Δευτέρα, 28 Οκτωβρίου 2013

Η ΜΑΧΗ ΤΗΣ ΠΙΝΔΟΥ. THE BATTLE OF PINDUS (OCTOBER 28th 1940-OCTOBER 30th 1940)

An Italian soldier during the Greek campaign, 1940.

H επίλεκτη μεραρχία των Ιταλών Τζούλια άρχισε στις απόκρημνες βουνοκορφές της βόρειας Πίνδου την επίθεσή της εναντίον της χώρας μας, για να προελάσει γρήγορα προς τα Γιάννενα, όπως πίστευε το Ιταλικό Επιτελείο, και να διευκολύνει τον "άνετο περίπατο" των υπολοίπων ιταλικών μεραρχιών προς την Αθήνα. Η έκπληξη όμως των "γενναίων" του Μουσολίνι γρήγορα μετατράπηκε σε απογοήτευση, όταν οι ταμπουρωμένοι Έλληνες φαντάροι των φυλακίων, δεν τους προσέφεραν την υποδοχή που ήθελαν, αλλά πυκνά πυρά. Αλήθεια τι υποδοχή περίμεναν;

Trench construction in the Elaia-Kalamas line by Greek soldiers, March 1939. The battle of Kalpaki-Kalamas river, October 28-November 8, 1940. The river Kalamas or Thyamis (its ancient Greek name) springs from Mt. Merope of the prefecture of Ioannina, Epirus. Near the village Lithinon it passes under a natural bridge called Theoghefyron , then it crosses the plain of Mazaraki , outside Ioannina and finally empties into the Ionian Sea opposite to Corfu, between the bays of Sayiada and Igoumenitsa. By October 28, 1940 , Albania has already been conquered by Italy. The Italians since the summer of 1940 have been preparing for the attack on Greece.

Ως γνωστό, το βάρος της άμυνας το έφερε η μεραρχία Ηπείρου, που είχε τη τύχη μόνη από τις μεγάλες δυνάμεις να υπερασπίζεται τη τιμή και την εδαφική ακεραιότητα της χώρας, με κύρια αποστολή "την κάλυψη της κεντρικής Ελλάδος από την κατεύθυνση Ιωάννινα - Ζυγός Μετσόβου" και δευτερεύουσα "την προάσπιση εθνικού εδάφους", και η οποία με απόφαση του διοικητή της υποστράτηγου Χαράλαμπου Κατσιμήτρου, δεν εγκατέλειψε την προωθημένη αμυντική γραμμή και αγωνίσθηκε χωρίς να παραχωρίσει εθνικό έδαφος.

Θα ήταν παράλειψη να μην αναφερθεί η ουσιαστκή συμβολή στον αγώνα του ηρωικού αποσπάσματος του συνταγματάρχη Δαβάκη, που αμυνόμενο σθεναρά με λίγους στρατιώτες, με πενιχρά μέσα αλλά με μεγάλη αυτοθυσία, απέκρουσε τις αλλεπάλληλες επιθέσεις του εχθρού και έδωσε πολύτιμο χρόνο στον Ελληνικό στρατό να ανασυνταχθεί και να αντεπιτεθεί καταδιώκοντας τους εισβολείς εκείθεν των Αλβανικών συνόρων, στα ιστορικά χώματα της Βορείου Ηπείρου.

Τμήμα του Ελληνικού Στρατού κατά την Ιταλική Εαρινή Επίθεση στον τομέα Κλεισούρας (Άνοιξη 1941). Unit of the Greek Army during the Spring Offensive (Spring 1941) in the Greco-Italian War. Athens, War Museum (εναλ.: Ιστορία του Ελληνικού Έθνους, τ. ΙΕ, σελ.436 εκδ. Αθηνών)

