godaddy web
stats

Ponte Perati: The ‘Highway of Death’ of the Greek Army in Albania

Ponte Perati: The ‘Highway of Death’ of the Greek Army in Albania

by

David Aldea

You can contact David at: decimaflottigliamascommandos@gmail.com

 

David is also the co-author of 5th Infantry Brigade in the Falklands
(Leo Cooper, 2003) and has written numerous articles, including “Blood
and Mud at Goose Green” (Military History Magazine, April 2002)

 

In April 1941, General Ugo Cavallero’s 9-day blitz took the 14 Greek Army divisions in Albania completely by surprise. Despite claims in poorly researched books that the retreating Greek Epirus Army escaped largely intact and surrendered with full military honours to the SS Division Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler opposite the Vjosa River, the opposite happened. The cream of the Greek Army in Albania, was almost totally destroyed in the Battle for Perati Bridge.

On 13 April, General Ugo Cavallero, the Italian commander-in-chief in Albania, launched an offensive on the Greek Epirus Army (Epirus Field Army Section or EFAS) culminating in what came to be known by the Italians as the Battle of Ponte Perati.  General Cavallero smashed the EFAS, and the supporting RAF and Hellenic Air Force squadrons, as well as some Yugoslav units in the offensive. A war correspondent with the Bari Division would eventually come to write: “The Greeks had lost the best part of fourteen divisions, sacrificed in a battle at Perati bridge.” (Source: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1368&dat=19410423&id=Y09QAAAAIBAJ&sjid=TQ0EAAAAIBAJ&pg=4405,5298215&hl=en Greeks Caught in Trap, Says Italy, The Milwaukee Sentinel, 23 April 1941 )

 

Success depends on your speed!

April 13 dawned clear and windy. By early evening, the Bersaglieri spearheads of General Carlo Geloso’s 11th Army were rapidly closing on Korce. By the time the sun set on day one, the Italian Army in Albania could report the capture of 1,000 enemy POWs and a dozen artillery guns captured in the area of Lake Ohrid. Elsewhere, General Alessandro Pirzio Birolo 9th Army encountered stiff resistance, road-blocks and mines, but Geloso’s divisions were able to press on, capturing Bilishti on 15 April and Erseke on 17 April.

On 14 April, as the weather worsened and raining commenced, Cavallero warned Pirzio Biroli: “Successo dipende da vostra celerità.”   (Diario, 1940-1943, Ugo Cavallero, Giuseppe Bucciante, p. 15, Ciarrapico, 1948) Recognizing that the Greeks were attempting to escape to Greece under the cover of bad weather, Cavallero drew up a plan for round-the-clock bombing raids to break their formations. (Regia Aeronautica: Balcania e Fronte Orientale, Angelo Emiliani, Giuseppe F. Ghergo, Achille Vigna, p. 136, Intergest, 1974) The key target was the the bridge over the river at Perati. He arranged for Italian Stukas —named Picchiatello in Italian service— to bomb and subject it to intensive cannon fire. It would be cleared by the 9th Army but the Tridentina, Parma and Piemonte Divisions  became bogged down in the confusion of battle and their advance stalled. (Venti Anni, Marco Piraino, Stefano Fiorito, p. 87, Lulu Press, Inc) The dive-bomber attacks started on 14 April and went according to plan in spite of intense anti-aircraft fire that cost one Picchiatello on 16 April. (Stormi d’Italia: Storia dell’Aviazione Militare Italiana, Giulio Lazzati, p. 141, Mursia, 1975)

The Italian 9th Army divisions proceeded to capture Koritza, that doomed the Bitish/Australian/New Zealand defence in Greece:

Their courage, like that of the defenders of the Metaxas line, was to no avail; as so often happens to troops occupying a static position in mobile warfare, the battle was being decided elsewhere … List now detached SS ‘Adolf Hitler’ from the main axis of advance of XXXXth corps and sent it forward in the direction of Koritsa. Far from counter-attacking, however, the demoralized Greeks gave way and thus allowed the Italians to occupy the town without resistance on 15 April. With 9th armoured division crossing the upper Aliakhmon and reaching Servia on the next day, the British forces on the Olympus found themselves surrounded on both flanks. following a decision made by Wilson three days earlier they now started falling back across Thessaly to Thermopylae, leaving in their wake 20,000 Greek troops who, being less well endowed with motor vehicles, failed to escape in time and were captured by the Germans. (Source: Martin van Crevald, Hitler’s Strategy 1940-1941: The Balkan Clue, p. 162, Cambridge University Press, 1973)

On 18 April, the Italian high command announced that, despite fierce fighting, divisions of the 11th Army had broken through the Greek lines that morning and captured Klisura. It was on this, the fifth day, that the Casale and Ferrara Divisions captured Porto Palermo, and in order to pursue a faltering enemy General Geloso executed a brilliant maneuver. Wheeling as one to the right, part of the 11th Army turned east and carried the fight into the Klisura Pass. Exacting a heavy toll, the Bari Division captured Permet, finding and surprising an enemy as it did so. (Source: Albania in the Twentieth Century, A History: Volume II: Albania in Occupation and War, 1939-45, by Owen Pearson, p. 144, I.B. Tauris, 2006)

The power and deadliness of the Regia Aeronautica ground strikes was impressive, demoralizing the Greek Army and winning total domination of the air. The Greeks commanders complained about “total lack of air cover,” which the British had promised to provide. British fighters intercepted Italian bombers and claimed one Fiat G.50 fighter shot down and several others damaged near Koritza on 14 April and bombed Valona harbour, but thereafter disappeared from the skies.

 

Highway of Death

Like the attack on the Iraqi Republican Guard on the “Highway of Death” in 1991, much of the Greek mechanized hardware soon became smoldering hulks. Hundreds of vehicles were caught in the open and pummeled by Italian aircraft and artillery along the Përmeti-Perati mountain pass. The road came to be known among Italian Stuka pilots, as the “Autostrada della Morte”.  Along the Adriatic coast, waves of Savoia-Marchetti SM.79 and SM. 81 Sparviero bombers pounded other roads leading away from the battlefield. Stefani, the official Italian news agency took great pride in the slaughter saying, that the Greek Army was  losing “four-fifths of its permanent forces and all the war material supplied by Britain.” The news agency also reported that “the Greek route of retreat, on the road from Ioannina to Arta, 35 miles south, was littered with the wreckage of hundreds of motor vehicles.” (Source: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=950&dat=19410421&id=xwJQAAAAIBAJ&sjid=DVUDAAAAIBAJ&pg=3348,916037&hl=en  Allies Fall Back to New Defense Lines, The Evening Independent, 21 April 1941)

*****

On April 20, the 4th Bersaglieri Regiment annihilated a Greek division in six hours. At dusk, the 5th and 8th Alpini Regiments joined the fight and smashed into the EFAS rearguards. The steamrolling of the Eprirus Army continued. Prisoners taken were able to confirm intelligence reports. The Italian spearheads were confronting the vaunted Royal Guard or Evzones. The Evzones fought hard for more than a day before being defeated. The The crack Bersaglieri regiment  breached the Greek Evzone line with flamethrowers. Many Greeks were burned alive in their bunkers. In the meantime, the Edolo Battalion, 59th Alpini Regiment, 26th Bersaglieri Motorcycle Battalion and 17th Milan Lancers Regiment upon receiving new orders, raced to reach the fleeing Greek divisions before they could repair the bridge and escape the trap. (Source: La Guerra Italiana, Retroscena della Disfatti, Volume 2, by Emilio Canevari,  p. 330, Tosi)

That night, a communique issued by the Italian High Command announced that Italian fighters and bombers had obtained further success, destroying hundreds of more trucks packed with troops and equipment. (Source: http://www.alieuomini.it/pagine/dettaglio/bollettini_di_guerra,9/-_aprile_dal_n_al_n,54.html Bollettini di Guerra, N. 298 – N. 329, Aprile 1941)

Under the umbrella of air supremacy, tens of thousands of troops from the Brennero, Julia and Modena Divisions were able to advance along roads stretching from Argirocastro to Libonovo and Delvine, in concert with the Bari and Taro Divisions now racing to reach Ponte Perati.

