Battle of Konitsa

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The Battle of Konitsa was an attempt by the Democratic Army of Greece during the Greek Civil War to capture the northwestern Greek town of Konitsa, in order to make it the capital of a Provisional Democratic Government rival to the recognized government in Athens. This was part of the communist "Operation Limnes" (Lakes) which aimed the capture of a major Greek city.

Background[edit]

In March 1947, one year after the start of the Greek Civil War, the Democratic Army of Greece (DSE), founded and mainly supported by the Greek Communist Party, controlled mainly mountain areas in Northern Greece, 75% of the territory of Peloponnese, as well as mountain locations through the rest of the country. It commanded an army of 13,000 strong with the active support of the former National Liberation Front members that had a network of ~1.000.000 civilians mainly in towns and villages throughout Greece. At the same time, the spearhead of the former People's Greek Liberation Army (ELAS), ca. 100.000 people were imprisoned or exiled in small islands. By mide-1947, the force of DSE had grown to 23,000 in battalions, regiments and brigades formed after the ex-ELAS structure with 1 General HQ in the North and 3 Rgional HQs in the rest of the country. A provisional government was founded as the counterpart of the recognized government of Athens, and gain the silent support of the Socialist governments in Bulgaria, Albania and Yugoslavia.

However, DSE did not manage to control any major cities, and DSE High Staff, decided to make the town of Konitsa, 8 miles from the Albanian border, the capital of the Democratic Provisional Government. If DSE could control a major city with a considerable area, they could still hope for the recognition of a northern Greek Communist State by the Soviet Union and other communist countries.

Battle[edit]

The townspeople of Konitsa, contrary to Vafiadis' expectations, sided with the Athens government and fortified their town against DSE, fighting alongside the government army. To this, helped also the "scorched earth" policy of the Governmental Army in the areas around major towns, that was emptying all villages from their inhabitants, bringing them into fortified towns and calling them "Refugees due to guerilla activity".

DSE attacked the bridge of Bourazani spanning the Aoos River, to cut off government forces in the regional capital Ioannina from the town. The government flew in troops in DC-3s provided by civilian airliners.

Despite the assistance of 105mm artillery provided by Albania, the communists were defeated.

Aftermath[edit]

The government army, totaling 200,000 strong (8 divisions and 3 independent brigades), with artillery, armor, aircraft and Anglo-American assistance, far outnumbered DSE forces.

References[edit]