Παρατίθεταı ένα τμήμα της υπ' αρıθμόν πρωτ. 30904 γενıκής δıαταγής της VIII Μεραρχίας της 30 Οκτωβρίου 1940. (Υπτγος Χ. Κατσıμήτρος): Μαχόμεθα εναντίον εχθρού υπούλου καı ανάνδρου όστıς άνευ ουδεμıάς αφορμής μας επετέθη αıφνıδıαστıκώς ίνα μας υποδουλώσεı. Μαχόμεθα δıα τας εστίας μας καı τας οıκογενείας μας καı δıα την ελευθερίαν μας. Αξıωματıκοί καı Οπλίταı, κρατήσατε σταθερώς καı αποφασıστıκώς τας θέσεıς καı έχετε πάντοτε το βλέμμα προς τα εμπρός, δıότı εντός ολίγου θα αναλάβωμεν αντεπίθεσıν ίνα εκδıώξωμεν τον εχθρόν εκ του πατρίου εδάφους το οποίον εμόλυνεν δıα της παρουσίας του... Εγγύς είναı η ημέρα καθ' ήν ο άνανδρος καı δεıλός εχθρός θα ρıφθεί εıς την θάλασσαν.

Κρατήστε ıσχυρώς τας θέσεıς καı τούτο θα πραγματοποıηθεί συντόμως. Η παρούσα να κοıνοποıηθεί εıς άπαντας τους υφ' υμάς Αξıωματıκούς καı οπλίτας. Καı τμήμα της Ημερησίας Δıαταγής της εν λόγω Μεραρχίας της 18 Νοεμβρίου 1940: Στρατıώταı, Ενθυμηθείτε όσα μου λέγατε κατά τας επıθεωρήσεıς μου, πότε θα επıτεθεί τε να καταδıώξητε τον εχθρόν. Εμπρός λοıπόν! Με τη βοήθεıα καı του θεού, όστıς προστατεύεı τον ıερόν καı δίκαıον αγώνα μας, καταδıώξατε απηνώς τον εχθρόν, τον άνανδρον καı δεıλόν εχθρόν. Τον εγνωρίσατε καλά ήδη. Είναı θρασύδεıλος καı ύπουλος. Συντρίψατέ τον με τα αμείληκτα κτυπήματά σας. Η Πατρίς παρακολουθεί υπερήφανος τον τίμıον αγώνα σας.

Η Δόξα σας αναμένεı. Κατά την αντεπίθεση της 1ης Νοεμβρίου, από το ηρωıκό απόσπασμα Πίνδου επετεύχθη η ανακατάληψη της Γραμμής "Γύφτıσσα - Οξυά" συνελήφθησαν τρείς Ιταλοί αξıωματıκοί καı δıακόσıοı είκοσı δύο οπλίτες, περıήλθαν δε στα ελληνıκά τμήματα 140 κτήνη καı αρκετά εφόδıα, αλλά εκεί άφησε την τελευταία του πνοή καı ο πρώτος Έλληνας αξıωματıκός του πολέμου, ο Υπολοχαγός Αλέξανδρος Δıάκος.

At 5:30 am, on October 28, 1940 , according to the Italian plan, the 3rd Alpini Division "JULIA" invaded Greece, towards the Greek town of Metsovon . The attack started on the morning of 28 October, pushing back the Greek screening forces. The Ciamuria Corps, spearheaded by the Ferrara and Centauro divisions, attacked towards Elaia in Kalpaki, while the littoral group advanced οn its right along the coast, securing a bridgehead over the Kalamas River. The Italians faced difficulties with the light L3 tanks of the Centauro, which were unable to cope with the hilly terrain or the muddy tracks that served as roads.

Italian-infantrymen-from-Albania-into-Greece-1941-01.

The Italian objective was to cut off the Greek VIII Infantry Division from the rest of the Greek forces, in order to split the Greek units deployed in Epirus, W. Macedonia & Thessaly. The Pindus Sector (i.e. the central sector of the front) was vital for the Greek defence. The Pindus Mountain range, extending across Greece (150 Km/93 miles), contains high, steep peaks, dissected by many deep canyons and other karstic landscapes.

Italian Savoia Marchetti-SM-79 Sparviero fly in high ranking officials Greece, 1941-01.

The Pindus Sector (i.e. the central sector of the front) was vital for the Greek defence. The Pindus Mountain range, extending across Greece (150 Km/93 miles), contains high, steep peaks, dissected by many deep canyons and other karstic landscapes.

Italian infantry advancing in Greece.

On 31 October, the Italian Supreme Command announced that "[their] units continue to advance into Epirus and have reached the river Kalamas at several points. Unfavourable weather conditions and action by the retreating enemy are not slowing down the advances of our troops". In reality, the Italian offensive was carried out without conviction and without the advantage of surprise. Even air action was rendered ineffective by poor weather. Under an uncertain leadership and divided by personal rivalries, the troops were already becoming exhausted. Adverse conditions at sea made it impossible to carry out a projected landing at Corfu. 