 

Embittered fighting  takes place

Lt Col Achille Lauro of the Bari Division

A wounded Lt. Col. Achille Lauro of the Bari Division

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
The seventh day of battle merged without pause into the eighth, and the Italian high command announced that Bersaglieri and Alpini spearheads had practically sealed the Albanian-Greek frontier:

“During yesterday (April 20th) our troops were forced to fight hard in beating back the Greek retreating forces, who were offering a tenacious resistance in their fortified positions along the Albanian frontier. Embittered fights took place, in one of which the Fourth Bersaglieri Regiment particularly distinguished itself. All the localities along the Albanian frontier have been reoccupied by our troops.” (Albania in the Twentieth Century, A History: Volume II: Albania in Occupation and War, 1939-45, Owen Pearson, p. 145, I.B. Tauris, 2006

On 20 April Salivaras wrote in her diary: “In Albania there was fierce resistance to the enemy air force. The enemy attempted to hit our troops at two points. But they were held off at great loss and chased back behind their own lines.” (The Kalamata Diary: Greece, War, and Emigration, Eduardo D. Faingold, p. 132, Rowman & Littlefield, 2010)

As the Bari and Taro Divisions reached the Ponte Perati area, the Bari came under heavy machine-gun and artillery fire, causing many casualties. (“Il 19 aprile il 139° fanteria della Bari, elemento più avanzato dell’VIII corpo, veniva arrestato da un violento fuoco di armi automatiche e di artiglieria in corrispondenza del torrente Carshaves, una diecina di chilometri avanti al ponte di Perati.” La Campagna Di Grecia, p. 799, Ufficio Storico SME, 1980) (“Fra il 19 ed il 22 reparti della Bari, della Cagliari e della Cacciatori delle Alpi ebbero ragione della testa di ponte di Perati.” Immagini Della Seconda Guerra Mondiale: La Campagna Italo-Greca, 1940-1941, Luigi Emilio Longo, p. 56, Stato Maggiore Dell’Esercito, Ufficio storico, 2001)
(“Dal 20 al 23 sostiene ancora duri combattimenti prima di raggiungere Ponte Perati.” http://www.regioesercito.it/reparti/fanteria/rediv47.htm)

Although fierce fighting continued on 19, 20, 21 and 22 April, word soon got around that the Greeks in the area had had enough. Under a white flag, a Greek officer approached the Milan Cavalry Regiment and a parley took place. (“A mezzogiorno del 21 aprile, frattanto, un emissario greco si presentava agli italiani a Ponte Perati per informare che un armistizio era in atto.” Ponte Perati: La Julia in Grecia, Manlio Cecovini, p. 17, Longanesi, 1973 ) (“Alle ore 17 si  presentava un nuovo parlamentare per chiedere che fosse trattato un armistizio; ma anche questo fu respinto.”
http://www.soldatinionline.it/english/Articles/History/La-Campagna-di-Grecia-1940-1941-6-parte.html)

By nightfall, the division, bloodied, but undaunted, could say with pride it had broken the back of a stout enemy. The Bari Division, which had borne a great deal of the Ponte Perati action, was to report the loss of 30 officers and 400 other ranks, killed or wounded. (“Voglio darvi solo una notizia perché possiate valutare lo sforzo che è stato fatto:dalle 16 del giorno 21 alle 9,30 di ieri mattina, cioè nel giro di una notte, la divisione “Bari”, che ha espugnato la posizione di Ponte Perati, ha perduto 30 ufficiali e 400 uomini di truppa. Ecco un indice dello sforzo!” Diario, 1940-1943, Ugo Cavallero, Giuseppe Bucciante, p. 86, Ciarrapico, 1948) The Commanding Officer of the 139th Infantry Regiment (Bari Division), Lieutenant-Colonel Achille Lauro, was killed and awarded the Medaglia d’Oro al Valor Militare for his outstanding leadership in the face of the fierce enemy fire. (“Ufficiale superiore di elette virtù militari, rimasto ferito il proprio colonnello, assumeva il comando del reggimento durante un aspro combattimento. Due volte ferito, rifiutava di allontanarsi dalle posizioni per dare ancora, in un momento particolarmente delicato, il contributo per il conseguimento del successo. Mentre venivano stroncate le ultime resistenze nemiche, veniva nuovamente colpito e cadeva da eroe alla testa dei suoi fanti lanciati verso la vittoria. Premeti -Zona Ponte Perati (Fronte greco), 18- 22 aprile 1941.”
http://www.quirinale.it/elementi/DettaglioOnorificenze.aspx?decorato=13130)

 
Plenipotentiaries to General Carlo Geloso

On 21 April, the Pusteria Division received orders to move its units to Lake Giannina, well inside Greece, a march that would require the Alpini to march across the lower slopes of the Pindus Mountains. Lieutenant Antonio Ferrante Di Ruffanoe of the division recalled, “On the way we found a lot of materiel abandoned in retreat by the Greeks, especially ammunition. Their depots extended for hundreds of metres with great numbers of boxes. The biggest boxes were made in Britain, while the French ones often contained one very large shell each … we found two heavy-calibre cannons well hidden in caves, which had been used to shell us on Mount Golico. Neither our air force nor our own artillery had managed to silence them.” (Never Retreat: Mai Daùr, Antonio Ferrante Di Ruffano, p. 70, Lulu Press Inc, 2011)

That night, Lieutenant-General Georgios Tsolakogloou, commander of the Greek forces in Western Macedonia, entered into surrender negotiations with the Italian 9th Army Headquarters:

“The news came that at 9 p.m. Lieutenant-General George Tsolakoglou, the other commander in the Epirus and Macedonia, sent plenipotentiaries to General Carlo Geloso, commanding the Italian Eleventh Army, to seek acceptance of surrender. General Tsolakoglou capitulated on behalf of the commanders of all the Greek armies on the Albanian front, but without the sanction of the Greek government.” (Albania in the Twentieth Century, A History: Volume II: Albania in Occupation and War, 1939-45, Owen Pearson, p. 146, I.B. Tauris, 2006)

Anxious to avoid dealing with the Italians, the Greek First Army commander, General Georgios Tsolakoglou had the previous day offered to surrender the whole Greek Army in Albania and Greece to SS General Josef “Sepp” Dietrich. (“The protocol decreed that from that moment hostilities between Germany and Greece would cease, and, on Dietrich’s word, within a few hours between Greece and Italy as well. Greek troops would return to the original Greece-Albania borders within 10
days, Tsolakoglou offered, then they would demobilise, surrender their weapons, and return home. For honour’s sake Greek officers would keep their side arms. (Swastika over the Acropolis: Re-interpreting the Nazi Invasion of Greece in World War II, Craig Stockings, Eleanor Hancock, p. 403, BRILL, 2013) But the Germans turned their backs on the Greeks and Ioannina and the Port of Kalamatas in southern Greece were strafed and heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe. (“The German planes
turned circles above the unfortified city, machine-gunned, bombed. Then after half an hour, the siren announced it was over. We went outside because the danger had passed. But the worst thing was that the planes had bombed the White House Hospital and killed two of the wounded, wounding others still more.” The Kalamata Diary: Greece, War, and Emigration, Eduardo D. Faingold, p. 133, Rowman & Littlefield, 2010) (“The Germans, however, failed to keep their promises. Even as
negotiations were being conducted, they were savagely bombarding Ioannina, and the next day they violated the agreement. The Italians also began a series of attacks and bombardments that caused great losses”. Written on the Knee: A Diary from the Greek-Italian Front of WWII, Helen Electrie Lindsay, p. 193, Scarletta Press, 2013 )

The Greek commanders were taken aback and with the Regia Aeronautica heavily bombing Ioannina, they were forced to admit defeat to General Alberto Ferrero, Chief of Staff of the Italian Army in Albania. (“The Italian air force, now unrestrained and unstoppable, bombarded Ioannina in blind fury. The capital of Epirus blazed. Two bombs fell on the operating theatre of the 1st Military Hospital, killing a great number of people. Arta was also hit.” “The” Greek Epic: 1940-1941, Ángelos Terzákis, p. 176, Army General Staff, 7th Staff Office, 1990)

Hostilties on the Albanian front were finally declared at an end at 14.45 hours on 23 April local time with the Italian high command reporting that:

“The enemy Army of the Epirus and Macedonia has laid down its arms. The capitulation was made at 9.45 last night by a Greek military delegations to the command of the Italian Eleventh Army on the Epirus front.” ( Albania in the Twentieth Century, A History: Volume II: Albania in Occupation and War, 1939-45, Owen Pearson, p. 147, I.B. Tauris, 2006)

 

The Italian Effort Wore Out The Greeks

In just little over a week, the Italian Army in Albania had steamrolled over some of the world’s best mountain fighters, plentifully supplied with machineguns and counting with excellent fire-support. (“Marshal Badoglio told Mussolini he would need twenty divisions to overcome the 150,000 Greek troops, who enjoyed a superiority in the number of machine-guns”. Mussolini’s War: Fascist Italy’s Military Struggles from Africa and Western Europe to the Mediterranean and Soviet Union 1935-45, Frank
Joseph, p. 64, Casemate Publishers, 2010) (“Outnumbered two to one, the Greeks astonished the Italian generals with their courage and the accuracy of their artillery, although they had only six mortars for each division against the invaders’ sixty. ” Eleni, Nicholas Gage, p. 63, Random House, 2010) (“The enemy dominated us with its 82mm French mortars against our 45mm and 81mm ones. And even if we captured some of their munitions, we couldn’t use them.”  (Never Retreat: Mai Daùr, Antonio Ferrante Di Ruffano, p. 46, Lulu Press Inc, 2011)

