Τὸ ΟΧΙ μέσα ἀπὸ τὸ περιοδικὸ Time
Ἔχει ἐνδιαφέρον ἡ ματιὰ τῶν ξένων γιὰ τὸ ΟΧΙ τοῦ 1940, καὶ μάλιστα ἀπὸ τὴν μακρινὴ Ἀμερική. Πῶς ἡ ἄγνωστη, μικρή, ἀσήμαντη γιὰ τοὺς ξένους Ἑλλάδα, σὲ λίγες ἑβδομάδες ἔγινε ἡ χώρα τῶν ἀρχαίων ἡρώων. Οἱ τίτλοι εἶναι χαρακτηριστικοί: Ἡ «Χώρα τῶν εἰσβολῶν» δίνει τὴν θέσι της στὰ έπιφωνήματα θαυμασμοῦ: «Ζήτω ἡ Ἑλλάς», «Γιοὶ τῆς Ἑλλάδος», «Παιδιὰ τοῦ Σωκράτους»!
4-11-1940: Land of Invasion
Τὸ πρῶτο τεῦχος τοῦ «Time» μετὰ τὴν ἰταλικὴ ἐπίθεσι, μὲ τὸν Βασιλέα Γεώργιο Β' στὸ ἐξώφυλλο. Ἄρθρο ποὺ ξενίζει τὸν σημερινὸ ἀναγνώστη. Τὸ μεγαλύτερο μέρος τοῦ ἄρθρου ἀναλίσκεται σὲ ἀμφιλεγόμενα κουτσομπολιὰ γιὰ τὴν βασιλικὴ αὐλὴ (σὲ ἐπόμενο τεῦχος δημοσιεύεται ἐπιστολὴ διαμαρτυρίας ὁμογενοῦς ἀναγνώστου) καὶ λανθασμένες ἐκτιμήσεις γιὰ τὴν ἐξωτερικὴ πολιτικὴ τῆς Ἑλλάδος καὶ τὸ φρόνημα ἡγεσίας καὶ λαοῦ. Ὁ τίτλος, «χώρα εἰσβολῆς»· οὔτε σκέψις γιὰ ἀπόκρουσι τῆς ἐπιθέσεως.
4-11-1940: Shots at Corizza
11-11-1940: Episode in Epirus
Φθάνουν οἱ εἰδήσεις γιὰ τὴν σθεναρὴ ἑλληνικὴ ἀντίστασι! Ἐν τούτοις, ἀπίστευτο μοιάζει ἀκόμη γιὰ τὴν παγκόσμια κοινότητα τὸ ὅτι οἱ Ἕλληνες μποροῦν νὰ ἀντέξουν. «Παρὰ τὸ σθένος τῶν γενναίων Ἑλλήνων, οἱ Ἰταλοὶ τὰ καταφέρνουν καλά», καταλήγει τὸ ἄρθρο, καὶ ἕνας ὁμογενής μας στέλνει ἐπιστολὴ διαμαρτυρίας, κατηγορώντας τὸ περιοδικὸ γιὰ ἡττοπάθεια!
25-11-1940: First Round: Hellas
Ὀ ἀχὸς τῆς νίκης τῶν ἑλληνικῶν ὅπλων φθάνει πλέον στὰ πέρατα τοῦ κόσμου. Οἱ Ἕλληνες ἀρχίζουν νὰ ἀναφέρονται ὡς ἀπόγονοι τῶν ἀρχαίων ἡρώων: «The war was being fought, and its first phase was now won, straight out of antique textbooks.»
2-12-1940: Zeto Hellas
Ἀπελευθέρωσις τῆς Κορυτσᾶς!
2-12-1940: Sons of Greece
Ἡ ὁμογένεια τῶν Η.Π.Α. κινητοποιεῖται καὶ προσφέρει ὅ,τι μπορεῖ στὸν Ἀγῶνα.
9-12-1940: Children of Socrates
16-12-1940: Surprise No. 6
Ὁ κόσμος ὅλος ἐκφράζει πιὰ τὸν ἀνυπόκριτο θαυμασμό του γιὰ τὴν Ἑλλάδα. Τὸ τεῦχος τοῦ περιοδικοῦ εἶναι ἀφιερωμένο στὶς μεγάλες ἐκπλήξεις, μέχρι τότε, τοῦ πολέμου· καὶ μεγαλύτερη ὅλων, γράφει, ἡ νίκη τῶν Ἑλλήνων. Στὸ ἐξώφυλλο ὁ Ἀρχιστράτηγος τῆς Νίκης, Ἀλέξανδρος Παπάγος.
6-1-1941: Winston Churchill, Man of the Year
Ἐξαιρετικὸ ἄρθρο γιὰ τὸν «ἄνδρα τῆς χρονιᾶς» Ουίνστων Τσώρτσιλ. «Μεταξὺ τῶν ὑπολοίπων Εὐρωπαίων ποὺ σημάδευσαν τὸ 1940», ἐπισημαίνει τὸ περιοδικό, «ἦταν ὁ μικρόσωμος Στρατηγὸς Ἰωάννης Μεταξᾶς, Πρωθυπουργὸς τῶν Ἑλλήνων, ὁ ὁποῖος γελοιοποίησε τὸν Μπενίτο Μουσσολίνι.»
27-1-1941: Dominick the Greek
Ἔκθεσις δεκαοκτώ ἔργων τοῦ Δομήνικου Θεοτοκόπουλου, τοῦ «μεγαλυτέρου Ἕλληνος ἀπὸ τὴν ἀρχαιότητα» στὴν Νέα Ὑόρκη. Τὰ ἔσοδα διατίθενται γιὰ τὴν ἐνίσχυσι τοῦ γενναίου Ἑλληνικοῦ Στρατοῦ.
10-2-1941: Wanted: Bone and Gristle
Ἐπικήδειος γιὰ τὸν Ἰωάννη Μεταξᾶ.
10-2-1941: Heaviest, Firmest
Διαψεύδονται οἱ ἰταλικὲς προσδοκίες ὅτι ὁ θάνατος τοῦ Μεταξᾶ θὰ λυγίσῃ τοὺς Ἕλληνες.
17-3-1941: Even Without the Turks
Ἡ Ἑλλὰς εἶναι ἀποφασισμένη νὰ ἀντισταθῇ στοὺς Γερμανούς, ἀκόμη καὶ χωρὶς τὴν βοήθεια τῆς «ἐπιτήδειας οὐδέτερης» Τουρκίας.
21-4-1941: Weakness Defies Strength
Ἡ Μάχη τῶν Ὀχυρῶν τῆς Γραμμῆς Μεταξᾶ.
28-4-1941: 80-Day Premier
Ὁ πρωθυπουργὸς Ἀλέξανδρος Κορυζῆς σφραγίζει μὲ αὐτοκτονία τιμῆς τὸ ὕστατο ΟΧΙ τῶν Ἑλλήνων. Τὸ σκότος τῆς κατοχῆς ἀρχίζει...