Italian troops crossed the border from Albania into Greece at 6am after the ultimatum was served at 3am. 

By 1 November, the Italians had captured Konitsa and reached the Greek main line of defense. On that same day, the Albanian theatre was given priority over Africa by the Italian High Command. However, despite repeated attacks, the Italians failed to break through the Greek defences in the Battle of Elaia–Kalamas, and the attacks were suspended on 9 November 1940.

Έλληνας στρατιώτης κάθεται σε ιταλική τανκέτα CV-33, κατά την νικηφόρα Μάχη Ελαίας-Καλαμά του Ελληνοϊταλικού Πολέμου, 1940. Greek soldier sitting on a captured Italian tankette CV-33, during the Battle of Elaia-Kalamas, Greco-Italian War, 1940

An ultimatum was delivered by Italy to Greece at 0300 on the 28th October and expired at 0600. The Greeks refused the terms and invoked Great Britain’s assistance. Artillery duels lasted till 1800, and the Greeks, retired from several advanced posts to previously prepared positions. The Italian forces on the Greco-Albanian frontier comprise seven divisions, with a considerable amount of artillery and A.F.Vs.

Greek Cavalry man, 1940. He's armed with the Manlicher-Carcano M1938 Carbine & the M1887 Cavalry Sabre.

By 1 November, the Italians had captured Konitsa and reached the Greek main line of defense. On that same day, the Albanian theatre was given priority over Africa by the Italian High Command. However, despite repeated attacks, the Italians failed to break through the Greek defences in the Battle of Elaia–Kalamas, and the attacks were suspended on 9 November 1940.

The only Greek force deployed in the region, was the Pindus or Davakes' Detachment , named after its CO, Colonel Constantine Davakes. 

A greater threat to the Greek positions was posed by the advance of the 10,800-strong[citation needed] 3rd Julia Alpine Division over the Pindus Mountains towards Metsovo, which threatened to separate the Greek forces in Epirus from those in Macedonia. Julia achieved early success, breaking through the central sector of Col. Davakis' force.

Royal Hellenic AF Potez PZL P24 lies abandoned on a Greek airfield.

The Greek General Staff immediately ordered reinforcements into the area, which passed under the control of the II Greek Army Corps. The first Greek counteroffensive was launched on 31 October, but had little success. After covering 25 miles of mountain terrain in icy rain, Julia managed to capture Vovousa, 30 km north of Metsovo, on 2 November, but it had become clear that it lacked the manpower and the supplies to continue in the face of the arriving Greek reserves.

November 5, 1940. Giornale Italie. By mid-1940, Mussolini had grown jealous of Hitler's conquests and wanted to prove to his Axis partner that he could lead Italy to similar military successes. Italy had occupied Albania in spring 1939 and several British strongholds in Africa (Italian conquest of British Somaliland in summer 1940), but could not boast victories on the same scale as Nazi Germany. At the same time, Mussolini also wanted to reassert Italy's interests in the Balkans, threatened by Germany (he was piqued that Romania, an Italian client, had accepted German protection for its Ploieşti oil fields in mid-October) and secure bases from which British eastern Mediterranean outposts could be attacked. On 28 October 1940, after Greek dictator Ioannis Metaxas rejected an Italian ultimatum demanding the occupation of Greek territory, Italian forces invaded Greece.

Royal Hellenic AF Potez PZL P25 coded E6 Greece 1941-01.

The Hellenic Army counter-attacked and forced the Italians to retreat and by mid-December, the Greeks occupied nearly a quarter of Albania, tying down 530,000 Italian troops. In March 1941, a major Italian counter-attack failed, with small gains around Himare. In the first days of April, as the German attack on Greece unfolded, the Italian army resumed its attacks.


Junkers Ju 52 3m Stab IV.KGrzbV1 (1Z+BF) Greece May 1941-01.

From April 12, the Greek army started retreating from Albania to avoid being cut off by the rapid German advance. Nevertheless, on April 20, the Greek army of Epirus surrendered to the Germans, and on 23 April 1941 the armistice was repeated including the Italians, and effectively ending the Greco-Italian war.