While the Regia Aeronautica was successful in shattering morale, the Italian Army had, in a week overrun and scattered to the four winds more Greek units than in the past 6 months. By the end of the fighting more than 70 percent of the crack 5th Cretan Division had deserted. (“All efforts at regaining control with the 5th Greek Division failed and … its divisional commander was sacked .. and by morning 16 April what was  left of the division was an unorganised mass in the vicinity of Petrani-Fourka.” Swastika over the Acropolis: Re-interpreting the Nazi Invasion of Greece in World War II, p. 258, Craig Stockings, Eleanor Hancock, BRILL, 2013) Generals Ioannis Pitsikas and Georgios Bakos had already warned the Greek Commander-In-Chief on 14 April that morale in the Greek Army was wearing dangerously thin, and command and control in the crack 5th, 6th and 8th Divisions had largely evaporated and several Greek soldiers shot for desertion. (“… generals Pitsikas and Bakos … warned of ‘a danger of a complete collapse’ of the army’s morale. Papagos at first was inclined to dismiss the fears”. (The Defence and Fall of Greece 1940-1941, John Carr, p. 218, Pen and Sword, 2013) (“More seriously, outbreaks of mutiny occurred in the 5th (Cretan) and 6th Divisions. A few dozen deserters were caught at the Mertzani Bridge on the border and promptly executed, but that didn’t stop the rot. Amid these signs of an army’s disintegration, on 14 April Major General Katsimitros of the much-bloodied 8th Division appealed to Pitsikas to consider an armistice with the Germans merely to keep some of the army intact.” The Defence and Fall of Greece 1940-1941, John Carr, p. 219, Pen and Sword, 2013)

Italian killed totalled 1,000 killed while 14 Greek divisions were disarmed and marched off to prisoner of war camps. (“Dal 14 al 22 aprile la 9 e 11° armata ebbero oltre 1000 morti e 4.000 feriti.” http://digilander.libero.it/lacorsainfinita/guerra2/40/greciabers.htm) (“Accordingly, on the 21st, the Greeks had to sign another surrender agreement, which contained much harsher terms than the first, all soldiers being now transferred to prisoner of camp, although officers were still allowed to keep their sidearms, and Mussolini grudgingly accepted it two days later.” Hitler’s Gladiator: The Life and Wars of Panzer Army Commander Sepp Dietrich, Charles Messenger, pp. 93-94, Conway, 2005) (“Barely was the ink dry on the agreement than Dietrich presented the Greeks with a new one, revoking the Greeks troops’
non-prisoner status and giving the Italian field command authority to decide on a cease-fire on its front. Tsolakoglou protested, but eventually signed the new protocol ‘compulsorily as a prisoner of war and not of my free violation’. (The Defence and Fall of Greece 1940-1941, John Carr, p. 226, Pen and Sword, 2013)

It was a victory in every sense of the word, and Count Galeazzo Ciano, Il Duce’s right-hand man and son-in-law, knew it when he inspected the assembled divisions in Tirana, the Albanian capital:

“9th May 1941: At Tirana. The general feeling is good; the soldiers feel more and more that the Italian effort wore out the Greeks, and they are proud of it.” (Albania in the Twentieth Century, A History: Volume II: Albania in Occupation and War, 1939-45, Owen Pearson, p.151, I.B. Tauris, 2006)
The Regio Esercito had tied-down large numbers of Greek divisions in Albania. This facilitated the German invasion of Greece, with the Greeks leaving their back door practically open to invasion. (“He made it clear that in his view the Albanian front represented a serious distraction which tied down 300,000 Greek troops and deprived the Allies of any reserves for the eastern and central Macedonian sectors of Operations. In fact only three Greek divisions were made available to Wilson.” Churchill’s Generals, `John Keegan, Hachette, 2012) Benito Mussolini, congratulated Cavallero and the 9th and 11th Italian Armies on the success of the offensive, and thanked the troops for overcoming earlier setbacks.:

“After six months of most sharp fighting, the enemy has laid down his arms. The victory consecrates your bloody sacrfices, especially severe for the land forces, and illuminates your flags with new glory. The fatherland is proud of you as never before.” (https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=2194&dat=19410430&id=aPcuAAAAIBAJ&sjid=2tsFAAAAIBAJ&pg=5634,6004413&hl=en The “Victory” in Albania, Ottawa Citizen, 30 April 1941)

Comments

  1. Jeff,

    Although I respect your Military background and enthsuisiam for Greek Military re enactment, I do find your inability to accept what David presented ( he is also a military historian) somewhat puzzling.

    I found Davids sources and article quite spot on with my own research whilst in the RNZAF researching Italo-Greek war for the New Zealand airforce museum.

    Yes there are disparities in opinion especially from some of the more accepted but questionable sources written on the subject in English.

    Reading German, Italian and English accounts what David states in his article as well as what transpired when The Italian 9th Army divisions proceeded to capture Koritza, that doomed the Bitish/Australian/New Zealand defence in Greece is in line with what New Zealand Military historians accept as valid.

    There are always disputes yet it seems a lot of history was revised from the outset and is with research now being questioned.
    You may prefer to accept the sources you believe in however as a kiwi ex RNZAF I will believe testimony from our own ww2 troops that stated that indeed the Italian 9th entering Koritza resulted in their inability to offer a further defense.

    Pista! to you also.

    • Jeff,

      Although I respect your Military background and enthsuisiam for Greek Military re enactment, I do find your inability to accept what David presented ( he is also a military historian) somewhat puzzling.

      I found Davids sources and article quite spot on with my own research whilst in the RNZAF researching Italo-Greek war for the New Zealand airforce museum.

      Yes there are disparities in opinion especially from some of the more accepted but questionable sources written on the subject in English.

      Reading German, Italian and English accounts what David states in his article as well as what transpired when The Italian 9th Army divisions proceeded to capture Koritza, that doomed the Bitish/Australian/New Zealand defence in Greece is in line with what New Zealand Military historians accept as valid.

      There are always disputes yet it seems a lot of history was revised from the outset and is with research now being questioned.
      You may prefer to accept the sources you believe in however as a kiwi ex RNZAF I will believe testimony from our own ww2 troops that stated that indeed the Italian 9th entering Koritza resulted in their inability to offer a further defense.

      Pista! to you also.

      Having said that, it is acknowledged that the Fascist High command was incapable and unskilled in planning an effective strategic battle plan for the assault on Greece, and instead of implementing the better strategic recommendations of its NCOs and field command, went ahead by force and wasted the lives of thousands of heroic Italian men for an absurd campaign,these men froze in the hills and were sent in exposed for the most part to die in order to appease the fascist regimes greedy self absorbed aim of securing territory for itself.

      It resulted in a lot of ill feeling and distrust in the men towards high command for the remainder of WW2.

      • Jeff Leser says:

        Good day adepss

        Although I respect your Military background and enthsuisiam for Greek Military re enactment, I do find your inability to accept what David presented ( he is also a military historian) somewhat puzzling.

        You have me at a disadvantage. I personally don’t like aliases, so who are you? You have looked me up (I have not issues with that), but allow me to return the favor. 😉

        Let me break down your comment.

        Although I respect your Military background

        Sadly you don’t or we wouldn’t be having this discussion. You have decided that wartime propaganda communiqués, newspaper articles, and non-sequitur quotes are better than established facts that I have offered and cited.

        Respect means you would have cited at least some of those prominent NZ historians that support your position and a copy of your research. Instead you provide 40 year-old memories and stories of research for a museum. I will point out that no historian of worth has stated that the Italian occupation of Koritza doomed the UK/ANZAC defense in Greece.

        Playfair (vol II page 83) outlines each Allied defense line and states how the German turned each one. There is more detail on pages 86-93.
        Long (pages 76, 80, 83, 89, 95) again states that German actions were the cause of the Allied retreats. Koritza is only mentioned in terms of the Greek reluctance to abandon it.
        McClymont (Pages 166-167, 220-221, 224) all state it was Germans actions that forced the withdrawals/retreats. Koritza isn’t even mentioned in the index.
        Montanari (tomo I 767-769) discusses the German operations and how the rapid German successes were forcing the Italian plans.
        Germany Second World War (vol III pages 505-512, unless you want the pages from the German edition) again detail the actions of the German units and their impact on the Allied movements.
        Hellenic Staff History (pages 203-210). Again German actions, not Italian actions.
        Cloutier (page 66) OMG even he states it was the Germans.

        Let me see how much you understand about military operations. Find a map and locate Koritza, Servia, and Grevena. There is a very nice map in Long between pages 34-35.

        The Italians occupied Koritza on 14 April. The Germans were facing Servia on 14 April (and would capture it on the 16th) and they captured Grevena on the 15th. Sevia is the left of the UK/ANZAC position. How does the loss of Koritza threaten the Allied defense when the Germans are already further south and east than the Italians? In terms of operational art, Koritza was seen as the doorway into eastern Greece and specifically to Thessaloniki. The Germans captured Thessaloniki on 9 April, a full 5 days before the Italians occupied Koritza.