Φειδίας Ν. Μπουρλᾶς
Ἀθήνα, 28 Ὀκτωβρίου 2008
(«Time», Monday, Nov. 04, 1940)
Land of Invasion
(See Cover) Since World War II began 14 months ago the Balkan Peninsula has run a temperature. Periodic scares have sent it to fever pitch, then dropped it as, one way or another, neighboring powers got their way without bloodshed. Rumania is partitioned and overrun by the German Army. Bulgaria takes orders from the Axis. Even Yugoslavia, which has a relatively large, well-trained Army, has taken the path of appeasement. This week war came at last to the Balkans, to the weakest country, but to the one country determined enough to stand up to Axis threats — to Greece.
Hellas has always been invaded. Since the barbarians carried the centre of power from southern to northern Europe she has been a pawn in all great struggles for power. Salonika is a back door to Central Europe, a jumping-off place to the Dardanelles and the Black Sea. Rocky Greek islands straggle across the Aegean to the shores of Turkey. The Peloponnesian Peninsula lies close to Italy; Crete, halfway to Africa. In this war Greece's fate was settled at Brennero on Oct. 4, when Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini planned their drive to the east. For Greece is the key to control of two of the three routes to the east : by land and sea through Turkey, by sea via the Mediterranean. Even the third route is controlled in part by Greece : the capture of Crete would help to safe guard Italy's Libyan route into Egypt.
Only strategic reasons could justify wasting military effort, however small, on Greece. The country is rocky, arid, grows little food. Greece's occasional prosperity has been based on maritime trade, and with the bulk of Greek shipping chartered to Britain, Italy will not get that.
As he defiantly rejected Italy's three-hour ultimatum, Premier "Little John" Metaxas addressed himself to the Greek people in words reminiscent of the days of Byron (see p. 22)
As Greece's poorly equipped, indifferently trained Army fought 200,000 Italian regulars in the mountains of Epirus and Macedonia Little John, who had once been thought an Axis stooge, called for aid from Britain and Turkey. Turkey's President Ismet Inönü had one ear cocked toward the Kremlin, and since his other ear is stone deaf, he did not immediately hear the call. Britain, expecting an attack on Gibraltar any day, sent her Mediterranean Fleet steaming toward the danger area. If Britain lost in the Eastern Mediterranean, and lost Gibraltar too, her goose was much closer to being cooked.
The Mind of Metaxas. Little John Metaxas, who was pro-German in World War I, changed from a waverer to a stiff-backed defier of the Axis after several months of intrigue in that most intriguing country, Greece. Six months ago he was thought ready to sell out to Mussolini. Then Britain, having relearned a lesson in Norway and Belgium that she knew well in World War I, began to put pressure on Little John through the man everybody considers his puppet—Greece's King George II. Britain made it clear that unless Greece agreed to secret staff talks and precise plans for military cooperation, Britain would seize whatever bases she needed. Metaxas agreed, and the Axis turned its attention to another choice for Puppet of Greece: King George's ten-inch-taller brother, Prince Paul, who is married to a German princess. So Greece's George II had his throne at stake when he exhorted his people this week:
"At this great moment I feel sure that every Greek man and woman will do his duty to the end and show himself worthy of our glorious history."
George's father lost his throne in the last war because he was thought to be pro-German. So was George. But George got on his throne in 1935 only because he was Britain's man, so he would have been less than grateful if he had failed to pay his debt. This week's events had a strangely familiar look to the Greek people. In the last war the roles of the great powers were reversed, but the Greeks and their rulers were on the same, receiving end of the trouble.
Kings and Strong Men. Almost from the day World War I began Greece was a centre of intrigue. King Constantine, his eldest son George and his Chief of Staff John Metaxas were accused by the Allies of being pro-German. In point of fact, the King at least was scrupulously neutral. In 1915 the Allies landed troops at Salonika in an ill-starred attempt to save Serbia; in 1916 they shelled Athens to make the Greeks give up their arms; in 1917 they almost starved Greece to force her into the war. Against this pressure and against the quisling tactics of Eleutherios Venizelos (whom the King had deposed as Premier for conniving with the Allies in the Salonika adventure) Constantine could not hold out. In June 1917 he fled the country with his Queen and Crown Prince George. Venizelos returned from exile and declared Greece in the war.
The Allies set up Constantine's second son, Alexander, as a puppet King, with Venizelos as the country's strong man. This arrangement worked well until Alexander happened to be bitten on the ankle by a monkey, ending his career in October 1920, just 20 years ago last week. The next month Greeks went to the polls, expressed three years of resentment against Venizelos by overthrowing the Government. In a plebiscite on Constantine's return, huge and genial "Tino" got 150% of the eligible votes. He returned to Athens at the end of 1920, inheriting a war against the Turks.
He stayed less than two years. France and Great Britain refused to recognize him, he was blamed for the debacle at Smyrna, and after a demonstration led by Colonel Nicholas Plastiras he abdicated again. He was succeeded by Son George, who lasted just 15 months. Venizelos, recalled to salvage at Lausanne what he could from the Turkish imbroglio, could not get along with him; the country soon split into two camps, Venizelists (i.e., republicans) and Monarchists. In December 1923, after a Venizelist victory at the polls, George and his Queen, Elizabeth of Rumania, were asked to leave the country while Parliament decided on the future form of government. On March 25, 1924, 103rd anniversary of the Greek declaration of independence, Parliament proclaimed a republic.
Altogether, between 1923 and 1935, there were 25 Greek administrations plus two dictatorships (one for 14 months under General Pangalos, the other for 14 hours under General Plastiras). In October 1935 an Army coup established General George (The Thunderbolt) Kondylis as Premier and Regent; the republican Constitution was abolished and monarchy restored. After much international political finagling Georgios II was invited to replace his British bowler with the diadem of his forefathers.
Gorgeous Georgios. This twice-enthroned son of a twice-abdicated father had been bored by his twelve years of exile. In London, where he lived most of the time, he liked nothing so much as strolling along through the streets at night —and once he had the distinction of being the first King known to have been solicited by a prostitute. George's preference was for noble ladies, a preference which had caused him to be divorced by his Queen just before his return from exile.
He had been accustomed to the privileged but democratic life of small-time royalty. The Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg family, which ascended the Greek throne in 1863, had the easygoing habits of all Danes. George grew up at Tatoï Castle, 15 miles from Athens, whence came the family eggs-&-butter; at Mon Repos on the island of Corfu, where his grandfather always spent the month of April because Kaiser Wilhelm II used to go there in April and Georgios I said: "If I don't, he'll think he's King of Greece"; and in the Athens Royal Palace, a gaunt structure of stuccoed white marble. George II's Uncle Christopher had a sense of humor, wrote of the Palace:
"It was hideous—like a huge cardboard box. . . . There was only one bathroom in the whole place and no one had ever been known to take a bath in it. ... The taps would scarcely ever run and emitted a thin trickle of water in which the corpses of defunct roaches and other strange animals floated dismally. . . . The Palace in itself would have been a joy to any child. The long, dim galleries and unused rooms made endless appeal to the imagination. The vast entrance hall and the grand staircase were ideal for hide-&-seek. Then the delight of bicycling on wet afternoons through the enormous ballrooms. . . ." Georgios I used to lead the bicycle procession, his children and grandchildren following in order of age. Uncle Christopher, Constantine's younger brother, was only two years older than Grandson Georgios and was his playmate. When they were 21 and 19 they paid a giddy three-weeks visit to Buckingham Palace and were trotted around by Uncle Edward of Saxe Coburg-Gotha.
