Balkans Campaign (World War II)

The Balkans Campaign of World War II began with the Italian invasion of Greece on 28 October 1940. In the early months of 1941, Italy's offensive had stalled and a Greek counter-offensive pushed into Albania. Germany sought to aid Italy by deploying troops to Romania and Bulgaria and attacking Greece from the east. Meanwhile, the British landed troops and aircraft to shore up Greek defences. A coup d'état in Yugoslavia on 27 March caused Adolf Hitler to order the conquest of that country.

The invasion of Yugoslavia by Germany and Italy began on 6 April, simultaneously with the new Battle of Greece; on 11 April, Hungary joined the invasion. By 17 April the Yugoslavs had signed an armistice, and by 30 April all of mainland Greece was under German or Italian control. On 20 May Germany invaded Crete by air, and by 1 June all remaining Greek and British forces on the island had surrendered. Although it had not participated in the attacks in April, Bulgaria occupied parts of both Yugoslavia and Greece shortly thereafter for the remainder of the war in the Balkans.

Balkans Campaign
Part of Eastern Front Theatre and Mediterranean and Middle East Theatre of the Second World War
Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-166-0508-31, Kreta, Vormarsch deutscher Fallschirmjäger

German paratroopers on Crete in 1941
Date28 October 1940 – 1 June 1941
(7 months and 4 days)
Location
Result

Axis victory

Territorial
changes
Yugoslavia and Greece are added to Axis control
Belligerents

Axis:
 Italy

 Germany
 Hungary
 Bulgaria
Allies:
 Yugoslavia
 Greece
 British Empire
 Australia
 New Zealand
Commanders and leaders
Nazi Germany Wilhelm List
Nazi Germany Maximilian von Weichs
Nazi Germany Kurt Student
Kingdom of Italy Ugo Cavallero
Kingdom of Italy Giovanni Messe
Kingdom of Hungary (1920–1946) Elemér Gorondy-Novák
Kingdom of Yugoslavia Dušan Simović
Kingdom of Yugoslavia Milorad Petrović
Kingdom of Greece Alexander Papagos
United Kingdom Henry Wilson
Dominion of New Zealand Bernard Freyberg
Strength
Nazi Germany 680,000
Kingdom of Italy 565,000
Kingdom of Yugoslavia 850,000
Kingdom of Greece 430,000
United Kingdom 62,612

Background

After World War I, with the complete collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the Albanians looked to the Kingdom of Italy for protection against its enemies.

In 1919, Albania's territorial integrity was confirmed at the Paris Peace Conference after United States President Woodrow Wilson opposed a plan by the European powers to divide Albania amongst its neighbors. There were attempted backroom negotiations that ultimately failed.

However, after 1925, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini sought to dominate Albania.

In 1928, Albania became a kingdom under Zog I, who was a clan chief and former Prime Minister. Zog failed to stave off Italian ascendancy in Albanian internal affairs.

On 7 April 1939, Mussolini's troops occupied Albania, overthrew Zog, and annexed the country to the Italian Empire.

Campaign

Greco-Italian War

Balkan boundary changes 1938 to 1941
Balkan boundary changes 1938 to 1941

The Italian invasion of Greece lasted from 28 October 1940 to 30 April 1941 and was part of World War II. Italian forces invaded Greece and made limited gains. But soon the Greeks counter-attacked and the Italians were repulsed and driven back at the borders with Albania. The Italians spent much of the winter stabilizing a line which left them in control of only about two-thirds of Albania. A much anticipated Italian offensive in March 1941 resulted in few territorial gains. Germany, led by Adolf Hitler, intervened in April and invaded Greece after a successful invasion of Yugoslavia.

Invasion of Yugoslavia

The invasion of Yugoslavia (also known as "Operation 25") began on 6 April 1941 and ended with the unconditional surrender of the Royal Yugoslav Army on 17 April. The invading Axis powers (Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Hungary) occupied and dismembered the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. By cobbling together Bosnia and Herzegovina, some parts of Croatia, and Syrmia, the "Independent State of Croatia" (Nezavisna Država Hrvatska, NDH) was created by Germany and Italy. In some of the territory of the former Kingdom of Serbia and the Banat, the German-occupied Territory of the Military Commander in Serbia, the Germans appointed a puppet government, the Government of National Salvation led by Milan Nedić. Montenegro remained under Italian occupation, and Bulgaria was permitted to annex eastern areas of Yugoslavia, including most of modern-day North Macedonia.

