the reason for proper, sure, however with plenty of ethical conundrums alongside the best way, of which duping the Greeks was simply however one.