mussolini

When Hitler began his reign of terror, he fully expected that he would meet with little resistance from the people he was attempting to control, but that really never turned out to be the case. Even some of those who aligned themselves with him at first, rebelled later. Hitler found that out when, on November 18, 1940, he met with Italian Foreign Minister Galeazzo Ciano over Mussolini’s disastrous invasion of Greece.

Mussolini had led Hitler to believe that he had no intention of attempting to invade Greece. Then, he surprised everyone with a attempted invasion of Greece. Even his ally…Hitler, was caught off guard, since Mussolini had led Hitler to believe he had no such intention. Even Mussolini’s own chief of army staff only found out about the invasion after the fact!!

Mussolini was warned against trying to invade Greece. Everyone around him knew that the Greek people were determined to hold onto their freedom, and that the Italian Army was woefully unprepared for such an attack. Even his own generals warned of a lack of preparedness on the part of his military. Nevertheless, and despite the fact that it would mean getting bogged down in a mountainous country during the rainy season against an army willing to fight tooth and nail to defend its autonomy, Mussolini moved ahead mostly out of sheer arrogance, convinced he could defeat the “inferior Greeks” in a matter of days. He also knew a secret, that millions of Lire (The primary unit of currency in Italy, Malta, San Marino, and the Vatican City before the adoption of the Euro) had been put aside to bribe Greek politicians and generals not to resist the Italian invasion. The whole bribe idea didn’t work out too well, however. Whether the money ever made it past the Italian fascist agents delegated with the responsibility is unclear, but if it did, it clearly made no difference. The Greeks pushed the Italian invaders back into Albania after just one week. The whole operation was a miserable failure, and the Italians spent the next three months fighting for life in a fierce, defensive battle. To make matters worse, about half the Italian fleet had been crippled by a British carrier-based attack at Taranto.

A furious Hitler severely criticized Ciano at their meeting in Obersalzberg, for opening an opportunity for the British to enter Greece and establish an airbase in Athens. That put the Brits within striking distance of valuable oil reserves in Romania that Hitler needed for his war machine. Hitler now had to divert forces from North Africa, a high strategic priority, to Greece in order to bail Mussolini out. He actually considered leaving the Italians to fight their own way out of the mess, and considered making peace with the Greeks as a way of forestalling an Allied intervention. Nevertheless, Germany would have to invade, in April 1941, thereby adding Greece to its list of conquests…whether Hitler wanted to or not. That put the Brits within striking distance of valuable oil reserves in Romania that Hitler needed for his war machine. Hitler now had to divert forces from North Africa, a high strategic priority, to Greece in order to bail Mussolini out. He actually considered leaving the Italians to fight their own way out of the mess, and considered making peace with the Greeks as a way of forestalling an Allied intervention. Nevertheless, Germany would have to invade, in April 1941, thereby adding Greece to its list of conquests…whether Hitler wanted to or not.

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