        Are you implying the Italians would attack through the Germans to threaten the Allies?

        Yes there are disparities in opinion especially from some of the more accepted but questionable sources written on the subject in English.

        As I have cited Italian, German and Greek sources, and as they match the English sources on this matter, there isn’t a ‘disparity in opinion’ on this matter. If you feel that there are such disparities, please cite.

        I found Davids sources and article quite spot on with my own research whilst in the RNZAF researching Italo-Greek war for the New Zealand airforce museum.

        I recommend that you contact the museum and tell them you need to rewrite your research.

        enthsuisiam for Greek Military re enactment

        It is interesting that you mention my two years of Greek Army reenacting, yet omit mentioning my 20+ of Italian Army reenacting, the book on the Italy military for which I am a co-author, and my translations of Italian military manuals.

        It makes me believe that you are implying a bias on my part.

        I am waiting for cites from the German edition of Germany and the Second World War. I am waiting for cites from prominent NZ historians on the decisiveness of Koritza in relation to the UK/ANZAC defense. Until you offer some support for your (and David’s) position, I feel this discussion is over.

        Pista! Jeff

        • Jeff Leser says:

          I have added the page numbers from the Greek official above. I should also mention that on April 16 the Germans (6th Mtn Div) were enveloping the Olympus position. Remember that the Italians had yet to cross into Greece from Albania at this time (Ponti Perati wasn’t reached until 22 April).

          The officials histories of every nationality involved agree that that the UK/ANZAC defense was forced by German actions.

  2. I now have a better idea of why this article is so poorly researched.

    I plan to leave the article alone. I will not delete it. The comments do everything that need to be done.

    To recap, the article claims that the actions of the Italian Army were causal to the destruction of the Greek Army. The article fails to demonstrate that the Italian actions were casual and multiple authoritative sources disagree with that the defeat/collapse of the Greek Army was due to Italian actions.

    In reading this article, I am struck about how none of the cites provided actually demonstrate that Italian actions caused the Greek defeat. David has provide quotes and statements that there was some hard fighting, but nothing to show that this fighting affected the outcome. Even his Cavllero quote falls short and doesn’t state anything about how the Italians caused the destruction of 14 Greek divisions. All Cavellero states is that the Italians took losses. What were the Greek causalities? How many Greek divisions surrendered to the Italians before 20 April? how many surrendered to the Italians between 22-24 April? How did the supposed captured of Ponti Perati affect the outcome? None of this is provided in the article.

    I am now questioning his use of sources. He states “As the Bari and Taro Divisions reached Ponte Perati in the early morning hours of 22 April, the Bari came under heavy machine-gun and mortar fire, causing many casualties. (Fronte Greco-Albanese, C’ero Anch’io, by Giulio Bedeschi, p. 225, Mursia, 1977) Although fierce fighting continued throughout the morning, by midday word got around that the Greeks in the area wanted to surrender. Under a white flag, a Greek officer approached the Bari Division and a parley took place. (Source: Ponte Perati: La Julia in Grecia by Manlio Cecovini, p. 17, Longanesi, 1973 ).”

    I have already point out that Bedeschi doesn’t mention any combat on page 225 in his discussion of the action at Ponti Perati on 22 April. In looking at his statement from Cecovini, I find that the Greeks contacted the Italians to inform them of the armistice and that this happened on the 21st, not the 22nd. (page 19 in the 1966 edition, pagination might be different between the editions). The Greeks weren’t contacting the Italians to negotiate but merely to inform them the war was already over. So both sources are misrepresented in the article. Even if the sources were used correctly, neither of them provides any insight in to how the Italians caused the defeat of 14 Greek divisions.

    David intentionally distorts and edits the historical timeline. His “Surrender of the Greeks” paragraph, he omits the fact that the Greek had surrendered to the German two days earlier. This omission leads the reader to believe that the Greeks were surrendering for the first time and implying that it was the Italians that forced the surrender. This is false. The Greeks surrendered on 20 April and everything after that fact in terms of negotiations was due to the Germans.

    Then there is statement of David’s: “First of all I don’t agree with your claim based on the Greek official history that “The Greek Army had effectively withdrawn by the 20th”, reason being that the original deal the Greeks secured with SS General Sepp Dietrich on 20 April demanded that the Greek Army in Albania withdraw across the Greek-Albanian border and the Greek commanders were given 10 days to complete this enormous task because of course, we’re not talking about a few battalions or regiments here, but 14 divisions!”

    My statement: “The argument that you have presented is that the Italian Army broke the Greek EFAS through the actions at Ponti Perati. In fact the only Greek units involved from the 13th to the 22nd of April were Greek rearguards. No Greek units were trapped or destroyed by the Italian movement to the Perati Bridge. The Greek Army had effectively withdrawn by the 20th (see the Greek official, especially Sketch Map 26). This Greek info matches Montanari (not surprising since the Greek officials are also in his bibliography).”

    It is clear that David is clueless as to the actual situation on the ground between 6 and 22 April. He doesn’t have the faintest idea where the German, Greek, and Italian regiments and divisions were throughout this campaign. At the time of the German occupation of the Ponti Perati on 20 April, all the Greek divisions were south of any encirclement. In simple terms, there wasn’t any way the Italians or the German could trap any of the Greek major units. They had effectively escaped from the Italians. Where does ‘effectively withdrawn’ mean or imply that all the units were out of Albania.

    Then we have: ““Italian troops up to the moment of the capitulation of the Greek armies in Epirus and Macedonia continued their victorious advance into enemy territory; overcoming strenous resistance and capturing prisoners, arms, and supplies.” (Albania in the Twentieth Century, A History: Volume II: Albania in Occupation and War, 1939-45, Owen Pearson, p. 147, I.B. Tauris, 2006)”

    So how does this show a causal relationship between Italian actions and the Greek defeat? With the German actions breaking the Greek morale, the Italians were merely enjoying the results of what they were unable to achieve by themselves. Again nothing that goes to demonstrate that Italian action created the situation presented.

    I will address the comments about Sadkovich in the sources thread. Placing Cloutier above Sadkovich is act of desperation and has no basis in fact. I will address Pearson at the same time.

    • As Cloutier is being used as a source, let us take a look at what he provides. This is the paragraph that directly precedes the one quoted by David:

      On the Greek-Albanian Front, the Greeks attacked once more, hoping to link up with the Yugoslav forces to the north. General Papagos still clung to the hope that the Italian Ninth and Eleventh Armies could be driven into the sea, but the seizure of Mount Guri I Topit by the 5th Alpini Division on 4 April signaled that the initiative had shifted from the Greeks to the Italians. General Papagos , realizing that the Italians could not be broken and that a large German force threatened his rear, ordered the army to withdraw from Albania. But the order came too late; the Germans were moving quickly into the Greek rear areas, and twenty-one attacking Italian divisions maintained contact with the Greeks. By 21 April, the Italians were once more entering the Pindus Mountains.

      (page 69).

      First I will note that none of this information is footnoted. I have no idea where Cloutier found his information.

      I am not sure what action is being referenced about the 5th (Pusteria) Alpini division. Not even the detailed book Le truppe alpine nella Guerra mondiale mentions this action.

      Cloutier states that the retreat of the Greeks was triggered by the actions of the Germans. No Italian attacks, no Italian surprise. This matches all the other sources.

      Cloutier states that the Italians maintained contact. True, the Greeks used rearguards to slow the Italian forces once they began to advance. The Italians never were able to cut off any sizable Greek force.

      The Greeks started to withdraw on the 12th. The Italians didn’t start to advance until the 13th. The Greeks surrender on the 20th. No major Greek formations were cutoff and captured during this period.

      So now comes the paragraph David quotes:

      “Churlishly, the Greeks thought they could ignore the Italians and surrender exclusively to the Germans. They signed a surrender agreement with the Germans … but when Mussolini learned of this he ordered the Regio Esercito to keep attacking, since this armistice ignored the Italians, the Italians could ignore the armistice. The Italians continued their advance until the Greek reconsidered their affrontery and signed a new armistice that included the Italians.” (Regio Esercito: The Italian Royal Army in Mussolini’s Wars, 1935-1943, Patrick Cloutier, p. 69, Lulu Press, Inc, 2013)

      Please note the David removed “…They signed a surrender agreement with the Germans on 21st April,…” from the quote where he indicates the gap. Humm, why remove this? The date is important (before the events at the Ponti Perati) and again demonstrates that for the Greeks the war was over. Also note the first agreement was actually signed on the 20th and changed by the Germans on the 21st. The war ended for the Greeks on the 20th.

      How do either of these paragraphs support his argument that the Italian Army destroyed the Greek Army?

      • decimaflottigliamascommandos says:

        Thank you again Jeff for your feedback.