Battle of Greece

The Balkans 1941
Axis advances in the Balkans during early 1941

Hitler began planning to invade Greece in November 1940, after the British occupied Crete and Lemnos. He ordered the German Invasion of Greece—code-named Unternehmen Marita (Operation Marita) by Germany—on 13 December 1940 for execution in March 1941. The stated aim of the operation was to prevent the British from getting air bases within striking range of the Romanian oilfields.[1] On 6 April 1941, the German Army invaded northern Greece, while other elements launched an attack against Yugoslavia. Breaking through the Yugoslav lines in southern Yugoslavia allowed Germany to send reinforcements to the battlefields of northern Greece. The German army out-flanked the Greek Metaxas Line fortifications and, despite the assistance provided by a British expeditionary corps, set out to capture the southern Greek cities. The Battle of Greece ended with the German entry into Athens and the capture of the Peloponnese, although about 40,000 Allied soldiers were evacuated to Crete, prompting one of the largest airborne attacks in the history of warfare: Operation Merkur, or the Battle of Crete.

Battle of Crete

On 20 May 1941, German paratroopers were dropped over the airfields of northern Crete to occupy the island. They were met by heavy resistance from Allied forces and the local Cretan population but eventually the defenders were overwhelmed by the German forces. The British Government ordered an evacuation on 27 May and the remaining forces surrendered on 1 June. However, the heavy losses incurred by the paratroopers forced the Supreme Command of the Wehrmacht to abandon large-scale airborne operations for the remainder of the war.

Result

Europe before Operation Barbarossa, 1941 (in German)
Situation in Europe by May/June 1941 at the conclusion of the Balkans Campaign, immediately before Operation Barbarossa

By 1 June 1941, all of Albania, Yugoslavia and Greece were under Axis control. Greece was placed under triple occupation, and Yugoslavia was dissolved and occupied. Germany had gained a significant strategic advantage: direct access to the Mediterranean.

Bulgarian occupation

On 6 April 1941, despite having officially joined the Axis Powers, the Bulgarian government did not participate in the invasion of Yugoslavia and the Battle of Greece. On 20 April, the Bulgarian Army occupied most of Western Thrace and the Greek province of Eastern Macedonia, which had been already conquered by Germany, with the goal of restoring its pre-World War I outlet to the Aegean Sea. Bulgarian troops also occupied much of eastern Serbia, where the so-called Vardar Banovina was divided between Bulgaria and the Italians.

Resistance movements

Throughout the remainder of the war, active Yugoslav, Greek, and Albanian resistance movements forced Germany and its allies to garrison hundreds of thousands of soldiers permanently in the three countries, denying them to the other fronts. Especially in Yugoslavia after 1943, the threat of an Allied invasion and the activities of the partisans necessitated large-scale counter-insurgency operations, involving several divisions.

See also

References

  1. ^ Hubatsch, Walther. Hitlers Weisungen fuer die Kriegfuehrung 1939-1945, Weisung Nr. 20, 2nd Edition, Bernard & Graefe Verlag, 1983

External links

Adriatic Campaign of World War II

The Adriatic Campaign of World War II was a minor naval campaign fought during World War II between the Greek, Yugoslavian and Italian navies, the Kriegsmarine, and the Mediterranean squadrons of the United Kingdom, France, and the Yugoslav Partisan naval forces. Considered a somewhat insignificant part of the naval warfare in World War II, it nonetheless saw interesting developments, given the specificity of the Dalmatian coastline.

Air Force of the Independent State of Croatia

The Air Force of the Independent State of Croatia (Croatian: Zrakoplovstvo Nezavisne Države Hrvatske; ZNDH), was the air force of the Independent State of Croatia (NDH), a puppet state established with the support of the Axis Powers on the territory of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia during World War II. The ZNDH was founded under German authority in April 1941, following the German-led Axis invasion of Yugoslavia.

