The Battle of Crete: Important or Insignificant?
The Battle of Crete began May 20th, 1941. Nazi Germany launched an airborne attack called Operation Merkur or Operation Mercury on the island of Crete. This battle will be important because it will hold great influence over the course of the war in the means of power. The Greek, Allied forces and even civilians attempted to defend the island and after day one the Germans suffered heavy casualties. The next day, the Allies were confident they could gain control back but they would have miscommunications that would lead to Germany gaining Maleme Airfield and flying in reinforcements to overwhelm the defenders of the island. This research is being used to answer the question why the Axis powers and the Allied powers believed that having power over Crete was such an advantage to each side of the Second World War. Overall, this paper will reflect the reasons why historians believed Crete was or was not important to the history of the Second World War.
The Battle of Crete was unprecedented in three aspects. First, this was the first battle in which German paratroopers were used in massive scale and also the first mainly airborne invasion in history. Second, this was the first battle that the Allies made significant use of intelligence from the deciphered German enigma code. Thirdly, it was the first time that invading German troops encountered mass resistance from a civilian population. Many of these aspects form questions that can be brought about to be answered from different historians views on the war and tactics.
Historians such as Antony Beevor, Callum MacDonald and James Sadkovich question why Hitler felt it was important to capture the island of Crete and why an airborne invasion was the solution to this capture. Owning the island of Crete would prove its importance and the technologies used would come to help in future battles during World War II and future wars. The possession of Crete provided the Allies and the Royal Navy a position with good harbors in the Mediterranean and this was a large threat to the Axis powers. Churchill claims, “To lose Crete because we had not sufficient bulk of forces, there would be a crime.” In other words, Churchill believes having control of Crete would pose importance to their successes in the war.
Beevor, MacDonald and Sadkovich all believe that Crete was an important battle even though it is not a “glorified” battle as others are. It was a distraction from the events happening in the East. During this time in the war, the German high command was preoccupied with the plan to invade the Soviet Union; also Germany wanted to regain their prestige after a defeat from the Royal Air Force with Britain. These plans and ideas played a significant role in the German thinking because Crete was under no circumstances to interfere with the campaign against the Soviet Union. Adolf Hitler had plans to invade the Soviet Union in 1941 and did not want Crete to become a problem. In order to regain air superiority, the German army launched frequent bombing raids against the island to establish the air superiority that they once had. This caused the Royal Air Force to move their planes. At this time it can now be said that the Allies had great naval superiority with ships in the Mediterranean and the Axis have air superiority during this time in the war.
The Allies only occupied Greece because Italy invaded in October 1940. The Axis powers needed control in Greece so that they could have an easy access through Egypt to the oil reserves that resided there. Italy took on this task so that the Germans could make the advances into the Soviet Union in the North. However, the Italians were unable to defeat the Greeks that made a delay in the Germans plans to advance into Russia. This gave the Allies plenty of time to make sure that they were ready for anything else that the Axis powers might try in Crete. The Germans made their way to...