George served in Uncle William Hohenzollern's Prussian Guards for a time, fought in the Balkan Wars of 1912-13. In 1913 Grandfather Georgios was assassinated and Father Constantine became King. By 1917 George was a Major of infantry and Commander in the Greek Navy, but his father's abdication kept him from doing anything in the last war. George drove off in one of the fleeing cars, lying on the floor with his legs waving out of the open door. For the next 18 years (except for his brief puppet reign in 1922-23) he was out of a job. He once described himself as "one of the unemployed who hopes to get his job back."
But in 1935 George suddenly found himself internationally important. Italy's man in Greece was the old Thunderer, George Kondylis, who was serving as War Minister. George became Britain's man. Premier at that time was Panagiotis Tsaldaris. George's family gave a banquet at Bled, Yugoslavia, for Premier Tsaldaris, who went into dinner a republican, came out a royalist. That put the squeeze on Kondylis, who helped to rig the plebiscite that recalled George by a 98% vote. The Royal Family and Michael Arlen saw him off from London. He set foot on Greek soil on Nov. 25, 1935. Athens was decorated with arches on which republican youths spattered ink. Royalist youths chipped in to buy the King a Royal Bed.
Rise of Little John. When the shouting was over Greece was in just as bad a political mess as ever. Kondylis wanted to be a Duce; George wanted to be a real King. He dismissed Kondylis (who shortly died), called for free elections. The elections only made things worse. Venizelists and anti-Venizelists were almost evenly divided and the balance of power in the new Parliament was held by 15 Communists. Venizelos and Tsaldaris, who might have helped the King to maintain constitutional government, died. Thereupon George called on War Minister John Metaxas (whose party held seven seats) to form a Government. Metaxas did. To avoid a test vote he persuaded the King to dissolve Parliament. Next day Metaxas reorganized his Cabinet, abolished political parties, imposed a ferocious censorship. In 1938 he made himself Premier for life.
Little John has not been popular in Greece. His Government is neither a constitutional monarchy nor a corporative State, but it has those fascist elements of regimentation, government by decree, secret police and a youth movement. There are no civil liberties, but cigarets are cheap and every man can afford a string of beads to twiddle in his idle fingers. Metaxas is Premier, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Cults and National Education, Minister of War, Minister of Marine, Air Minister. His chief hold on the King is a little secret between them: the King, who is always hard up, signed a decree paying himself his salary for the years of his exile, and the King knows that if Little John gets mad he will spill the story to the country.
Bone and Gristle. Fifty-year-old George is childless, disinclined to marry again. Once he was reported engaged to the Countess of Craven. The Countess' mother denied the rumor, but added: "I may state, however, that my daughter and the King of Greece have been close friends for about 15 years." A year before that, while Edward VIII was cruising in the Adriatic, King George invited him to dine with him—"alone." Cousin Edward arrived with Mrs. Simpson. A few days later Edward invited Cousin George to dine with him alone. George arrived with his friend.
Neither family life nor intellectual pursuits interest the King of Greece. He loves circuses, once rode in one as a boy. He likes to drive a car fast, to shoot big game, to dance, go to first nights, wear snappy clothes—stripes and braided uniforms.
This week modern Greece had, for better or worse, stepped out of her comic-opera role. Greece was full in the path of huge events. In a debate at the Oxford Union during his exile George once said: "Instinctively I distrust the professor and the pedant. Give me a burly man of bone and gristle." This week the men of bone were on the way.
Ἐπιστολές («Time», Monday, Nov. 25, 1940):
. . . In TIME, Nov. 4, discussing King George II of Greece, you say: "Once he had the distinction of being the first king known to have been solicited by a prostitute." Now after all, dear sirs, are not you being a wee bit quibbling, a wee bit naïve? I know you are quite an authority on history, but are you not being somewhat egotistical and somewhat irreverent toward other great and probing historians when you make such an assertion?
(«Time», Monday, Nov. 04, 1940)
Shots at Corizza
The Italian Minister to Greece gave a party in Athens one evening last week.
Though relations between his country and Greece have been strained ever since a mysterious submarine sank the old Greek minelaying cruiser Helle during a religious festival last August, he invited members of the Greek Government. The party was in honor of the son of the late great Italian composer, Giacomo Puccini, whose opera Madame Butterfly was being performed in Athens.
Ominous to Greek ears was another Italian sound-effect they heard that evening — from Mussolini's news agency, Stefani: news that there had been a "border incident" that day near the Corizza Pass on the Greek-Albanian border, and a bomb incident at Porto Edda (named for Il Duce's daughter). The Italians, of course, blamed Greek "armed bands" and agents. Denial of the affairs by the Greeks went unheard, their offers of discussion were turned down. Within a few hours Mussolini and Hitler had one more conference, at Florence (see p. 28), and Italy's war machine in Albania began to roll. Greece was soon officially charged not only with local violence but with plotting to give Great Britain the use of sea and air bases for operations against Italy. At 3 a.m. on Oct. 28 the Puccini-loving Italian Minister handed to Greek Premier General John Metaxas a three-hour ultimatum demanding surrender of Greek territorial integrity. Metaxas refused it and addressed his people:
"Greeks! We shall now prove whether we are worthy of our ancestors and of the liberty which our forefathers secured for us.
"Fight for the fatherland, your wives, your children and sacred traditions.
"Now, above all, the fight!"
It was Monday, the day on which: the Russo-German pact was announced; Italy entered the war; France laid down her arms; the Italian conquest of British Somaliland was completed.
With a population of 7,100,000, Greece has 140,000 active soldiers, 600,000 reserves, equipment for only 150,000 in the field at one time. Before coffee time on Oct. 28 the streets of Athens rattled and rumbled with trucks and busses rushing hastily mobilized men northward toward the Pindus Mountains.
Greece has a Metaxas Line, strong along the Bulgarian frontier, more sketchy along the Albanian, where it was not needed until Italy blitzkrieged that little kingdom on Good Friday, 1939. Greece has some 435 pieces of field artillery of all types, including mountain guns. With these, and other ill-assorted German and French rifles and machine guns, she set out to try to stem the advance of at least 200,000 well-equipped, motorized Italians, including one division of specialized Alpini, whose first course would be down rugged mountain troughs. Two main immediate pushes seemed to be on the cards: one starting near the southern extremity of the Greek-Albanian border, toward the immediate objective of loannina, the other at the northern end of the frontier, near Yugoslavia, with Salonika the ultimate goal.
Greece has about 100 fighting airplanes, mostly obsolescent. Over Athens that first morning roared six waves of Italian bombers. They spared the capital but bombed its airport at Tatoï, its port of Peiraeus. They also bombed the Corinth airport, the harbor of Patras. The Greek Navy-one old cruiser, twelve destroyers, six submarines—assembled at Salonika and watched for attackers. From the mountains came word that the Italian legions had reached the Greek pillboxes. Another war of pygmy versus juggernaut was well begun.
But the pygmy had friends. From Crete and Corfu came word that units of the British Fleet had raced in with landing parties. The Corfu landing followed a sharp sea engagement with the Italians.
On a little isle near Corfu is a military airport, which the British seized. From Turkey came word that Britain's Chief of Staff of the forces in the Middle East, Major General Arthur Francis Smith, was conferring with the Turkish General Staff.