        First let me say thank you very much for getting me to improve and expand the article and confirm the dates, units involved, include photographic evidence and maps. However I find your reluctance to relax your hold of the official histories (Italian or Greek) and dig deeper (using all available evidence) rather puzzling. I should point out that I won’t let myself get distracted again until the article is finished. I hope I can keep my promise.

        Anyway I disagree with your claim that the “war ended for the Greeks on the 20th”, unless of course the Italian spearheads were fighting an imaginary enemy on 19, 20, 21 and 22 April with the Italian generals (especially the commander of the Bari) inventing battles and somehow accounting for false Italian losses. With regards to your claim that I tried to pull a fast one on you for removing a gap from the “signed a surrender agreement with the Germans on 21st April”, rest assured that your suspicions are unfounded and I will include, (basically repeat) what all readers even a basic understanding of the final phase of the Greco-Italian War should already know, and that is that the Greek commanders tried to pull a fast one on Cavallero when they tried to negotiate an exclusive surrender with Dietrich. The Germans, however turned their backs on the Greeks and the Italians renewed attacks in the Ponte Perati area, until the Greeks were forced to come to the table. Now you’re welcome to prove me wrong (when the Perati article is fiinally completed I hope), confirming readers how the Greek Army in Albania escaped (rather than simply vanish as if by magic). You’re welcome to present the evidence in the form of documents showing the escape routes, etc, which if true would open a new line of enquiry and the possibility that the Italian spearheads were in reality shooting themselves and the Bari Division mounting fruitless attacks against a German spearhead in the Perati Bridge area. You may be right when you write that “wartime communiqués, wartime newspaper articles, and personal diaries and memoirs … can be of great value … or they can lead the historian down the wrong path” with the Bari Division in reality coming under devastating attack from the Regia Aeronautica, suffering 430 killed and wounded, not due to enemy fire, but Italian bombs!

        You state that “No major Greek formations were cutoff and captured during this period” but the authors of ‘Swastika over the Acropolis: Re-interpreting the Nazi Invasion of Greece in World War II’ report that the crack Cretan division practically disintegrated in the Greek retreat:

        “All efforts at regaining control with the 5th Greek Division failed and … its divisional commander was sacked … and by morning 16 April what was left of the division was an unorganised mass in the vicinity of Petrani-Fourka.”

        This complete breakdown on the part of an elite division is surely the tip of the iceberg for any discerning historian and indicative of how far the rot had set in the the other Greek divisions fleeing the Italian spearheads, unless of course the Regia Aeronautica falsified missions with the Italians in the ground (as is often claimed in books) really “in hesitant pursuit” proving me completely wrong.

        Jeff, if it’s true that “”At the time of the German occupation of the Ponti Perati on 20 April, all the Greek divisions were south of any encirclement … there wasn’t any way the Italians or the German could trap any of the Greek major units. They had effectively escaped … Where does ‘effectively withdrawn’ mean or imply that all the units were out of Albania[?]”, then the Italian claim that “The Greeks had lost the best part of fourteen divisions…” is true, except they as you point out got the crossing point (Perati Bridge) wrong.

        Jeff you also claim that I have failed to provide proof that “that there was some hard fighting” during Cavallero’s offensive but, Lucio Ceva in ‘Storia delle Forze Armate in Italia’ writes that:

        “L’offensiva sferrata da Cavallero il 13 aprile procede lentissima e sanguinosa. I bollettini italiani si gloriano di queste inutili perdite (quasi 6000 fra morti e feriti).”

        You’re correct when you write that “The Greeks weren’t contacting the Italians to negotiate but merely to inform them the war was already over”, and that was very nice of them (rather than get a German radio-telephone unit involved) and the Greek commanders by the way, reminded the Italians again at 5pm:

        “Alle ore 17 si presentava un nuovo parlamentare per chiedere che fosse trattato un armistizio; ma anche questo fu respinto.” http://www.soldatinionline.it/english/Articles/History/La-Campagna-di-Grecia-1940-1941-6-parte.html

        Finally you say that you “disagree with that the defeat/collapse of the Greek Army was due to Italian actions” and that popular claim I plan to address in the revised and updated Perati article, once I get a chance to finish it rather than be dragged into online debates that serve no real purpose until all the evidence is weighed up.

        And yes, I confess I prefer Cloutier over Sadkovich, for Cloutier has written a lot more about the Regio Esercito than Sadkovich, from the sands of El Alamein to the snows of Stalingrad, like I prefer The Beatles over The Rolling Stones, but surely that’s not a big sin?

        Thanks again,

        David

        P.S. Since you’re very passionate about the Greek forces, I look forward in you emailing me the Greek version of events (in the form of documents, that I can verify) but I should remind you that I don’t just rely on official histories or historians, Greek or Italian, British or German, Australian or New Zealand, American or Vietnamese.

        • David

          Thank you for your comments. I will be interested in your revision.

          I will address this statement upfront.

          Finally you say that you “disagree with that the defeat/collapse of the Greek Army was due to Italian actions” and that popular claim I plan to address in the revised and updated Perati article, once I get a chance to finish it rather than be dragged into online debates that serve no real purpose until all the evidence is weighed up.

          Well you did post the article (or Annales did, I assume, with your permission), so I assumed the evidence was all ‘weighted up’. I also assume that you would not have revised the article if I had remained silent. Don’t chastise me for pointing out the very obvious problems with the article.

          Okay, now the rest. Again I will point out that your cites must support the contention that the actions of the Italian Army were the casual factor in the defeat of the Greek Army. None of your current sources support that contention.

          Reviewing your recent comments:

          However I find your reluctance to relax your hold of the official histories (Italian or Greek) and dig deeper (using all available evidence) rather puzzling.

          Then you haven’t read my comments. I will direct you to the Sources in Historical Discussions/writing thread in the forum for a detailed answer. I certainly will use other sources to challenge the officials but the evidence must be compelling. A source like Cloutier who makes a statement without providing the source of the information used that supports that statement is not compelling evidence. It is merely opinion. You can certainly offer that viewpoint in your writing, but don’t be surprised when you are challenged on your use of it.

          Anyway I disagree with your claim that the “war ended for the Greeks on the 20th”, unless of course the Italian spearheads were fighting an imaginary enemy on 19, 20, 21 and 22 April with the Italian generals (especially the commander of the Bari) inventing battles and somehow accounting for false Italian losses.

          Then you missed my point. There was fighting after the 20th, but it was because the Italians were attacking the Greeks (and they were defending themselves), not because the Greeks wanted to continue fighting. The Greeks were no longer trying to win; they were just trying to survive, to get out of the war. The Greek Army basically ceased to exist as a functional combat force on 20 April. Maybe I was too subtle.

          …and that is that the Greek commanders tried to pull a fast one on Cavallero when they tried to negotiate an exclusive surrender with Dietrich.

          I have never challenge or disagreed with this point. The Greeks did try to pull a fast one as they didn’t want to surrender to the Italians. This doesn’t establish anything to prove the Italians defeated the Greek Army. In fact, this supports the current narrative that the Greeks weren’t defeated by the Italians so they didn’t want to surrender to them.

          You’re welcome to present the evidence in the form of documents showing the escape routes, etc, which if true would open a new line of enquiry and the possibility that the Italian spearheads were in reality shooting themselves and the Bari Division mounting fruitless attacks against a German spearhead in the Perati Bridge area. You may be right when you write that “wartime communiqués, wartime newspaper articles, and personal diaries and memoirs … can be of great value … or they can lead the historian down the wrong path” with the Bari Division in reality coming under devastating attack from the Regia Aeronautica, suffering 430 killed and wounded, not due to enemy fire, but Italian bombs!

          Hyperbolic statement containing multiple false dilemma arguments:

          1. I have never stated that the Italians were shooting at each other.
          2. I have never said that the RA bombed the Bari Division
          3. I never stated that the Italians attacked the German positions around Perati.
          4. You have yet to demonstrate that the losses of the Bari Division happened the morning of 22 April at the Perati Bridge.

          Please reread my 18 Sep 7:24 pm comment and my other comments reference further down in this post. I have never stated that the Italians didn’t take casualties (nor that the Greeks didn’t take losses) during the period of 13-22 April.

          The problem is that you have yet to provide any evidence that the Italians fought the Greeks at the Perati bridge on 22 April, nor any evidence that supports the intensity of that fighting you are claiming. Your position isn’t based on facts, so please stop implying that mine are not. I have presented quotes from multiple sources that specifically address the events at the Perati bridge on 22 April. You have yet to do likewise beside the very general Cavallero quote.

          You state that “No major Greek formations were cutoff and captured during this period” but the authors of ‘Swastika over the Acropolis: Re-interpreting the Nazi Invasion of Greece in World War II’ report that the crack Cretan division practically disintegrated in the Greek retreat:

          Please reread my 16 Sep 1:55am comment, specifically my discussion on the V Division. Clearly my comment agrees with your source above.

          1. The division fell apart during the retreat due to its morale breaking as the Greek soldiers recognized that their previous 5 months of success had come for naught.

