The Impact of Greece's Valiant Resistance in WWII

Paratroopers Crete 41

During World War II in Europe, most countries that hadn't sided with Adolf Hitler spent their time trying to prevent invasion. Germany greatly desired to control Greece because of its strategic location. Occupying Greece would provide them with an advantage as they advanced towards Russia.

Fighting in Crete

Although Crete eventually fell to the Germans, Hitler's troops suffered serious casualties while subduing the island. Crete was desirable to them because Hitler wanted to control the airports. Despite the island falling, it came at a price. On the first day of fighting, Hitler's troops suffered so many casualties that there was a real possibility of defeat.

Heroes Fight Like Greeks

Due to their tenacious fighting, Greek soldiers earned significant respect, even from Adolf Hitler himself. He often spoke about Greece and the courage and bravery of the soldiers. Winston Churchill famously said, "Therefore, it is not said that Greeks fought like heroes, but heroes fight like Greeks."

Affecting Fighting in Russia

The prolonged battle for Crete disrupted Hitler's war plan, causing delays. Many believe this is one reason why Hitler was forced to postpone the invasion of Russia. As you may recall, this delay led German troops to attempt an invasion during the harsh Russian winters, for which they were ill-equipped, ultimately contributing to their defeat.

Greece Celebrated on the World Stage

While Greece eventually lost to the Nazis, the near-victory on Crete, despite limited resources, profoundly impacted the Allies. Suddenly, Germany, which had appeared invincible, seemed vulnerable. President Franklin Roosevelt stated that the Cretans' close call with victory against the Nazis gave the world hope that the Germans could be defeated.

There is a famous quote often attributed to former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, although some debate whether he said it:

“From henceforth, we will not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but that heroes fight like Greeks.”

They Never Stopped Fighting

After Germany managed to subdue Crete, the resistance continued. Resistance fighters emerged throughout the island, with both men and women using any available weapons to battle the Germans. Their main objective was to harass the soldiers in an effort to force them to leave.

Adolf Hitler did not anticipate Greece being such a formidable opponent. Two significant outcomes resulted from this battle. First, it caused the Nazi war plan to fall behind schedule, potentially leading to their defeat in Russia. Secondly, the fact that Crete nearly won the battle bolstered the Allies and instilled them with optimism and courage. Eventually, the Allies defeated the Nazis, and Germany lost the war.

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