The pygmy also had its nerve about it. The British news agency Reuters reported from Athens that Greek troops had sliced through Italian positions at one point and driven eight miles into Albania. But at other points the Italians did the slicing.
Italy's logical military objectives are in order: Salonika, Athens, Corinth, Crete, to push the British out of the Aegean. If Turkey should give trouble, Italy's partner Germany lurked on Turkey's right flank across Bulgaria in Rumania. Thus the firing in the Pindus Mountains signaled a winter Axis drive of major proportions, aimed ultimately at the Suez Canal.
(«Time», Monday, Nov. 11, 1940)
Episode in Epirus
War seemed good to the Athenians that first day. It was like a holiday. Because of air-raid alarms the shops were closed.
Bands of enthusiasts walked the streets shouting lusty jests, sticking their thumbs up, singing songs, crying the ancient boast: "We will throw them into the sea." They laughed about the macaroni-men from macaroni-land, trying to be warriors.
The people cheered when they heard what the Generalissimo, Alexander Papagos, had said: "We will write new, glorious pages in our history, and do not doubt that we will win our cause." The people were gay when they read on walls the slogans of Premier John Metaxas: "Only pessimistic peoples disappear! Greeks, be optimists!" They trooped to the British Legation, waving the Union Jack beside the blue & white flag of Greece. They cheered until Britain's tall, immaculate Minister Sir Charles Michael Palairet came out on the balcony. Some among them retold the old saw about the time when Sir Charles skied over a Rumanian precipice and was found hours later with his leg broken, his monocle still in place. Just like the plucky British, they said.
They rushed on to the Turkish Embassy, and waved the crescent & star beside those other two fine flags. It was the Turkish Republic's 17th birthday, and they had heard that in Ankara the paper Ulus had said: "We prefer the hell of war to a dishonorable peace." Just like the stubborn Turks, they said.
When they saw King George II driving out in his uniform of Supreme Commander, they cheered and wept. When they looked out across the city to the heights where the ancient temple columns stood in rows like sturdy fighting men, they were proud to be Greeks.
Even on the second day, war was almost fun. It was thrilling to see every taxi, truck, cart, bus and private auto in the town bumping off over the rough road that leads to Thebes and the fighting fronts north and west—vehicles carrying all able-bodied men from 20 to 43 years old. It was a lark to hear that 20 British aviators who had been interned when their planes landed in Greece were now released; and to carry them through the streets like heroes. It was stirring to crowd into Constitution Square before the Hôtel de la Grande-Bretagne to cheer King George emerging from the palace opposite. It was moving to learn that Venizelist officers disgraced in the revolt of 1935 had now pleaded to be sent to the front; and to learn that foreigners, especially Greek-Americans, were signing up: men like 36-year-old John Theotocki, a hash king from Kansas City, who said: "We cleaned up the gangsters in the United States and now we've got a tougher job here." But when the Athenians heard that the Italians had sent their bombers over other Greek cities, that Greek women and children had perished, war was not such fun.
When they considered the odds, when they learned that the Yugoslavs could not help the Greeks unless the Turks did and the Turks would not move until the Russians told them to, when they realized how little practical support the British could give, they were grave. They gathered in coffee houses and drank thick Turkish coffee and sipped their ouzo, as colorless and full of kick as corn likker.
And they talked. Every man gave his opinion, every man was an amateur oracle.
Double Talk. In ancient times two black doves took off from Thebes in Egypt.
One flew to Libya, the other to a grove at Dodona in Greece. In the grove the latter proclaimed in human words the need for an oracle of Zeus on that spot.
From then on priests listened to the rustling of the trees, interpreted, and gave ambiguous oracular opinions. For instance, a general would be told that if he attacked across the mountains of Epirus, a kingdom would fall. Encouraged, he would attack —and lose his own kingdom.
Last week, as the Italians attacked across the mountains of Epirus (aiming in one place for loannina hard by Dodona), there was very similar double talk in the air. It came from "neutral sources." Just as the world heard (via Stockholm) that Finland was victorious to the day of its defeat, heard (via Berne) that France was doing not too badly against the Nazis, heard (from Stockholm again) that the British were throwing the Nazis out of Norway, these "neutral sources" (Belgrade was now the worst offender) gave out good cheer for Greeks. The "news" they told must have come from the rustling of trees—and very possibly those trees were on the Wilhelmstrasse, where so much phony, later demoralizing "good news" has been cooked up.
Had Belgrade's dispatches been true, the Greeks would have been victorious in no time. On the first day of the war, Turkey was said to have declared war against Italy, Turkish troops were said to be entering Thrace. On the second day, Britons were said to have landed in force at Salonika (three days' sailing time from Alexandria, the nearest British base). By the third day a revolt in Albania was said to have reached serious proportions: 3,000-4,000 well-armed rebels were said to be cutting Italian communications from the rear. All this time Greek resistance was said to out-Thermopylae Thermopylae, and on the fifth day Belgrade reported the Greeks "smashing into Albania." This week the Greeks were reported to have invaded the invaders' territory almost as far as the base at Corizza, to have taken 1,200 prisoners, including two generals, and to be on the point of wiping out 15,000 men.
This untempered optimism about the jack rabbit's chances of licking the bulldog was too persistent a phenomenon of World War II to be entirely accidental.
Hills of Hell. That this "neutral" news was fabricated and exaggerated did not take away one jot from the performance of Greece. The mere fact that Greece chose to oppose the Axis juggernaut defied belittling; it was magnificent.
The odds were appalling: 250,000 Italians against perhaps 150,000 Greeks; the fourth biggest navy in the world against one obsolescent cruiser, ten destroyers, 13 torpedo boats, six submarines and a few miscellaneous craft; 500 modern planes and as many more in reserve against perhaps 200 old crates (Junkers, Gloucester Gladiators, Blackburns, even French planes); the tacit support of Germany, with some 70 divisions of 1,125,000 men poised in the Balkans (according to British sources), against overt help from Britain, militarily pinned down at home and in Egypt. Despite this apparently overwhelming disparity, the Greeks chose to fight. Ancient valor was reborn.
There were five main spearheads to the Italian attack (see map, p. 26). The most important Italian effort was aimed at Ioannina, in Epirus. Homer located Hell in Epirus, and the Italians saw why last week. It is only about 35 miles as the airplane flies from the Albanian border to Ioannina; but on the ground the miles stand on end. The terrain is violently mountainous. There are no railroads, and most of the roads are little better than shepherd trails. The area is crisscrossed with low valleys, and last week torrential rains made horrible mud ponds of the roads. It was no country for swift, mechanized, aircraft-supported lightning war.
It was country through which infantry, engineers and pack-mule armament had to make their way inch by soggy inch.
The Hellenes were Hellish too. They had carefully mined the roads and primed the bridges with TNT—and, unlike the Dutch and French, apparently did not forget to touch off the charges. Greece's Metaxas Line—pillboxes, barbed wire, trenches—was ironically strongest opposite neutral Bulgaria; nevertheless it offered barriers. The first line ran from Fiorina to the sea. The Greeks furthermore diverted streams on to roads, used every hillock and rock for sniping. Italian Alpinists are among the best mountain troops in Europe; but the Greek evzones—picturesque, wiry men in white jackets and kilts, slippers with turned-up toes and pompons, and any old sort of rifle—are tough and brave.
