The AHEPAN - Fall 2010 - (Page 25)

BooK reView The First Victory by George C. Blytas “Greece in the Second World War” Published by Cosmos Publishing, American Hellenic Institute Foundation Reviewed by Joseph C. Keane, Hellenic Cultural Commission Chairman The Golden Age of Greece cast a reflection in a distant mirror in the 20th Century. “The First Victory” is a must read for any student of Greek history or the Second World War. Until October 1940, Hitler and Mussolini had achieved their territorial ambitions everywhere and generally in a matter of weeks. However, on the 28th of October, Mussolini presented Greece with an ultimatum demanding the “right to occupy certain strategically important areas of Greek territory”. His premature move would lead to his armies being thoroughly defeated by Greece for five and one half months, which became the first victory for the Allies and thus the title of the book. Overcoming that victory would require an additional two months, would need the combined armies of Italy and Germany, with help from Albania and Bulgaria, but the struggle would continue for four more years. The genius of the book is in presenting the circumstances surrounding events, like the German general staff had planned the occupation of Greece only after the “British naval squadron in Alexandria was neutralized and the Suez Canal was captured or rendered non-navigable”. Obviously this didn’t happen before Mussolini’s precipitous and petulant move. Dr. Blytas begins with a brief overview of Greece’s role in the First Balkan War, then the First World War, touches on the Holocaust of Smyrna and the role of the Dictators. All this is necessary to set the stage to build up to the Battle of Greece and WW II. Ioannis Metaxas, The Prime Minister and then Dictator of Greece, is treated well for his efforts to keep Greece neutral and for his courageous response to the ultimatum and his subsequent management of the war. General Papagos didn’t fare as well. His hesitation in Albania in December 1940, when the Italian army was demoralized is difficult to explain. The subsequent peace mediation efforts by Germany are enlightening and vividly illustrate the impact on the military and political situation that the Greek victories had, which were considerable. It clearly stiffened Franco’s Spain, Petain’s Vichy France, and Turkey’s resistance to joining the Axis and definitely thwarted Hitler’s Mediterranean strategy. The USSR also resisted Hitler’s attempts to lure them into the Axis, with Molotov pointing to Greece’s victories as the only successful counter to von Ribbentrop’s assertion that “the war is being won by the Axis”. The downside to Greece’s success was Hitler’s issuance of Operation Marita, for the attack on Greece through Bulgaria. Concurrently Hitler also authorized Operation Barbarossa, the attack on Russia, which would prove so disastrous for him because of the lengthy and courageous resistance of the Greek army and people. England had long been in search of a Balkan front and Hitler knew that he would have to occupy all of Greece to keep them out of the Balkans. The intrigues involved in sending the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) to Greece is an excellent illustration of the author’s total command of the countervailing forces at play. The battle for the island of Crete is an excellent illustration of the logical but totally inappropriate use of airborne troops. This heroic battle is covered in great detail. The occupation of Greece talks to the plundering and famine, in part caused by the Allied blockade, that Greeks suffered during the war. The resistance of the people during the war years with demonstrations, strikes, ambushes, battles and sabotage is well covered. The resistance to the Axis was fierce and there were many reprisals and massacres. The divisions that would erupt into civil war are carefully described and explained. The narrative is not solely focused on events in Greece, but covers them as seen through the prism of the struggles in Greece. The costs and sacrifices of Greece are well documented and the implications and consequences carefully explained. Perhaps the greatest contribution is the well thought out “what would have happened if Greece didn’t” scenario. The greatest tribute to Greece’s sacrifice was paid by Churchill’s knowing and catastrophic sacrifice of the BEF to guarantee Greece’s membership as an ally and Stalin’s tribute: “You fought without weapons and you won…..We owe you gratitude because you bought time….As Russians and as fellow humans, we thank you.” Fall 2010 the ahepan 2

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of The AHEPAN - Fall 2010

The AHEPAN - Fall 2010
Supreme President’s Message
Daughters of Penelope President’s Message
Sons and Maids Presidents’ Messages
AHEPA Family News
AHEPA Journey to Greece Program Successfully Completes Fifth Season
Montreal’s Charm Energizes the AHEPA Family
From The Heart: ThanksUSA
Ahepan Captures Historic Liturgy on Film
Book Review
AHEPA Family Chapter News
The Periclean

The AHEPAN - Fall 2010