Although it could not be considered a large air arm in the wider context of World War II, the ZNDH nonetheless had on its charge at one time or another some 650 aircraft between April 1941 and May 1945, as well as anti-aircraft and paratroop units. From humble beginnings in 1941, the ZNDH was still providing some measure of air-support (fighter, attack and transport) until the last days of World War II in Europe.

The ZNDH maintained a flying training school equipped with gliders and trainers, originally at Rajlovac airfield near Sarajevo and then at Velika Gorica and Pleso airfields in Zagreb. Its parachute and paratroop school was located in Koprivnica.

Air battle over Niš

The air battle over Niš occurred on 7 November 1944 over Niš, in Serbia, between the Air Forces of the United States and the Soviet Union in World War II due to both countries mistaking the other for Germans. This was only one of two direct military confrontations between the U.S. and the USSR in the history of these two countries, the other being the attack on the Sui-ho Dam taking place during the 1950–1953 Korean war.

After the successful joint offensive in October 1944 and the expulsion of German forces to the north, the military units of the Red Army had been ordered to follow in their steps. On 7 November, a long column of vehicles belonging to 6th Guards Rifle Corps of the Red Army was moving from Niš towards Belgrade, with orders to reinforce the southern wing of the Hungarian front. Suddenly, at about 10 AM, from southeast over the Jastrebac mountain, three groups of American P-38 Lightning fighter planes arrived and the first group immediately started to strafe the leading vehicles, destroying several, with 31 killed and 37 wounded. The commander of the corps, Lieutenant General G. P. Kotov, was also killed in this attack.

While the second group of US P-38 planes were starting their attack, the commander of the 17th Air Army, General Sudec, who was at the Niš airbase at the time, issued an order for immediate takeoff to the pilots on duty flying Yakovlev Yak-3 fighters from 659th Regiment of 288th Air Division based at Niš, believing they were being attacked by German Focke-Wulf Fw 189 fighters. The American planes shifted their fire to the Soviet fighters which were taking off in spite of clearly visible large red star markings on their wings. One of the Yak-3's was destroyed right away.

The P-38s then climbed to about 500m and formed a defensive circle above the city of Niš itself, waiting to see how this uncertain situation would be resolved. According to aeronautical engineer Dragoslav Dimić, who as a child was among the gathered inhabitants of Niš, the remaining Soviet fighters flew over the old city fortress at an altitude of only 20m and attacked the Lightnings from below in a steep climb. One Lightning burst into flames and fell to the ground near the airstrip of the Niš airbase. The Yaks flew through the circling Lightnings and attacked them again, this time from above. One of the Yaks was hit by American fire and fell to the ground.

Soon the battle was joined by a second group of Yaks led by a famous Soviet fighter ace Captain Koldunov, who took off from another airbase near Niš. The 'tangle of death' that formed in the air moved westward across the city with the sound of machine gun and cannon fire. 9 Soviet Yak-3 and an unidentified number of US P-38 fighters participated in the battle which lasted for about another 15 minutes. According to American author Glenn Bows, 4 Yaks and 2 Lightnings were lost, while Russian sources state that 3 Yaks and 4 P-38's had been destroyed. Joko Drecun, a partisan officer who was based at Niš airport at the time wrote in his diary that the Americans lost 7 planes and the Soviets lost 3 planes.

The United States apologized to the Soviet Union, stating that the attack was the result of a grave error by American pilots sent to attack German forces on the road from Skopje to Pristina. On 14 December, American Ambassador to the Soviet Union W. Averell Harriman apologized on behalf of Franklin D. Roosevelt and George C. Marshall and offered to send liaison officers to the 3rd Ukrainian Front to prevent further incidents; Stalin rejected it, because a line of demarcation had been drawn indicating the boundaries of Allied air actions.

Axis occupation of Serbia

During World War II, several provinces of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia corresponding to the modern-day state of Serbia were occupied by the Axis Powers from 1941 to 1944. Most of the area was occupied by the Wehrmacht and was organized as separate territory under control of the German Military Administration in Serbia. Other parts of modern Serbia that were not included in the German-administered territory were occupied and annexed by neighboring Axis countries: Syrmia was occupied and annexed by the Independent State of Croatia, Bačka was occupied and annexed by Hungary, southeastern Serbia was occupied and annexed by Bulgaria, and southwestern Serbia was occupied and annexed by Italy and included in the Italian protectorates of Albania and Montenegro.