But the Italians managed to creep along. Early this week they were at the gates of Ioannina. The spearhead was eventually supposed to go to Larissa, whence a railway and a good highway lead to the Attic peninsula and Athens.
Farther north another spearhead drove toward Fiorina, whence another railway leads to vital Salonika on the eastern coast. Greek counter-raids against this northern drive did get to Albanian soil, and did cause the Italians some embarrassment at their rear.
"Where Are the British?" asked the citizens of Greece on the war's fifth day, when there were still no signs of pledges fulfilled. Athens was treated late that day to the sight of a huge R. A. F. Sunderland flying boat which had previously been interned, and crowds cheered at the sight.
At week's end in London, First Lord of the Admiralty Albert Victor Alexander announced that Britons had landed on Greek soil (presumably on some Greek islands) and he promised vaguely: "What we can do we will do." What the British could do was not much. In London there was some suspicion that the Greek war was a mere feint, intended to draw British strength from Egypt, paving the way for an Axis drive on vital Suez. The Italian attack was in fact no feint, but the British could take no chances. The Salonika campaign in 1915-18 required 157,000 men, and Britain now could spare nowhere near that many. Large-scale land action was out. So far as naval action went the prospects were brighter. If the British could consolidate themselves on the Greek islands they had a much better chance of staying in the eastern Mediterranean. If they were cagey, they might even draw the Italian Fleet into the long desired open battle. Britain could also afford some air assistance. British planes were said to be taking part in raids on Porto Edda, Tirana and Durazzo in Albania, and last week this British craft—probably carrier-based Blackburns—bombed Naples to give the Italian foot its first stings of war. The glowing crater of Vesuvius lighted the way to blacked-out Naples.
But if Britain could give no more help and if Turkey continued indefinitely to play wallflower, the Greek cause looked dim, no matter what bravery or what initial successes the Greeks might show.
For Italy the campaign was vital. Italian bases in Greece could neutralize the Dardanelles and negate Turkey's British sympathies. An Italian Crete would make the eastern Mediterranean very hot water against the plates of British vessels. An Italian victory would eventually mean a Greater Albania which would sew up Italian domination of the western Balkans.
But the most important point of victory in Greece was to give the mouth-watering dictators another little slice off the enemy's cake. Gradually the Axis was consolidating the Mediterranean as it had already consolidated Europe. With Britain out of the Mediterranean, the Axis would be much harder to beat.
The Italian Army is regarded by military men the world over with emotion ranging from contempt to hilarity—almost nowhere with admiration. But this was the first real test. Ethiopia, a war against men whose only armor was the loin cloth, was no test. Neither was the Italian picnic in southern France. No one knows how enthusiastically the campaign in Egypt has been pursued. But this was war, and all the world was watching. Considering the terrain, the weather, and the vigor of the brave Hellenes, the Italians were doing all right.
In any case, Britons who took great heart from reports of initial Greek successes, who argued themselves into the belief that Italy had bitten off more cake than it could masticate, were wishful thinkers. The London Times argued — as it had many times before — that the Axis gamble was really a British success. "Surely," wrote the sober New Statesman and Nation, "we remember the Times saying something very like this before. When the Germans went into Norway they dangerously lengthened their flank. If they are not careful they will become all flank as far as Gibraltar. ... If the Nazis were to reach London Bridge it would be a British triumph. The Times would explain that by so dangerously lengthening their flank they had stuck themselves in one of the least salubrious parts of London, that they would find it difficult to get a respectable meal in the district and that they would use up a lot of their scanty oil resources in getting the Tower Bridge up and down."
Ἐπιστολές («Time», Monday, Dec. 02, 1940):
TIME and Mussolini seem to have a common source of information as regards the strength of the Greek Army. . . . Both regarded Greece as a pushover. Having discounted her strength in your issue of Nov. 4, you find it necessary in your current issue [Nov. 11] to discount reports of Greek successes and chances of final victory. . . .
Accounts of heroic exploits published daily in the papers give a measure of Greece's determination to fight to the finish and her cause deserves a more sympathetic treatment by Nothing Sacred TIME, whose accounts constitute a paraphonia (sour note to you) in the echo of almost universal acclaim. . . .
EUTHYMIOS A. GREGORY Aiken, S. C.
Your write-up of Greece . . . is especially interesting in view of my former residence in Greece, part of the time in Salonika and part in Athens. I . . . was acquainted not only with Greek soldiers and officers and ordinary Greeks, but also with many high officials. I have two decorations from the Greek Government.
Your jocular spirit is justified, though I know another side. What I object to is the distorted picture you give of Venizelos, whom I knew personally. He is the one outstanding figure in the comic opera, who, as President Wilson said, rose to the height of one of Europe's greatest statesmen. "Quisling" is not a word to be used of him.
JOHN C. CRANBERY The Emancipator
[Ἀπάντησις τοῦ περιοδικοῦ]
> All praise to the brave Greek Army and still more praise if it can in the long run defend independent Greece from the much bigger and much better-equipped Italian forces.—ED.
(«Time», Monday, Nov. 18, 1940)
Rain and terrain are wonderful allies. Bad weather and forests helped Finland. Good weather and open country betrayed Poland, the Lowlands, France. Through such mountains and such torrents as northwestern Greece possessed, last week there could be no such thing as Blitzkrieg.
High winds blew sleet and straight-driving rains over the whole war area. These stopped machinery but not mules and men. The rains of Greece make even peaceful travel slow. When he went through Epirus in 1809, Byron wrote his mother: "Our journey was much prolonged by the torrents that had fallen from the mountains and intersected the roads." Successful conquest of these mountainous, slippery areas would have to be brought about on general principles of caution and surprise which have held ever since Hannibal crossed the Alps. Even against an inept enemy, the Italians probably could accomplish this conquest only after weeks, possibly months. The brave Greeks were far from inept.
They fought with elemental fierceness. The lair was threatened. They captured heights by making draft animals of themselves. Even the women dragged cannon behind them. In charges the hairy evzones came screaming, their white skirts flapping like osprey wings. There was no thought —as there often was among the Italians —for personal safety. One young Greek aviator, out of ammunition, flew his plane smack into an Italian plane.
Command of this fury was in the hands of a strangely mild aristocrat. General Alexander Papagos, whose thin face and batwing ears bear a striking resemblance to those of Spain's ex-King Alfonso, inherited from one of Greece's first families a gentle education and gentler manners. But he seemed to give his troops both courage and the initiative of which upsets are made.
The history of 1940 has taught, among other melancholy lessons, that valor plus vigor do not equal victory. While they took heart at apparent successes, responsible Greeks thought that if their country was to survive despite the odds, it would owe its survival to British assistance and to Italian asininity. And responsible neutral observers could not see how either could be great enough to give Greece anything but a reprieve.
Britain's help began to take on clearer form last week. It was clear that Britons had landed at Crete, and some other Greek islands. In London a £5,000,000 loan to Greece was announced. The R. A. F. was really active. Gloster Gladiator fighters patrolled over Greek cities, and bombers hit at Naples, Brindisi, Taranto and Albanian bases. The first British casualty was announced: an R. A. F. gunner, wounded in the head by what was described as a "stray bullet" from an Italian plane. British naval vessels arrived in Athens from Alexandria, carrying a few troops. Very useful in surprising and checking the Italians was a set of light anti-tank guns flown in apparently from Palestine. The British were happy to give all this, since it fitted like a helping hand into the glove of British grand strategy.
