Did sending troops to Greece cause German defeat in Russia?

1/3/2013 • Ask Mr. History

I have heard that by sending troops to help the Greeks in WWII that  it forced the Germans to postpone the invasion of Russia by several weeks/months, which in turn resulted in the Germans not reaching their objective before the onset of winter, which led to their downfall in Russia and hence the defeat in WWII.  

Any truth to this?  

Leon Vannais

? ? ?

Dear Mr. Vannais:  

After learning of Benito Mussolini’s invasion of Greece on October 28, 1940, Adolf Hitler wished him the best but privately told his generals that this would be a "Schweinerei" (pig’s mess). When the Greeks threw the Italians back and the British began sending troops and aircraft there, Hitler had no recourse but to secure his southern flank before launching Unternehmen Barbarossa. The Balkan Blitz certainly succeeded, not only in overwhelming Greece, but Yugoslavia and Crete as well, but it also cost Hitler precious time, as the victorious equipment had to be overhauled for the main event to come, throwing off his schedule by at least a month and a half. How critical this was toward the taking of Moscow can be debated forever, since we can never know whether Josef Stalin and the Russian people would have fought on (as the Russians did after Napoleon took Moscow in September 1812, with ultimately disastrous consequences for the Grande Armée). Indisputably, however, the Balkan campaign did Hitler’s timetable no good, and although it added a new ally—Ante Pavelic’s Croatia—to his effort, it also added at least two tenacious enemies on the southern flank, in the form of Draza Mihailovic’s Cetniks and Iosip Broz Tito’s Yugoslav Partisans.



Jon Guttman
Research Director
World History Group
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