Axis order of battle for the invasion of Yugoslavia

The Axis order of battle for the invasion of Yugoslavia was made up of the various operational formations of the German Wehrmacht and Waffen-SS, Italian Armed Forces and Hungarian Armed Forces that participated in the invasion of Yugoslavia during World War II, commencing on 6 April 1941. It involved the German 2nd Army, with elements of the 12th Army and a panzer group combined with overwhelming Luftwaffe (German Air Force) support. The eighteen German divisions included five panzer divisions, two motorised infantry divisions and two mountain divisions. The German force also included two well-equipped independent motorised regiments and was supported by over 800 aircraft. The Italian 2nd Army and 9th Army committed a total of 22 divisions, and the Royal Italian Air Force (Italian: Regia Aeronautica) had over 650 aircraft available to support the invasion. The Hungarian 3rd Army also participated, with support from the Royal Hungarian Air Force (Hungarian: Magyar Királyi Honvéd Légierő, MKHL).

The Axis ground forces had effectively surrounded the Kingdom of Yugoslavia before the invasion began. The German 2nd Army, consisting of one motorised, one mountain, and two infantry corps was concentrated in southwestern Hungary and southeastern Austria, poised to drive south and east. One motorised corps of the German 12th Army was assembled near Sofia, Bulgaria, along with one motorised corps of the First Panzer Group, and these formations were assigned the task of striking the strongest Yugoslav formations stationed along the eastern border of the country. A further motorised corps was deployed near Timișoara in western Romania, ready to thrust south into the Banat region. The Italian 2nd Army, consisting of one fast (Italian: celere) corps, one motorised corps and three infantry corps was assembled in northeastern Italy, with the task of driving southeast down the Dalmatian coast. The Italian 9th Army, comprising two corps and a sector defence command, was stationed in occupied northern Albania, and its stance was largely defensive. The Hungarian 3rd Army was concentrated along the Yugoslav border largely between the Danube and the Tisza, with the objective of seizing the Bačka and Baranja regions.

German, Italian and Hungarian air support was concentrated in Austria, Italy, southern Hungary, southern Romania, western Bulgaria and Albania. In total, over 1,500 Axis aircraft were available to support the invasion. Naval forces were limited to a few destroyers of the Royal Italian Navy (Italian: Regia Marina) operating in the Adriatic Sea.

Balkan Wars

The Balkan Wars (Turkish: Balkan Savaşları, literally "the Balkan Wars" or Balkan Faciası, meaning "the Balkan Tragedy") consisted of two conflicts that took place in the Balkan Peninsula in 1912 and 1913. Four Balkan states defeated the Ottoman Empire in the first war. The main victor of the four, Bulgaria, fought and pushed back all four original combatants of the first war along with halting a surprise attack from Romania from the north in the second war. The Ottoman Empire lost the bulk of its territory in Europe. Austria-Hungary, although not a combatant, became relatively weaker as a much enlarged Serbia pushed for union of the South Slavic peoples. The war set the stage for the Balkan crisis of 1914 and thus served as a "prelude to the First World War".By the early 20th century, Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro and Serbia had achieved independence from the Ottoman Empire, but large elements of their ethnic populations remained under Ottoman rule. In 1912 these countries formed the Balkan League. The First Balkan War had three main causes:

The Ottoman Empire was unable to reform itself, govern satisfactorily, or deal with the rising ethnic nationalism of its diverse peoples.

The Great Powers quarreled amongst themselves and failed to ensure that the Ottomans would carry out the needed reforms. This led the Balkan states to impose their own solution.

Most importantly, the Balkan League had been formed, and its members were confident that it could defeat the Turks.The Ottoman Empire lost all its European territories to the west of the River Maritsa as a result of the two Balkan Wars, which thus delineated present-day Turkey's western border. A large influx of Turks started to flee into the Ottoman heartland from the lost lands. By 1914, the remaining core region of the Ottoman Empire had experienced a population increase of around 2.5 million because of the flood of immigration from the Balkans.