          2. No Italian forces were in contact with the division. It was a case of soldiers giving up after victory was turned into defeat by the German invasion.

          3. Your source doesn’t say the division was cutoff and/or captured, so how does this quote make my statement false?

          then the Italian claim that “The Greeks had lost the best part of fourteen divisions…” is true, except they as you point out got the crossing point (Perati Bridge) wrong.

          What a silly bit of sophistry. If the Germans hadn’t invaded, the Greeks wouldn’t have retreated. If the Greeks hadn’t retreated, the army wouldn’t have surrendered. If the army hadn’t surrendered, then the Greeks wouldn’t have lost 14 divisions. A bit of a ‘fruit of the poisonous tree’ problem on your part.

          Remember you are trying to demonstrate that it was the Italians actions that defeated the Greek Army, not the German actions. Keep your eye on the ball.

          Jeff you also claim that I have failed to provide proof that “that there was some hard fighting” during Cavallero’s offensive but, Lucio Ceva in ‘Storia delle Forze Armate in Italia’ writes that: “L’offensiva sferrata da Cavallero il 13 aprile procede lentissima e sanguinosa. I bollettini italiani si gloriano di queste inutili perdite (quasi 6000 fra morti e feriti).”

          Please reread my 13 Sep 12:44am and my 16 Sep 4:28pm comments. I clearly identified/stated that there was some heavy combat between 13-21 April. How does your quote above change anything I stated about 22 April at the Perati bridge?

          RE: sources. I have cited several good sources during this discussion. As a minimum, read Mario Cervi’s The Hollow Legions. Still consider a solid source on the campaign, it is in English and readily available (and Cervi served in Greece as a junior officer). His statement below is telling about the events of 13-22 April:

          “The exhilaration of the Italian advance was only superficial; it concealed sadness at this belated success scored over a defeated enemy. Only the generals, beginning with Cavallero, took pride in maneuvers that did not impress the ranks. Even a child could see that they consisted of keeping up with a retreating enemy.” Page 281

          Pista! Jeff

          • decimaflottigliamascommandos says:

            Jeff, in the thread ‘Sources In Historical Discussions/writing’ (http://www.comandosupremo.com/forums/topic/7126-sources-in-historical-discussionswriting/) in your criticism of Patrick Coultier, you write that “James J. Sadkovich has his PhD in history and is a fluent Italian reader … books and articles had to be reviewed and accepted by a panel of experts for them to be published”, but little do you know that Martin Middlebrook who wrote the top-seller ‘Operation Corporate: the Falklands War, 1982’ (Viking, 1985) that covered the role of the British forces in the Falklands, had little or no formal schooling for he was just a farmer! Yet three decades his book is still in print and available in paperback as ‘The Falklands War’, and consulted by all military experts for it is”still is an authoritative and thoroughly readable account of this historic enterprise” (The Falklands War by Martin Middlebrook. SYNOPSIS. https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-falklands-war/martin-middlebrook/9781848846364) (“Remember, he was a poultry farmer with no literary background.” https://dalyhistory.wordpress.com/tag/martin-middlebrook/) Middlebrook also wrote ‘ The Fight for the “Malvinas”: The Argentine Forces in the Falklands War’ (Penguin, 1990), another top seller still in print and available as ‘Argentine Fight For The Falklands’. Middlebrook can’t speak, read or write in Spanish but that didn’t stop him from covering the Argentine role in the conflict. Jeff, if everyone took your traditionalist approach to history, Martin Middlebrook would still be a chicken farmer.

            Also Paul McCartney, John Lennon, George Harrison and Ring Starr had virtually no formal music training, and yet The Beatles went on to become the most popular band ever.

            Thanks again for your observations.

          • I have placed my reply in the fourm. Pista! Jeff

  3. decimaflottigliamascommandos says:

    Hello Jeff again and everybody else. I should really stick to my schedule for I’m writing a new book and of course rewriting the Ponte Perati article as promised. But anyway I’m back to share a few observations. First of all I don’t agree with your claim based on the Greek official history that “The Greek Army had effectively withdrawn by the 20th”, reason being that the original deal the Greeks secured with SS General Sepp Dietrich on 20 April demanded that the Greek Army in Albania withdraw across the Greek-Albanian border and the Greek commanders were given 10 days to complete this enormous task because of course, we’re not talking about a few battalions or regiments here, but 14 divisions!

    I also don’t agree with your claim that the “problem with the Cavallero source is it doesn’t identify the line period of the losses” because Cavallero does give readers the time and date for the losses suffered by the Bari Division:

    “Voglio darvi solo una notizia perché possiate valutare lo sforzo che è stato fatto:dalle 16 del giorno 21 alle 9,30 di ieri mattina, cioè nel giro di una notte, la divisione “Bari”, che ha espugnato la posizione di Ponte Perati, ha perduto 30 ufficiali e 400 uomini di truppa. Ecco un indice dello sforzo!” (Diario, 1940-1943, Ugo Cavallero, Giuseppe Bucciante, p. 166, Ciarrapico, 1948)

    Patrick Coultier, most definitely a notch above James J. Sadkovich when it comes to the Italian Army in WW2, has written that the Italian army was still attacking the Greek Army in Albania, forcing the Greek commanders to come to their rescue:

    “Churlishly, the Greeks thought they could ignore the Italians and surrender exclusively to the Germans. They signed a surrender agreement with the Germans … but when Mussolini learned of this he ordered the Regio Esercito to keep attacking, since this armistice ignored the Italians, the Italians could ignore the armistice. The Italians continued their advance until the Greek reconsidered their affrontery and signed a new armistice that included the Italians.” (Regio Esercito: The Italian Royal Army in Mussolini’s Wars, 1935-1943, Patrick Cloutier, p. 69, Lulu Press, Inc, 2013)

    And Owen Pearson, undoubtedly an expert when it comes to the history of Albania in WW2, has written that the Italian spearheads were successfully engaging the retreating Greek divisions before the Greek commanders threw in the towel:

    “Italian troops up to the moment of the capitulation of the Greek armies in Epirus and Macedonia continued their victorious advance into enemy territory; overcoming strenous resistance and capturing prisoners, arms, and supplies.” (Albania in the Twentieth Century, A History: Volume II: Albania in Occupation and War, 1939-45, Owen Pearson, p. 147, I.B. Tauris, 2006)

    Yours kindly,

    David

    P.S. If you’re fluent in Greek, I’d appreciate it if you could email me the details surrounding brave and successful Greek reerguard actions, especially the heroic Evzones, and decorations Greek officers and other ranks won between 13 and 19, 20 or 22 April 1941, so that I can include them in the article. Thanks again Jeff.

  4. decimaflottigliamascommandos says:

    Thank you Comando Supremo for updating the article and clarifying that I’m a military historian, having for example, helped Lawrence Freedman, the British official historian of the Falklands War when he was preparing ‘The Official History of the Falklands Campaign: War and Diplomacy’ (Psychology Press, 2005). In the meantime I’ve had a chance to go through my sources to do with Perati Bridge in order to counter Jeff’s claim that ” The sources are mostly period newspaper articles or dated works that lack any sense of historical rigor”. Now if we alI took that approach, British and Argentine official communiques, the ‘New York Times’ (US newspaper), ‘The Times’ (British newspaper), etcetera, the main Argentine newspapers of the period (Clarin and La Nacion as well as several others), and the Argentine Army Official Report, published one year after the Falklands/Malvinas War, and the official accounts on the part of Argentine army officers that were published in ‘Asi Lucharon’ (Carlos M. Turolo, Editorial Sudamerican, 1982), ‘Malvinas: Relatos De Soldados’ (Martin Antonio Balza, Circulo Militar, 1986) and ‘La Guerra De Las Malvinas’ (Editorial Oriente, 1987) would not have been consulted when British historian Nicholas van der Bijl wrote ‘9 Battles To Stanley’ (Leo Cooper, 1999), and when
    I wrote along with van der Bijl ‘5th Infantry Brigade In The Falklands’ (Leo Cooper, 2003), and when British historian Hugh Bicheno wrote the top seller ‘Razor’s Edge: The Unofficial History Of The Falklands War’ (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2006), because, as Jeff points out, they are too “dated” and lack “historical rigor”.

    I think Jeff believes the Greeks in Albania got away scot-free and that the Germans in the form of the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler SS Division waiting on the other side of the bridge stopped the Italians from chasing after them. I hope this photo (No. 9) proves Perati Bridge came under effective aerial attack on the part of the Italian Stuka squadrons, trapping the Greek Army in Albania:

    http://trip-suggest.com/greece/epirus/kalovrysi/

    For more evidence showing Perati Bridge coming under devastating Italian Stuka attacks, please check out the good quality photographs taken by Italian cameramen accompanying the Italian Stuka pilots and their rear-gunners, in the following link:

    http://forum.axishistory.com/viewtopic.php?f=75&t=210001&start=150

    As you can see in the above link the bridge became the focus of the Regia Aeronautica and was cut in half at least at one point, not to mention the unexploded ordnance (aerial bombs, artillery and mortar shells), wrecked vehicles and the round-the-clock bombing and machine-gunning on the part of the Italian air force and the shelling, mortaring, machine-gun fire and sniper fire on the part of the Italian army spearheads.

