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To Greece

The Invasion of Greece and Yugoslavia, 6–8 April

The Invasion of Greece and Yugoslavia, 6–8 April

At first light on 6 April the German armies invaded Greece and Yugoslavia and the Luftwaffe began an intensive bombardment of Belgrade. In the north 2 Army had one corps in Zagreb, the capital of Croatia, on the 11th and another outside Belgrade on the 12th, when it was occupied by Panzer Group 1, which had been sent north through Nish and down the Morava valley from 12 Army in Bulgaria. On the Adriatic side, 2 Italian Army coming through the Julian Alps paraded down the coast to join the force already in Albania.

The efforts of 12 Army in northern Greece were equally spectacular. Thirtieth Corps after some bitter fighting broke through the eastern end of the Metaxas line and then divided, 50 Division turning west towards Salonika and 164 Division turning eastwards to Alexandroupolis and Kavalla, from where in fishing craft, a German steamer and two Italian destroyers its units occupied the islands of Samothrace, Thasos, Lemnos, Mytilene and Chios.

The central sector of the Metaxas line was assaulted by XVIII Corps. In the Rupel Pass, where the Strimon River comes through the mountains, the Greeks held out valiantly for several days, but 2 Panzer Division turned the line by making a wide circling movement westwards through the Strumitsa Pass into Yugoslavia and thence southwards down the Vardar (Axios) valley into Macedonia. The move was a complete success for by 9 April the armoured units were racing through the almost undefended country and preparing to take over the port of Salonika.

In the north-west XXXX Corps had sent two groups into Yugoslavia. The first, 9 Panzer Division and the SS ‘Adolf Hitler’ Division, went through the pass at Kriva Palanka and in the evening of 7 April were at Skoplje, some 60 miles beyond the border. The second, 73 Division, had crossed the border farther south by way of the pass at Carevo-Selo and was at Veles, another town in the upper Vardar valley. Next day, 8 April, the group to the north occupied important centres about Skoplje; the other, swinging south and maintaining the attack, sent its motorised advanced guard into the key town of Prilep. From here the force could turn west again to link up with the Italians or, more important still, it could continue on its southern course towards the Monastir Gap, thereby threatening to encircle the Greeks in Albania and W Force in the Florina-Edhessa-Katerini area.