Citizens of Turkey regard the Balkan Wars as a major disaster (Balkan harbi faciası) in the nation's history. The unexpected fall and sudden relinquishing of Turkish-dominated European territories created a psycho-traumatic event amongst many Turks that is said to have triggered the ultimate collapse of the empire itself within five years. Nazım Pasha, Chief of Staff of the Ottoman Army, was held responsible for the failure and was assassinated on 23 January 1913 during the 1913 Ottoman coup d'état.The First Balkan War began when the League member states attacked the Ottoman Empire on 8 October 1912 and ended eight months later with the signing of the Treaty of London on 30 May 1913. The Second Balkan War began on 16 June 1913. Both Serbia and Greece, utilizing the argument that the war had been prolonged, repudiated important particulars of the pre-war treaty and retained occupation of all the conquered districts in their possession, which were to be divided according to specific predefined boundaries. Seeing the treaty as trampled, Bulgaria was dissatisfied over the division of the spoils in Macedonia (made in secret by its former allies, Serbia and Greece) and commenced military action against them. The more numerous combined Serbian and Greek armies repelled the Bulgarian offensive and counter-attacked into Bulgaria from the west and the south. Romania, having taken no part in the conflict, had intact armies to strike with, invaded Bulgaria from the north in violation of a peace treaty between the two states. The Ottoman Empire also attacked Bulgaria and advanced in Thrace regaining Adrianople. In the resulting Treaty of Bucharest, Bulgaria lost most of the territories it had gained in the First Balkan War in addition to being forced to cede the ex-Ottoman south-third of Dobroudja province to Romania.

Balkans Campaign

Balkans Campaign may refer to:

Alexander's Balkan campaign

Balkans Campaign (World War I)

Balkans Campaign (World War II)

Maurice's Balkan campaigns

Chetnik order of battle

The Yugoslav Army in the Fatherland (Serbian: Југословенска војска у отаџбини / Jugoslovenska vojska u otadžbini; ЈВуО / JVuO), commonly known as the Chetniks (Четници / Četnici), or The Ravna Gora movement (Равногорски покрет / Ravnogorski pokret), was the military formation under the direct command of Draža Mihailović, one of several formations under the umbrella Chetnik Detachments of the Yugoslav Army, officially established on 10 June 1942.

German order of battle in the Balkans campaign (1941)

During World War II, the Axis invasions of Greece and Yugoslavia both commenced on 6 April 1941.

Greco-Italian War

The Greco-Italian War (Italo-Greek War, Italian Campaign in Greece; in Greece: War of '40 and Epic of '40) took place between the kingdoms of Italy and Greece from 28 October 1940 to 23 April 1941. This local war began the Balkans Campaign of World War II between the Axis powers and the Allies. It turned into the Battle of Greece when British and German ground forces intervened early in 1941.

In the mid-1930s, the Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini began an aggressive foreign policy and annexed Albania in the spring of 1939. World War II began on 1 September 1939 and on 10 June 1940, Italy declared war on the Allies. By September 1940, the Italians had invaded France, British Somaliland and Egypt; preparations had also begun to occupy Greece. In the late 1930s, the Greeks had begun to build the Metaxas Line opposite Bulgaria and from 1939 accelerated their defensive preparations against an Italian attack from Albania. In 1940, there was a hostile press campaign in Italy and other provocations, culminating in the sinking of the Greek light cruiser Elli by the Italians on 15 August (the Christian Dormition of the Mother of God festival). On 28 October, Mussolini issued an ultimatum to Greece demanding the cession of Greek territory, which the Prime Minister of Greece, Ioannis Metaxas, rejected.