    Jeff also writes that ” The Italian official states the bridge was already occupied by the Germans when the first Italian units arrived”, but other Italian sources mention that Italian spearheads (including Alpini units) got there first. For example the online page Campagna di Grecia states:

    “Fra il 19 ed il 22 reparti della Bari, della Cagliari e della Cacciatori delle Alpi ebbero ragione della testa di ponte di Perati, congiungendosi con quelli della IX Armata giunti in contemporanea, ed anch’essi obbligati a fermarsi dalle truppe tedesche”
    http://digilander.libero.it/avantisavoiait/Campagna%20di%20Grecia.htm

    Jeff also claims that “No mention of “annihilated a Greek division in six hours.”” but if you examine the Italian official military communique on 21 April 1941 you will notice the 4th Bersagieri got a special mention for their brave action on 20 April:

    ” Si sono svolti aspri combattimenti, in uno dei quali si è particolarmente distinto il 4° reg­gimento bersaglieri. Sono state rioccupate tutte le località del litorale ionico sino al vecchio confine. ” http://www.alieuomini.it/pagine/dettaglio/bollettini_di_guerra,9/-_aprile_dal_n_al_n,54.html

    Also the Italian newsreel available on youtube to do with the action at 6:41 (19 seconds before the 7th minute) makes a special mention of the Bersaglieri, claiming that it finished off an entire Greek Division. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xRRKzwkkPBU

    Jeff also claims that the Bari Division saw no action on 22 April at Perati Bridge, but General Ugo Cavallero who was in charge of the Italian forces massing there writes that:

    “dalle 16 del giorno 21 alle 9,30 di ieri mattina, cioè nel giro di una notte, la divisione “Bari”, che ha espugnato la posizione di Ponte Perati, ha perduto 30 ufficiali e 400 uomini di truppa.”(Diario, 1940-1943, Ugo Cavallero, Giuseppe Bucciante, p. 166, Ciarrapico, 1948)

    If in doubt google the above mentioned paragraph, for it is available for all to see thanks to https://books.google.ca/

    Yours sincerely,

    David

    P.S. I’m rewriting the article

    • Thanks David.

      Well, it’s good to have differences of opinion and new ways of interpreting sources and evidence. This is what history is all about. IT IS NEVER A FINISHED STORY! but an unending process of revision and re-thinking. I’ve learnt a long time ago that historians, even the best of them, can get it wrong, even very wrong.

      • David

        Thank you for talking some time to discuss your article. The discussion can be as valuable as the article itself.

        Let us remember that the thrust of the article is not whether the Italian military destroyed a lot of Greek material, but (your topic paragraph):

        “In April 1941, General Ugo Cavallero’s 9-day blitz took the 14 Greek Army divisions in Albania completely by surprise. Despite claims in poorly researched books that the retreating Greek Epirus Army escaped largely intact and surrendered with full military honours to the SS Division Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler opposite the Vjosa River, the opposite happened. The cream of the Greek Army in Albania, was almost totally destroyed in the Battle for Perati Bridge.”

        The article then must demonstrate that these statements are true. In this case, the article doesn’t achieve that. I have pointed out that your sources aren’t accurate in describing the events. Wartime communiqués, foreign newspaper articles, and personal diaries are suspect unless collaborated by other sources. The fact that you have only offered more of the same is not encouraging. If you wish to discuss why this is so, we can start a thread in the forum on the challenges and pitfalls of using such materials when writing history.

        Note I am not disagreeing that the R.A. destroyed equipment on the roads leading up to the bridge at Perati. What I am disagreeing with is that the Italian forces destroyed the Greek EFAS and WMFAS, and the statement that the Greek Army was ‘almost totally destroyed in the Battle for Perati Bridge.”

        Let me address your topical paragraph:

        1.”In April 1941, General Ugo Cavallero’s 9-day blitz took the 14 Greek Army divisions in Albania completely by surprise.”

        The Greeks issued the orders for the retreat on 12 April and the divisions disengaged without interference from the Italian forces. The Italians had planned to start their attack on the 14th. The 9th Army started to receive word the Greeks were retreating on the evening of the 12th, but waited until the morning of the 13th to start advancing (Montanari pg 781-82). The same happened in the 11th Army area (pages 794-95). In both cases the follow-up movement is described as ‘slow’.

        2. “Despite claims in poorly researched books that the retreating Greek Epirus Army escaped largely intact…”

        Most books state the Greek Army began to disintegrate by the 15th. This wasn’t due to Italian military actions but the breaking of the Greek morale. This was due to the Greek soldiers recognizing that everything they had achieved in the past 5 months was lost due to the German invasion. The Greek V Division (the main Greek unit moving towards the Perati bridge) lost over 50% of its troops through desertion by the 15th (Greek official page 220). Just about every book addresses this.

        3. “…surrendered with full military honours to the SS Division Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler opposite the Vjosa River, the opposite happened. The cream of the Greek Army in Albania, was almost totally destroyed in the Battle for Perati Bridge.”

        Noted Italian military scholar James Sadkovich states “Six days later [21 April-JL] Mussolini intervened to prevent the surrender of Greek forces to German commanders, and the following day Italian and German troops faced off at Ponte Perati.”(Sadkovich ‘The Italo-Greek War in Context: Italian Priorities and Axis Diplomacy’ Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 28, No. 3 (Jul., 1993), pp. 450). In his footnote to this passage (ibid fn 73) Sadkovich states “Cavallero, Diario, 21 and 22 April 1941; DDI, 9/6, docs 954, 957, 972; and GMS, VIII, MS C-0651, 21 and 22 April 1941, for Hitler’s approval of the acceptance of the Greek surrender without informing Rome, and SS Liebstandarte’s orders to block an Italian advance in the Janina area.” It is clear that Sadkovich also understands that there was no combat at the Perati Bridge.

        Please note that Sadlovich is citing the same source as you, yet his understanding of that passage is the same as mine. After all Cavallero does state that “ed anch’essi obbligati a fermarsi dalle truppe tedesche”

        Cevi in The Hollow Legions states “A little further on, the advanced units of the Casale Division [11th Army-JL] ran into another German roadblock on the night of April 21-22. The Italian troops, now nearing the Perati bridge, asked permission to pass, but the German Colonel Diethle declined to grant this. The Italian commander, Enea Navarrini, intervened, and it was decided that both Germans and Italians should remain in their positions. The Milan lancers were also stopped by a Wehrmacht regiment near the Perati bridge. (pages 291-92).

        I have yet to a find any source that supports your position.

        At this point I will look forward to what you might wish to present. I do recommend that you try to find the books/articles I have cited for further research.

        • decimaflottigliamascommandos says:

          Dear Jeff. This is what the Regio Esercito website has to say about the Bari Division in their fight for Ponte Perati:

          “Il 15 partecipa all’avanzata lungo Val Desnizzes e il 16 raggiunge Ponte Klisura. Procedendo nell’avanzata, sempre contrastata dalle retroguardie nemiche, risale la Valle Vojussa e il 17 raggiunge il torrente Lomnizza. Successivamente la marcia della divisione prosegue verso Premeti e verso Ponte Perati dove l’avanzata della divisione viene fortemente contrasfata da robuste retroguardie nemiche attestate sui costoni circostanti. Dal 20 al 23 sostiene ancora duri combattimenti prima di raggiungere Ponte Perati.” http://www.regioesercito.it/reparti/fanteria/rediv47.htm

          And here is another available online source, proving that the Bari Division suffered heavy losses in the action to secure Ponte Perati:

          “Questa affermazione era falsa palesemente in quanto lo stesso Cavallero annotava che proprio nell’ultima notte di combattimenti la divisione Bari aveva subito la perdita di 30 ufficiali e 400 uomini di truppa. List era fuori di se per la figuretta che aveva fatto o meglio che gli era stato ordinato di fare di fronte ai greci.”

          I’m glad that you now agree that the Regia Aeronautica was in the thick of the action, during the fighting withdrawal of the Greek Army in Albania. I should point out that if it wasn’t for the newspapers in English of the period that are available online, I wouldn’t have an inkling of the havoc and destruction wrought by the Italian Stuka squadrons and other fighter and bomber formations, for General Santoro in his official history of the R.A. makes only a passing mention of the Ponte Perati action. You can’t just rely on the Allied and Axis official histories to get to the truth, and the same applies when investigating the Falklands/Malvinas War.

          Yours kindly,

          David

          P.S. I’m rewriting the article.

          • I have started a thread on the use of sources.

            http://www.comandosupremo.com/forums/topic/7126-sources-in-historical-discussionswriting/

            Pista! Jeff

          • David

            Thanks!

