Battle of Pindus

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Battle of Pindus
Part of the Greco-Italian War
Date October 28 – November 13, 1940
Location Pindus Mountains
Result Greek victory
Belligerents
 Fascist Italy:
3 Alpine Division Julia
elements from Bari infantry division
 Kingdom of Greece:
Pindus Detachment
elements from:
Ist infantry Division
Cavalry Brigade
Cavalry Division
Commanders and leaders
General Mario Girotti Colonel Konstantinos Davakis
Maj. Gen. Vasileios Vrachnos
Maj. Gen. Georgios Stanotas
Colonel Sokratis Dimaratos
Strength
28 October:
Julia:[1]
9,141 officers and men
20 guns

mid-November:[2]
23,000 men
112 guns
28 October:
2.000 men
4 guns

13 November:[3]
32,000 men
114 guns
Casualties and losses
Julia:
1,674 killed, wounded and missing[1]
Unknown

The Battle of Pindus (Greek: Μάχη της Πίνδου) took place in the Pindus Mountains in Epirus and West Macedonia, Greece, in the autumn of 1940, between October 28 – November 13. The battle was fought between the Greek and the Italian armies during the first stages of the Greco-Italian War. The Italian Julia Division, that invaded Greece from Pindus sector, after its initial advance, was surrounded and virtually wiped out by the Greek Army.[4] In the aftermath of the battle, the Greek forces were able to push back the Italians, advancing deep into Albanian territory.[5]

Background[edit]

After the Italian invasion of Albania in 1939, the Greek General Staff became alerted to a potential Italian attack from Albanian territory, which eventually started on October 28, 1940. The Italians deployed the Julia Alpine Division with the objective of capturing the strategic mountain passes of the Pindus Mountains as swiftly as possible.[6] During an Italian war council, the Italian commander in Albania, General Visconti Prasca, stated that the mountain range of Pindus would be no problem for the Italian units, and foresaw no difficulty in getting his divisions straight to Athens, like a modern Hannibal.[7] On the other hand the Greek side divided the theatre of operations into the sectors of Epirus and Macedonia linked by the Pindus Detachment.[8] The Pindus Detachment under Colonel Konstantinos Davakis was deployed along a 35-kilometre (22 mi) line in the Pindus mountain range.[9]

Battle[edit]

The primary objective of the Julia Division was to advance towards the Pindus mountain range and to capture the strategic pass at the town of Metsovo. This move would have a crucial effect on the outcome of the battle, since it would break the Greek supply lines and separate the Greek forces in Epirus from those in Macedonia. The Julia Division managed to cover 40 kilometres (25 mi) of mountain terrain in icy rain and captured the village of Vovousa, but couldn't reach Metsovo. On November 2, Colonel Davakis was gravely wounded during a reconnaissance mission near Fourka.[10] However, it had become clear to the Italians that they lacked the manpower and the supplies to continue in the face of the arriving Greek reserves.[11]

Initial Italian Offensive.

On November 3, the Italian spearhead, after the initial advance, was surrounded from all sides. The commander of the Julia Division requested from the Italian headquarters relief attacks and Italian reserves were thrown into the battle. However, reinforcements from Albania were unable to reach the cut-off Italian forces and the Julia Division sustained heavy losses. In the meantime, Greek reinforcements were arriving in the Pindus sector, while the assistance of the local population, including men, women, and children, was invaluable.[12] The situation became difficult for the Italians and their pocket came under pressure from Greek units that had advanced to the area, while the Julia Division was virtually wiped out.[4] The villages that had been initially captured during the Italian advance, Samarina and Vovousa, were recaptured by the advancing Greek forces on November 3 and 4.[13] Within less than a week, the remaining Italian troops were in roughly the same positions they occupied before the declaration of the war.[4]

By 13 November, the entire frontier area had been cleared of Italian units, thereby ending the Battle of Pindus in a complete Greek victory.[14] Highly significant for the Greek success was the failure of the Italian air force to disrupt the mobilization and the deployment of the Greek forces. Due to this factor, the geographical and technical obstacles faced by the Greeks to transport men and material to the front proved surmountable.[15]

Aftermath[edit]

As a result of the failed invasion, the Italian Julia Division lost 5,000 men.[16] After the successful Greek defense in Pindus and Elea-Kalamas sectors, the Greek forces were able to push back the Italians, advancing deep into Albanian territory.[5]

It has been argued that the assistance provided by the local women during the conflicts was crucial to the outcome of the battle. The women of the surrounding villages assisted the Greek forces in several ways, while their most important contribution was the transportation of guns, food, clothes and other important supplies to the front, since vehicles could not reach the battlegrounds due to bad weather conditions and rough roads.[17]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b http://maidaur.blogspot.com/2009/02/la-campagna-greco-albanense.html
  2. ^ Οκτώβριος 1940: Η επίθεση εναντίον της Ελλάδας όπως την είδαν οι Ιταλοί, Συλλογικό έργο, Εκδόσεις Παπαδήμα, Αθήνα 2008, page 86; (Greek translation of Italian original: Ottobre 1940: La campagna di Grecia, Italia Editrice, Campobasso 1995/Foggia 2007)
  3. ^ Η Ιταλική Εισβολή, ΔΙΣ, Αθήναι 1960, page 247
  4. ^ a b c Schreiber, Stegemann, Vogel: p. 437
  5. ^ a b Willingham Matthew. Perilous commitments: the battle for Greece and Crete 1940-1941. Spellmount, 2005. ISBN 978-1-86227-236-1, p. 114.
  6. ^ Schreiber, Stegemann, Vogel: p. 430
  7. ^ Schreiber, Stegemann, Vogel: p. 412
  8. ^ Schreiber, Stegemann, Vogel: p. 428
  9. ^ Hellenic Army General Staff: p. 31
  10. ^ Hellenic Army General Staff: p. 64
  11. ^ Bauer, Eddy; Young, Peter (general editor) (2000) [1979]. The History of World War II (Revised edition ed.). London, UK: Orbis Publishing. p. 105. ISBN 1-85605-552-3. 
  12. ^ Mackenzie, Compton (1943). Wind of freedom: the history of the invasion of Greece by the axis powers, 1940-1941. Chatto & Windus. p. 391. ISBN 978-960-213-371-2. 
  13. ^ Sakellariou, M. V. (1997). Epirus, 4000 years of Greek history and civilization. Ekdotikē Athēnōn. p. 391. ISBN 978-960-213-371-2. 
  14. ^ Hellenic Army General Staff: p. 71
  15. ^ Schreiber, Stegemann, Vogel: p. 438
  16. ^ Jowett Philip S., Andrew Stephen (2000). The Italian Army 1940-45 (1): Europe 1940-43. Osprey Publishing. p. 6. ISBN 978-1-85532-864-8. 
  17. ^ Mpalaska Eleni, Oikonomou Andrian , Stylios Chrysostomos. "Women of Epirus and their social status from ancient to modern times" (PDF). Community Initiative Programme. Interreg IIIA Greece-Italy 2000-2006. pp. 23–24. Retrieved 2010-05-16. 

References[edit]