The Italian army invaded Greece on 28 October, before the Italian ultimatum had expired. The invasion was a disaster, the 140,000 troops of the Italian Army in Albania encountering an entrenched and determined enemy. The Italians had to contend with the mountainous terrain on the Albanian–Greek border and unexpectedly tenacious resistance by the Greek Army. By mid-November, the Greeks had stopped the Italian invasion just inside Greek territory. After completing their mobilization, the Greeks counter-attacked with the bulk of their army and pushed the Italians back into Albania – an advance which culminated in the Capture of Klisura Pass in January 1941, a few dozen kilometers inside the Albanian border. The defeat of the Italian invasion and the Greek counter-offensive of 1940 have been called the "first Axis setback of the entire war" by Mark Mazower, the Greeks "surprising everyone with the tenacity of their resistance". The front stabilized in February 1941, by which time the Italians had reinforced the Albanian front to 28 divisions against the Greeks' 14 divisions (though Greek divisions were larger). In March, the Italians conducted the unsuccessful Spring Offensive. At this point, losses were mutually costly, but the Greeks had far less ability than the Italians to replenish their losses in both men and materiel, and they were dangerously low on ammunition and other supplies. They also lacked the ability to rotate out their men and equipment, unlike the Italians. Requests by the Greeks to the British for material aid only partly alleviated the situation, and by April 1941 the Greek Army only possessed 1 more month's worth of heavy artillery ammunition and was unable to properly equip and mobilize the bulk of its 200,000–300,000 strong reserves.While originally content to simply let the Italians wear the Greeks down and (he predicted) finish the war in the summer of 1941, Adolf Hitler decided in December 1940 that potential British intervention in the conflict represented a threat to Germany's rear. This caused him to come to the aid of his Axis ally. German build-up in the Balkans accelerated after Bulgaria joined the Axis on 1 March 1941. British ground forces began arriving in Greece the next day. On 6 April, the Germans invaded northern Greece ("Operation Marita"). The Greeks had deployed the vast majority of their men into a mutually costly stalemate with the Italians on the Albanian front, leaving the fortified Metaxas Line with only a third of its authorized strength. During the Battle of Greece, Greek and British forces in northern Greece were overwhelmed and the Germans advanced rapidly west and south. In Albania, the Greek army made a belated withdrawal to avoid being cut off by the Germans but was followed up slowly by the Italians. Greece surrendered to German troops on 20 April 1941, under the condition that they would not have to surrender to the Italians; this condition was agreed to but revoked several days later after protests from Mussolini, and the Greek army surrendered to Italy as well. Greece was subsequently occupied by Bulgarian, German and Italian troops. The Italian army suffered 102,064 combat casualties (with 13,700 dead and 3,900 missing) and fifty thousand sick; the Greeks suffered over 90,000 combat casualties (including 14,000 killed and 5,000 missing) and an unknown number of sick. The economic and military failings of the Italian fascist regime were exposed by the Greek debacle and simultaneous defeats against the British in North Africa, which reduced the Italian fascist regime to dependence on Germany.

Greek Resistance

The Greek Resistance (Greek: Εθνική Αντίσταση, translit. Ethnikí Andístasi, "National Resistance") is the blanket term for a number of armed and unarmed groups from across the political spectrum that resisted the Axis occupation of Greece in the period 1941–1944, during World War II. It is considered as one of the strongest resistance movements (especially EAM/ELAS) in Nazi-occupied Europe.

Invasion of Yugoslavia

The invasion of Yugoslavia, also known as the April War or Operation 25, was a German-led attack on the Kingdom of Yugoslavia by the Axis powers which began on 6 April 1941 during World War II. The order for the invasion was put forward in "Führer Directive No. 25", which Adolf Hitler issued on 27 March 1941, following the Yugoslav coup d'état.The invasion commenced with an overwhelming air attack on Belgrade and facilities of the Royal Yugoslav Air Force (VVKJ) by the Luftwaffe (German Air Force) and attacks by German land forces from southwestern Bulgaria. These attacks were followed by German thrusts from Romania, Hungary and the Ostmark. Italian forces were limited to air and artillery attacks until 11 April, when the Italian army attacked towards Ljubljana (in modern-day Slovenia) and through Istria and Lika and down the Dalmatian coast. On the same day, Hungarian forces entered Yugoslav Bačka and Baranya, but like the Italians they faced practically no resistance. A Yugoslav attack into the northern parts of the Italian protectorate of Albania met with initial success, but was inconsequential due to the collapse of the rest of the Yugoslav forces.

Scholars have proposed several theories for the Royal Yugoslav Army's sudden collapse, including poor training and equipment, generals eager to secure a quick cessation of hostilities, and a sizeable Croatian nationalist fifth column. The invasion ended when an armistice was signed on 17 April 1941, based on the unconditional surrender of the Yugoslav army, which came into effect at noon on 18 April. Yugoslavia was then occupied and partitioned by the Axis powers. Some areas of Yugoslavia were annexed by neighboring Axis countries, some areas remained occupied, and in other areas Axis puppet states such as the Independent State of Croatia (Serbo-Croatian: Nezavisna Država Hrvatska, or NDH) were created during the invasion on 10 April. Along with Italy's stalled invasion of Greece on 28 October 1940, and the German-led invasion of Greece (Operation Marita) and invasion of Crete (Operation Merkur), the invasion of Yugoslavia was part of the German Balkan Campaign (German: Balkanfeldzug).