Italy's military bumbles are classic. The heroes of Caporetto and of Guadalajara showed in Greece that they had not changed. They simply did not understand the arts of war, much less the politics of war. They knew that Greece was about to have three months of poor weather, and yet they attacked with tanks and planes. Daily they undertook small attacks which they should have known must fail. At one point Italians shelled their own retreating columns. They badly underestimated the Greek will to resistance, and seemed almost positive that Greece would pull a Denmark or a Rumania. A captured Italian officer, Lieut. Quarantino Marco of Parma, was quoted as saying:
"We had no idea war was coming. . . . On the dawn of Oct. 28 we were packed into a sector opposite Fiorina. Our colonel assured us ... that Metaxas [Premier of Greece] had told [Foreign Minister Count] Ciano that the Italian Army had received permission to cross Greece and Yugoslavia. He said Greece and Yugoslavia had joined the Axis and that Greece would never oppose our might." So when the lieutenant's regiment marched up to the Greek border, it was cut to pieces.
In Rome there was puzzlement at the checks which the Army suffered. The populace wanted successes. Even the Army was a little puzzled. Chief of the General Staff Marshal Pietro Badoglio, who saved Marshal De Bono's bacon in Ethiopia, visited Albania to look things over, and this week General Ubaldo Soddu, Vice Chief of the General Staff, was put in command of operations. Reinforcements were rushed into Albania and a large-scale attack predicted when the weather cleared.
Three Sectors. Italian bumbles gave Greece occasion to claim great victories. With the cutting rain hampering iron and steel, soft Italian flesh exposed itself. Although reports fortnight ago of the Greek counterinvasion of Albania, at the northern extremity of the front, were grossly exaggerated, the Greeks had at least temporary successes near Corizza.
In the Corizza sector the Italians apparently opened their invasion with a forked drive, one prong heading for Fiorina, the other for Kastoria. The Greeks hid away in forests and mountains, let them through with comparatively mild resistance. When the advance column of Italians had passed, the Greeks filtered through and fought their way to heights from which they could shell the town with 6-inch howitzers (actually they could almost shell the town from Greek territory). Thus they threatened the Italian rear and automatically stopped the supplyless forked drive. For two or three days the Greeks enjoyed their advantage. But late in the week the Italians attacked them with dive bombers, and their position seemed less enviable. Early this week rain kept Italian planes on the ground.
In the central sector the Italians drove a wedge into Greece which was eventually intended to turn southward and meet a second, coastal wedge, surrounding Yanina (Ioannina). The central finger bored up the precipitous Aoos River valley, reaching its metal claw deeper into Greece than Yanina is. To get this far the Italians must have cracked at least part of the Metaxas Line—concrete trenches, artillery emplacements, rock-hewn machine-gun nests built last year and this under British supervision. The mechanized Italian "Centaur Division" took part in the Aoos drive. At week's end, by which time the Italians were approaching the headwaters of the Aoos, the Greeks claimed the greatest victory of the war. Some 15,000 Italians were said to be surrounded and on the point of capture.
Into the craggy, roadless fastnesses of the Pindus Mountains the Italians were reported to have sent tanks and other mechanized equipment. The Greeks used horse cavalry, played hide & seek with the invaders in territory their troopers knew like the backs of their hands. The Italians, they reported, were mousetrapped and divided into small units, became easy prey of Greek mountain infantry.
On the Adriatic coastal plain, the Italians succeeded in driving a bridgehead across the Kalamas River, and in sending patrols several miles beyond the river. But this week the Greeks, greatly aided by the rain, claimed to have succeeded in pushing the enemy back to the bridgehead.
These successes heartened the Greeks, but it was hard to see how they could last. The long-range odds were too great. Reporting of the war was weird. Whether for reasons of propaganda or because of overanxious sympathy, Greek advantages were overstated. Successive Greek "victories," when traced on the map, sometimes turned out to be steady Italian advances. A mysterious bombing by Italian-type planes of Bitolj, Yugoslavia, which caused a stir of feeling and was followed by the resignation of the Yugoslavs' anti-Italian Defense Minister, General Milan Neditch, may have been a punishment for grotesquely pro-Greek accounts of the war emanating from Belgrade. Qualities of fantasy crept into the dispatches. The Italians were said to be deserting in droves, drowning themselves in flooded gorges, perishing of cold and hunger, suffering from the forays of wolves.
Through the murk of biased reporting on both sides, just one fact shone bright as an ancient Greek fire beacon. Adolf Hitler has an unearthly way, not only of beating his enemies, but of getting his allies into embarrassing wars which make his own successes seem greater. Winter in Finland and the rainy season in Greece were two good examples.
(«Time», Monday, Nov. 25, 1940)
First Round: Hellas
A one-eyed man in riding boots and breeches and a dark whipcord tunic looked down on the sparkling sea from a huge plane. He had finished reading his dispatches. The steward came along the cabin balancing a tray. "Tea, sir?" The man declined it. Then with a pleasant sigh the man leaned back in his seat, opened a book of Browning's poems, and lost himself.
The poetry reader Was General Sir Archibald Percival Wavell, Commander in Chief of Britain's Middle East Forces, on his way to Crete to inspect new British establishments there. At Suda Bay he heard reports from the expeditionary officers and toured gun emplacements. One of the huge guns was fired, and Cretans who stood around cheered and clapped as if an Italian ship had been sunk before their eyes. They talked exultingly of Suda Bay as "an eastern Gibraltar." Sir Archibald heard with satisfaction of the raid on Taranto (see p. 20), of R. A. F. cooperation in Greece, of the wonderful work of the Greeks themselves.
That the man responsible for one of the most crucial theatres of war should have passed tense hours reading poetry was altogether fitting. He was flying to help the Greeks, and poetry was being made in Hellas. Theirs was a battle which wanted Homer, a cause which heeded Byron: Better to sink beneath the shock Than moulder piecemeal on the rock.
Dead Romans. High in Metsovo Pass, embracing the mud, a young Italian lay with his head and chest crumpled by machine-gun fire. No Italian had charged farther than he into Greece. Spread-eagled behind him were more of the dead. They wore green jerkins, they had mountains of kit on their backs, they all lay on their fronts in blood, all kissed the earth. One dead Roman had his arms around a tree. Young boys lay with their pants still creased. Tin hats were crushed and the heads under them. Farther down, materiel, the proud stuff of conquest, lay around—trucks disguised with a sweet artistry of cypress leaves, trailers burned out and pushed aside, wrecked tanks which had spewed out their metal guts.
The dead were in little groups. They had been well dispersed. In the forests farther down they lay sprawled on leaves, and around them like more leaves lay intimate papers and pictures of relatives.
And all around them in the mud were footprints—Greek footprints.
Still farther down unshaven, red-faced Greeks marched toward the invaders with fixed bayonets. Near them trudged their women, erect with food and even ammunition balanced on their heads; and their mules, diamond-hitched with heavy loads. Much farther along, the front-line toilers did their work.
Out in front the Greeks attacked all week. Italian dispatches said that stories of Greek victories were dirty British propaganda—but Italian communiques, if they said anything about the war, said: "Greek attacks were repulsed. . . ." An invasion is not made up of defenders' attacks.
