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Did sending troops to Greece cause German defeat in Russia?

Originally published under Ask Mr. History. Published Online: January 03, 2013 
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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
Weider History Group
More Questions at Ask Mr. History



4 Responses to “Did sending troops to Greece cause German defeat in Russia?”

  1. 1
    John Merkatatis says:

    Well the Soviet government through radio station Moscow commending the hard defence of the Greek army thanked the Greeks for their resistence that had saved Moscow: "…as Russians and as people we thank you" is an extract of the bulletin.

  2. 2
    Larry C says:

    There are three underlying problems with Hitler's attempt to conquer Russia:
    1. The late start was significant, although this was surmountable if the Germans would have properly prepared for the Russian winter. People who are prepared for the winter conditions (as we see Canadians and Russians) have no problem functioning under those conditions.
    2. The Germans treated the Russian and Ukrainian people very badly. Had they treated them with respect, the people would have seen the Germans as liberators from the tyranny of Stalin. They were ready to support the Germans.
    3. To get the Russian government to surrender, it would have required the capture of the government. There was no military plan for a special action to capture the government. As it was, the government could keep retreating over a vast country. The Ural Mountains would have been a major barrier for the Germans. Forces that know their own mountains have a major advantage over any aggressor. Even a small force can stop a major army.

  3. 3
    John Merkatatis says:

    On 1) It would make a lot of difference if the Germans had 64 days for their attack against Moscow.
    Hoth would have had ample time and supplies if he arrived at Klin 40 days earlier to carry out an atthack against Moscau north to south or south east
    without being hampered by snow and low temperatures;ditto for other commanders attacking west to east.
    On 2) Russian goverment had already abandon Moscow and was established at Kuibichev,less than 50 klms from Moscow;they could easily
    be snatched by someone like Otto S.

  4. 4
    Lyndon says:

    You overlook the British Commonwealth's contribution to aid Greece.

    The losses sustained on the mainland and at Crete enable the Italians and Germans to remain in Egypt and Libya until December 1942.

    If these forces had not been sent to Greece but instead used to drive the Italians out of Libya, then North Africa would have been devoid of Germans and Italians in 1941.

    You better believe. I kid you not.

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