Military history of Bulgaria during World War II

The military history of Bulgaria during World War II encompasses an initial period of neutrality until 1 March 1941, a period of alliance with the Axis Powers until 9 September 1944 (on 8 September, the Red Army entered Bulgaria) and a period of alignment with the Allies in the final year of the war. Bulgaria functioned as an authoritarian state during most of World War II. Tsar Boris III (reigned 1918–1943) ruled with a prime minister and a parliament.

Operation Excess

Operation Excess was a series of British supply convoys to Malta, Alexandria and Greece in January 1941. The operation encountered the first presence of Luftwaffe anti-shipping aircraft in the Mediterranean Sea. All the convoyed freighters reached their destinations. The destroyer Gallant was disabled by Italian mines and Axis bombers severely damaged the cruiser Southampton and the aircraft carrier Illustrious.

Operation Hydra (Yugoslavia)

Operation Hydra was a failed British attempt during World War II in Yugoslavia to develop contact with the Partisans led by Josip Broz Tito, in Montenegro in February 1942.

Two British Special Operations Executive agents and an officer of the former Royal Yugoslav Air Force were put ashore at Perazića Do, just north of Petrovac.On February 4, the three agents went ashore from the British submarine HMS Thorn. They were Major Terence Atherton (a former journalist and agent in Belgrade), Lieutenant Radoje Nedeljković of the Yugoslav Royal Air Force and Sergeant Patrick O'Donovan, wireless operator.The operation failed completely. The presence of the Yugoslav officer implied links to the royalist Chetniks and it is suggested that this caused Tito to suspect the British of being spies. Nothing beneficial arose, therefore, and the British agents left Tito. They vanished soon thereafter, as did the large amount of gold and Italian money that they carried.

British liaison officer at Mihailović's headquarters Duane "Bill" Hudson prompted Mihailović to ordered a formal inquiry into the fate of the Atherton mission. A summary of the results of this investigation was sent by Hudson to SOE office in Cairo. According to the results of the inquiry, the most probable culprit for Atherton's death was četnik leader Spasoje Dakić.

Atherton and O'Donovan, his radio operator, left Čelebić on 22 April for the village of Tatarevina, and were escorted part of the way by Dakić. They were never seen again. Dakić, who later appeared at Mihailović's headquarters in possession of Atherton's binoculars, and wearing his boots, had probably murdered both men and stolen the large quantity of gold sovereigns which Atherton was carrying. He was only 'nominally a Mihailović Cetnik', but Hudson had the impression that Mihailović 'knew something about the matter'. This summary completed such evidence as Hudson was able to assemble up to July 1942. Mihailović's first reaction to all these happenings was to insinuate to London, as an astute propaganda move, that the British members of the party had been killed by Partisans. He stated this in a message, dated 27 May, at a moment when in reality he and the British military authorities in Cairo had every reason to believe that Atherton was alive. At the end of the signal Mihailović announced that, because of these murders, 'he had declared open warfare on all Partisans'.

World War II in Albania

In Albania, World War II began with its invasion by Italy in April 1939. Fascist Italy set up Albania as its protectorate or puppet state. The resistance was largely carried out by Communist groups against the Italian (until 1943) and then German occupation in Albania. At first independent, the Communist groups united in the beginning of 1942, which ultimately led to the successful liberation of the country in 1944.

The Center for Relief to Civilian Populations (Geneva) reported that Albania was one of the most devastated countries in Europe. 60,000 houses were destroyed and about 10% of the population was left homeless.

Yugoslav Partisans

The Yugoslav Partisans, or the National Liberation Army, officially the National Liberation Army and Partisan Detachments of Yugoslavia, was the Communist-led resistance to the Axis powers (chiefly Germany) in occupied Yugoslavia during World War II.