The war was being fought, and its first phase was now won, straight out of antique textbooks. The Greeks found in these first weeks of the war that the newfangled trappings of war were traps for those who used them in this terrain. The Greeks reverted to an old tactic: with bayonet and grenade they stormed heights from which their fire drove the enemy out of valleys below. With this tactic they pushed the enemy back on the central Pindus front. With necessary modifications of this tactic they pushed the enemy back of the Kalamas River on the flat coastal front. Devout Greeks, remembering that Italians had invaded Albania on Good Friday and sunk the cruiser Helle on the day of the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, saw Providence in the Kalamas River's first flood in 128 years. Using the same device they pressed their counterinvasion of Albania on the northern end of the front. Corizza (see map, p. 21) was on the point of falling as the week began, was still about to fall as it ended. The reason for the delay was simple: Corizza lies in the centre of a bowl of mountains. The Greeks could not rush down into the dish until they had patiently stormed the entire rim, or else the Italians would do to them just what they had been doing to the Italians. This week Athenian reports claimed Corizza partly won.
"I will never turn back." The first round had clearly gone to the bantamweight. Now it was up to the heavyweight to move in again. Whether the second round would be another story was anyone's guess, but that the Italians intended to try was certain. At Innsbruck Italian and German Commanders in Chief Pietro Badoglio and Wilhelm Keitel met and talked strategy. It must have been an embarrassment to both these old soldiers to consider that if the Italians could not knock over the Greeks by themselves, the Germans might have to come in through Yugoslavia. This week Italians sent wave after wave of planes to strafe Greek positions everywhere, and concentrated tanks near the Yugoslav extremity of the border.
Having led with his chin, Benito Mussolini stuck it farther out than ever this week and defiantly broadcast to the world: "Greece is a tricky enemy. . . . Their hate is profound and incurable. . . .
"With absolute certainty I tell you we will break Greece's back. Whether in two months or twelve months, it little matters.
. . . Whatever happens, I will never turn back."
(«Time», Monday, Dec. 02, 1940)
The sound of distant church bells pealed for half an hour one day last week over the brown hills of Greece—by state decree. In Athens, traffic cops stopped cars to tell drivers what had happened. Newsboys shouted it, innkeepers told their guests. A commemorative postage stamp was ordered. Greek and British flags broke out everywhere and men in British uniforms were carried aloft by cheering, singing Greeks. In the northwest, on the other side of the tumbled Pindus Mountains—a place almost as hard to reach from Athens as the other side of the Rockies is from Washington, D. C.—the little catamount Greek Army, supported by the R. A. F., had finally taken Corizza, advance base for Italy's "invasion" of Greece and the third largest town in Albania (pop. 26,000).
For a week confused dispatches had reported the city falling, then not falling, then falling some more. At last, Premier General John Metaxas appeared on the steps of the Army Headquarters building and officially announced the news that drove Athens wild. From London, Prime Minister Churchill, ever apt, saluted: "This recalls the classic age. Zēto Hellas (Life to Greece)."
Corizza is the crossroads through which Italy, unless she violates Yugoslav neutrality and goes around by the Monastir Gap (Bitolj), must pass to strike at Salonika. It is also a gateway to loannina (Yanina) and the long rough road to Athens. Pounding and pushing the Italians out of Corizza was a feat of which the strategic importance overshadowed even the valor of the men who did it. The town stands at an elevation of 2,500 ft. on the western scarp of the Morava heights. Its defense against assault from the west and north, whence Italy must try to come back or lose what remains of her sorry face, is made easy by artillery planted on Morava and on Mount Ivan.
Corizza possesses two of Albania's best military air bases (others are at Tirana, Valona, Durazzo, all near the coast). Not only by heroic uphill righting but even more by knowing from lifelong habit how to get around in the hills, the evzone ("well-girt") highland Greek regiments—Balkan counterparts of Scotland's kilted "Ladies from Hell"—took these commanding positions one by one from the Italians, clambering over the top of the mountains with bayonets and hand grenades, later laboriously hauling up mountain guns.
Involved in the fall of Corizza were six Italian divisions, about 72,000 men. Their mechanization was their undoing in the narrow, muddy mountain passes where they stuck out Italy's neck into Greece. Like the riflemen behind trees who played hob with the British regulars in 1776, the Greek mountaineers from their hilltops demoralized an army which had been told that the Greeks would be pushovers, in fact would probably welcome Fascism with open arms. When Mussolini spoke, promising that Greece's back would be broken (TIME, Nov. 25), the Greeks continued pressing, working with geography instead of against it. Frantically, the Italians called on their Air Force to strafe and disperse the attackers, and for a day or two there was carnage around Corizza. Then the R. A. F. arrived to bolster the gallant but rickety Greek Air Force. In a few hours, Spitfires and Hurricanes smacked down so many Italians that toward the end of the battle not a Fascist wing dared come across that sky.
With painful talk about "moving on schedule to other positions," the Italians evacuated the city, leaving behind warehouses full of equipment. Perhaps by the standards of modern warfare the booty was not great, but to the Greeks, accustomed to eating bean soup and black bread and carrying hand-me-down arms, it was immense. This plunder was, after the strategic factors and the enormous boost to Greek and British morale, the third most important thing about the fall of Corizza. It was said to comprise enough small arms and ammunition to outfit two Greek divisions, more heavy artillery than the entire Greek Army had when the war began. There were 80 field pieces, 55 anti-aircraft guns, numerous machine guns. There were 20 tanks, 250 trucks and other autos, 1,500 motorcycles and bicycles, 10,000 blankets, several thousand tons of wheat. Fortunately for the Greeks, the Italian ammunition fitted their rifles.
Straightway the exultant Greeks hopped into captured tanks to chase the retreating Italians up the road to Pogradec, where Italian General Ubaldo Soddu, after cashiering some 50 senior officers, tried to form a secondary defense line. Another Greek pursuit column harried the Italian retreat toward Moskopole ("Perfumed City"). Greek and British warplanes bombed and machine-gunned long columns of dejected Blackshirts and Alpini, whose welfare was further menaced by mutinous Albanian battalions in their very midst, by Albanian snipers, knife-men, rock-rollers and bridge-blasters in the gorges and ravines along the way.
The miserable Italians dared not light camp fires at night; some subsisted on raw mule meat. They took refuge as they went in churches and mosques, using them as makeshift forts. Neutral military observers said that if only Britain could send enough planes, the Italian Armies might be swept into the Adriatic before Rome could get set for a new offensive. Fascist reinforcements moving up to Pogradec met their pell-melling comrades on the road out of there, turned and fled with them as Pogradec fell. The same thing happened at Moskopole and it looked as though the first stand General Soddu could make would be on a line from Elbasan on the Shkumin River, which cuts Albania in two roughly equal parts, down the Devoll River to Valona. The way things were going last week, the southern part of Albania would soon be mostly Greek, which in fact it is culturally and racially. At glad Corizza, Major Charissiades, heading the new town council, welcomed the Greeks as liberators. Greek flags were brought out of hiding and pictures of Italian King Vittorio Emanuele were burned in the public squares.