            Okay, let us look at your quote. The quote from the Regio Esercito website covers four days. The combat addresses the movement of the divisione Bari down the Vojussa River. Yes the Bari did encounter resistance during this movement. In fact, the division was stopped for three days and the corps had to maneuver the 63° rgt. ftr. from the divisioine Cagliari to maneuver the Greeks out of their positions. See Montanari tomo I pages 799-800.

            Now from your article:

            “As the Bari and Taro Divisions reached Ponte Perati in the early morning hours of 22 April, the Bari came under heavy machine-gun and mortar fire, causing many casualties. (Fronte Greco-Albanese, C’ero Anch’io, by Giulio Bedeschi, p. 225, Mursia, 1977) Although fierce fighting continued throughout the morning, by midday word got around that the Greeks in the area wanted to surrender. Under a white flag, a Greek officer approached the Bari Division and a parley took place. (Source: Ponte Perati: La Julia in Grecia by Manlio Cecovini, p. 17, Longanesi, 1973 ) By nightfall, the division, bloodied, but undaunted, could say with pride it had broken the back of a stout enemy. The Bari Division, which had borne a good deal of the Ponte Perati action, was to report the loss of 30 officers and 400 other ranks, killed or wounded. (Diario, 1940-1943, Ugo Cavallero, Giuseppe Bucciante, p. 86, Ciarrapico, 1948)”

            From Montanari page 800. “Alle 5,30 dell 22 aprile un ufficiale di S.M. del Comando divisione Bari prevendeva contatto al ponti Perati con una formazione tedecsa.” No fighting on that day. Did a Greek officer appear with a white flag? It is possible, but likely a small detachment that was trapped. Certainly not a large unit as that would be been mentioned somewhere in the records. Prisoner counts appear frequently in Montanari and the lack of such information for this period indicates very small numbers.

            You can read my post on sources I posted in the forum. Bedeschi’s books captures the personal remembrances of the veterans that fought during the war. While valuable, that doesn’t make them accurate. Cavallo’s diary is the same (note the diary is in Montanari’s bibliography). Montanari’s work encompasses the use of the official records, personal accounts, and other scholarship. It represents the detailed work of comparing multiple sources and resolving the four Ws. In terms of the four Ws, Montanari is the bedrock source.

            Please note that your other online cite for the losses of the Bari uses the same source (Cavallero). Just because a source is repeated doesn’t mean the source is accurate. The problem with the Cavallero source is it doesn’t identify the line period of the losses.

            The argument that you have presented is that the Italian Army broke the Greek EFAS through the actions at Ponti Perati. In fact the only Greek units involved from the 13th to the 22nd of April were Greek rearguards. No Greek units were trapped or destroyed by the Italian movement to the Perati Bridge. The Greek Army had effectively withdrawn by the 20th (see the Greek official, especially Sketch Map 26). This Greek info matches Montanari (not surprising since the Greek officials are also in his bibliography).

            RE: the RA. Since I never challenged your comments about the R.A. there was never a disagreement :-) . As I stated in my sources thread, sources like newspaper articles can open a new line of inquiry for a researcher. I am glad that worked for you. How much they destroyed would be an interesting discussion, but one I am not well equipped to engage in at this time. Do note that the action of the R.A. at Perati happened days before the 22nd.

            Pista! Jeff

    • I would like to briefly address this comment:

      “In the meantime I’ve had a chance to go through my sources to do with Perati Bridge in order to counter Jeff’s claim that ” The sources are mostly period newspaper articles or dated works that lack any sense of historical rigor”. Now if we alI took that approach, British and Argentine official communiques, the ‘New York Times’ (US newspaper), ‘The Times’ (British newspaper), etcetera, the main Argentine newspapers of the period (Clarin and La Nacion as well as several others), and the Argentine Army Official Report, published one year after the Falklands/Malvinas War, and the official accounts on the part of Argentine army officers that were published in ‘Asi Lucharon’ (Carlos M. Turolo, Editorial Sudamerican, 1982), ‘Malvinas: Relatos De Soldados’ (Martin Antonio Balza, Circulo Militar, 1986) and ‘La Guerra De Las Malvinas’ (Editorial Oriente, 1987) would not have been consulted when British historian Nicholas van der Bijl wrote ‘9 Battles To Stanley’ (Leo Cooper, 1999), and when
      I wrote along with van der Bijl ‘5th Infantry Brigade In The Falklands’ (Leo Cooper, 2003), and when British historian Hugh Bicheno wrote the top seller ‘Razor’s Edge: The Unofficial History Of The Falklands War’ (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2006), because, as Jeff points out, they are too “dated” and lack “historical rigor”.”

      My comment was: The sources are mostly period newspaper articles or dated works that lack any sense of historical rigor. [italics added]

      When you demonstrated that Leo Cooper, van der Bijl, and Bicheno used almost exclusively newspapers articles, official communiqués and personal accounts to the same extent you have do in your article, you might have a case. I know for a fact that is not the case. As these authors used some excellent sources like the “Argentine Army Official Report, published one year after the Falklands/Malvinas War, and the official accounts on the part of Argentine army officers that were published in ‘Asi Lucharon’ (Carlos M. Turolo, Editorial Sudamerican, 1982)”, it makes me wonder why you didn’t chose to do the same.

      If you wish to discuss sources and how to use them, we can open a thread in the forum. None of the sources you cited in your article come close to the ones you elected to highlight above.

      Note I never stated that such sources can’t be useful, just the fallacy to rely on them to the extent you have, especially when sources like the official histories, official documents, and detailed works using multiple sources contradicts them.

  5. Hi Jeff,

    Let it stand to give David Aldea time to respond. I will be contacting him soon.

    • I will wait another day or two.

      Pointing out a few more issues.

      “Elsewhere, General Alessandro Pirzio Birolo 9th Army encountered stiff resistance, road-blocks and mines, but Geloso’s divisions were able to press on, capturing Bilishti on 15 April and Erseke on 17 April.”

      The units that captured Bilishti and Ereske were part of the 9a Armata under Birolo, not Geloso. This might be a simple brain cramp while writing. What isn’t stated is that the Italian units took three days (19-21 April) to move ~20km to reach Perati from Ereske (Montanari tomo I pages 783-786).

      “The Italian 9th Army divisions proceeded to capture Koritza, that doomed the Bitish/Australian/New Zealand defence in Greece:”

      Factually incorrect. The seizure of Koritza would have threaten the Western Macedonian Field Army Section (WMFAS), but the WMFAS had already received orders to withdrawal and the Greek IX and X Divisions had successfully disengaged and moved through the town without any Italian pressure. (see Greek official An Abridged History of the Greek-Italian and Greek-German War pages 216-217). Once the collapse of Yugoslavia was evident, the Greeks decided to withdrawal from Albania. Three lines were considered; the furthest north was the prewar border. As Koritza was north of this line in Albania, the town was to be abandoned in all cases and its loss didn’t affect the viability of any of the planned Greek/UK/ANZAC defensive lines. (See ibid page 213, UK official The Mediterranean and Middle East vol II pages 88-89; Aust. official Greece, Crete and Syria page 66).

  6. This is a poorly researched and written account. The sources are mostly period newspaper articles or dated works that lack any sense of historical rigor.

    I will briefly focus my comments on the actions around the Ponte Perati on 22 April. The Italian official states the bridge was already occupied by the Germans when the first Italian units arrived. (Montanari La campagna di Grecia tomo I page 786 (“La compagnia arrivo al ponti di Perati, trovandolo occupato da una formazione tedesca”). Of course, the author should have know this as in one of his cited sources, Bedeschi page 225, states “Vediamo, al di là del ponte, un battaglione carri tedesco accampato.” The only mention of the « Bari » on that page is “L’Edolo, si accampa. Intanto sopraggiungono altri reparti del 5° e dell’8° Alpini, il reggimento cavallegeri di Milano, le Divisioni Bari e Taro.” No mention of any heavy combat, let alone any combat, at all on that date.

    The fighting on the 20th between the 4° rgt. bersaglieri and the Greek was heavier and lasted all day, but the action ended “All’imbrunire il nemico era ributtato indietro di qualche chilometro” [At dusk the enemy was thrown back a few kilometers]. Montanari tomo I page 785. No mention of “annihilated a Greek division in six hours.”

    I will note that the fact that LtGen Tsolakogou signed the initial surrender documents with MajGen Dietrich on 20 April. The surrender with the Italians was signed on 21 April. As one can see, some major issues with the timeline presented.

    I have compared this account with the Italian, Greek, and UK officials. Even the Greek officials state the Eprius Army was falling apart by 20 April. There wasn’t a “steamrolled over some of the world’s best mountain fighters equipped with good equipment.” Instead it was the disintegration of an army once they realized they had lost because of the actions of the German to the east.

    I will consider whether to let this article stay. Too many problems with it.

    Pista! Jeff

Would you like to comment on this article?
Get a Gravatar if you want your photo to appear with your comment.