It is considered to be Europe's most effective anti-Axis resistance movement during World War II, often compared to the Polish resistance movement, albeit the latter was a mostly non-communist autonomous movement. The Yugoslav Resistance was led by the Communist Party of Yugoslavia during World War II. Its commander was Marshal Josip Broz Tito.

Yugoslav coup d'état

The Yugoslav coup d'état of 27 March 1941 in Belgrade, Kingdom of Yugoslavia, replaced the regency led by Prince Paul and installed King Peter II. It was planned and conducted by a group of pro-Western Serb-nationalist Royal Yugoslav Army Air Force officers formally led by its commander, General Dušan Simović, who had been associated with several putsch plots from 1938 onwards. Brigadier General of Military Aviation Borivoje Mirković, Major Živan Knežević of the Yugoslav Royal Guards, and his brother Radoje Knežević were key organisers in the overthrow of the government. In addition to Radoje Knežević, some other civilian leaders were probably aware of the takeover before it was launched and moved to support it once it occurred, but they were not among the organisers.

The Communist Party of Yugoslavia played no part in the coup, although it made a significant contribution to the mass street protests in many cities that signalled popular support for it once it had occurred. The putsch was successful and deposed the three-member regency: Prince Paul, Radenko Stanković and Ivo Perović, as well as the government of Prime Minister Dragiša Cvetković. Two days prior to its ousting, the Cvetković government had signed the Vienna Protocol on the Accession of Yugoslavia to the Tripartite Pact (Axis). The coup had been planned for several months, but the signing of the Tripartite Pact spurred the organisers to carry it out, encouraged by the British Special Operations Executive.

The military conspirators brought to power the 17-year-old King Peter II, whom they declared to be of age to assume the throne, and a weak and divided government of national unity was formed with Simović as prime minister and Vladko Maček and Slobodan Jovanović as his vice-premiers. The coup led directly to the German-led Axis invasion of Yugoslavia. The importance of the putsch and subsequent invasion in delaying Operation Barbarossa, the Axis invasion of the Soviet Union, is disputed but most scholars now consider that it had no significant impact on the eventual outcome of that campaign.

Yugoslav order of battle prior to the invasion of Yugoslavia

The Yugoslav order of battle before the invasion of Yugoslavia includes a listing (or order of battle) of all operational formations of the Royal Yugoslav Army (Serbo-Croatian: Vojska Kraljevine Jugoslavije, VKJ), Royal Yugoslav Army Air Force (Serbo-Croatian: Vazduhoplovstvo Vojske Kraljevine Jugoslavije, VVKJ) and Royal Yugoslav Navy (Serbo-Croatian: Kraljevska Jugoslovenska Ratna Mornarica, KJRM) immediately prior to the World War II invasion of that country in April 1941.

The VKJ consisted of 33 divisions and a significant number of smaller formations, but due to tentative and incomplete mobilisation, only seven divisions and four smaller formations are known to have been at close to fighting strength and in their planned deployment locations when the German-led Axis assault commenced on 6 April 1941. The Yugoslav defence plan involved placing the bulk of its land forces close to its borders, with very limited strategic reserves in depth. Almost all of the divisions that had been effectively mobilised were concentrated in the 3rd Army Group deployed in the east of the country along the Romanian and Bulgarian borders between the Iron Gates and the Greek border. Most of the heavy weapons and armoured vehicles available to the VKJ were obsolete, most formations were heavily reliant on animal-powered transport, and the VKJ had only 50 tanks that could engage front line German tanks on an equal basis.

By 6 April 1941, the VVKJ had been almost completely mobilised, and consisted of four air brigades with more than 423 aircraft of Yugoslav, German, Italian, French, Czech and British design, including 107 modern fighter aircraft, and 100 modern medium bombers. Other than a small number of locally made Rogožarski IK-3 fighters, almost all the modern aircraft available to the VVKJ were of German, Italian or British design for which limited spares and munitions were available. The KJRM consisted of a flotilla of river monitors based on the Danube and a small fleet based in several ports along the Adriatic coast. The blue-water navy centred on a flotilla leader, three smaller destroyers, four obsolescent submarines and a gunboat, supplemented by minelayers and torpedo boats. Some of the smaller vessels in the Yugoslav fleet had been inherited from the defeated Austro-Hungarian Empire following World War I and were obsolete.

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