In southernmost Albania, also, the tide of battle was at flood for Greece. One Greek column, piercing through from Konitza, swept up the road from Leskovik toward Corizza, mopping up. Another pressed west along the Voiussa River, aiming at Tepeleni. Two other columns swept down the Dhrino Valley toward Argirocastro ("Silver Fort") and over the mountains toward Porto Edda. One more Greek column pushed up across the Kalamas River out of Epirus, driving the last invader from Greek soil and threatening to wipe him out of southern Albania as well. With the Italians in retreat everywhere, the ultimate object of all the Greek columns was to cut off their foe from his ports of escape.
So stood Italy's deplorable Balkan adventure last week, and the Greek Army joined the Finnish on a history page reserved for little fellows who knew how to fight for home and honor. But the first round seldom decides a prize fight, and beneath little Greece's jubilation lay some grim facts. Greece faced woeful shortages of almost everything that it takes to fight a war. She lacked meat, wheat, oil, coal, sugar. Her chief sources of income—shipping and tourists—were no more. Her best customer of wine, olive oil and tobacco was Germany. Only Turkey and Great Britain can help her, and the latter has its hands full helping itself.
Last week a steady stream of war matériel was flowing, much of it by air, from British bases in the lower Middle East to new ones in Greece. Some said many Australian and New Zealand troops were going, too, though Britain denied this, saying her only ground troops in Greece were military police and air-base guards. But besides military help, Greece was going to need food, fuel, money. Over her loomed not only the shadow of Germany on the northeast but cold and hunger at home.
(«Time», Monday, Dec. 02, 1940)
Sons of Greece
Ever since Poet Homer gave the lowdown on Ulysses, wily has been the word for Greeks. The Greek syndicates of gamblers; the late Sir Basil Zaharoff, merchant of death; tens of thousands of Greek traders in fruits, tobaccos, steamships have carried on the Ulysses tradition of wandering, guile and gain. Last week, with their mother country menaced, Greeks all over the world went in their own ways to her support. In the U. S., one of them was a millionaire oil operator of Louisiana and points west. Possessor of a 65-year exclusive franchise to find and exploit Greece's petroleum resources, he turned over to Premier General John Metaxas $1,000,000 worth of tools, trucks, pipeline, drill rigs, explosives and a 38-ton tank with which he and his men had been working in the Peloponnesos. His name: William Helis of New Orleans.
The Helis family belongs in Arcadia, high in a mountain district which not even the terrible Turks ever conquered and from which come some of Greece's ablest highland fighters. William Helis' grandfather was mayor of their town for 32 years. Young William went to America after finishing secondary school, did odd jobs in New York and Milwaukee. In 1908 he married a Philadelphia girl of Dutch descent, who bore him three daughters and a son. He set up a coffee and spice business in Kansas City, Mo., became a top sergeant in the National Guard in World War I. Then he hunted for oil in Texas — and found it, near Wichita Falls. He found more in Oklahoma and in California. In Louisiana he struck it really rich because he found not only plenty of oil around New Iberia but also Robert Maestri, cagey political boss of New Orleans.
Now that his mother Greece is up against it, Oilman Helis' fortune is at her disposal. He is director of the southern activities of Greek War Relief Association, Inc., which has offices at No. 730 Fifth Ave., Manhattan and of which Harold Stirling Vanderbilt is national honorary chairman. Mr. Vanderbilt, no Greek, is in there for humanitarian reasons but he and Mr. Helis, the Greek boy who made good, have something in common: Mr. Helis has a 107-ft. yacht, the William Helis II, and Mr. Vanderbilt is the U. S.'s most famed yachtsman.
Spyros Skouras, chain cinema tycoon, is national president of the Greek War Relief Association, Inc., which hopes to raise $10,000,000.
(«Time», Monday, Dec. 09, 1940)
Children of Socrates
Snow sifted last week through the mountain peaks and troughs of perpendicular little Albania. It laid a white blanket over thousands of stiff dead Italian soldiers on bleak slopes and in forested ravines from Porto Edda, where many of them had landed, northeastward to Lake Ochrida and the east-west gorges of the Shkumin River, where Italian commanders strove to make a stand against the relentless, amazing Greeks. Most Italians abhor cold as they do the sharp Greek bayonet, which Rome last week plaintively called a "barbaric and inhuman" weapon.
To Albania, to improve the shattered discipline of the routed, retreating Blackshirts, hurried fierce, sporting Achille Starace, former Secretary of the Fascist Party, now chief of the Fascist Militia. Mussolini's mouthpiece, Giovanni Ansaldo, took pains to announce over the radio: "We must win the war in the Mediterranean with our own Army, quite alone." Crown Prince Umberto himself condoned with the families of the first victims of the Greeks.
The red-faced Italian High Command tried again to laugh off continued Greek advances. The enemy, it was said, was merely capitalizing on a "strategic retreat" by an expeditionary force that had had the bad luck to run into dirty weather. To prove that everything was going "according to prearranged plan," General Ubaldo Soddu, who was rushed out last month to replace Commanding General Sebastiano Visconti Prasca, was upped last week from corps commander to Army commander and confirmed in his post.
His most vital problem was one of logistics—getting hundreds of trucks full of food and ammunition daily over hundreds of miles of tortuous mountain roads to supply the over-extended forces. Next he had to bring over from Italy whole new armies to replace the beaten Ninth Army in the north and the newly arrived but already disorganized Eleventh Army in the south. Meantime, Greek and British bombers hammered at the landing places, rendered Valona and Durazzo "almost useless" in the wake of the new arrivals, threatened to cut off their supplies and redouble General Soddu's problem. British ships came up and shelled Porto Edda. Daily Allied airmen, through fair weather and foul, bombed and strafed the crawling lines of Italian supply trucks, against which Albanians also sniped and sent down rock falls.
On to Argirocastro. Territorially the war progressed little during the week, and only the Greeks moved forward. They clinched their hold on Pogradec in the northeast, thus consolidating their capture of Corizza last fortnight, and giving them a north anchor for the lateral road paralleling the Greek border clear down to the southern Albanian coast. Up & down this road Greek Generalissimo Papagos could swiftly shift his strength in or out of any of the mountain troughs, slanting northwest-southeast, through which the scattered Italian Eleventh Army last week fought rear-guard actions in its withdrawal up to the line from Valona to Elbasan. Next major Greek objective was the Italians' southwestern base, Argirocastro, defended by an Italian "battalion of death" fresh from Modena. The Greeks, attacking before dawn after nocturnal artillery barrages, smashed their way by grenade and bayonet up the eastern wall of Argirocastro's valley. This week, on the central front, the Greeks claimed the capture of 5,000 prisoners in a major rout.
High Fliers. Italy's erratic Air Force, so noticeably deficient in the campaign's first month, made a great show of trying to support its ground troops last week. One day at least 300 planes were at work. They heavily bombed Florina, the northern Greek base back in the Pindus Mountains whence most anti-aircraft defense guns had been moved forward with the Army. But over the actual fighting fronts and Greek supply lines, the Italian fliers stayed at least 10,000 feet up, to avoid hitting mountain peaks or being hit by Allied A.A. fire. Two miles is no height for nervous bombers to hit machine-gun or artillery emplacements, or vehicles moving on narrow, winding roads.
Unless Germany should suddenly throw in some effective air power, Italy's payoff in Albania, now that snow was falling, looked at best like a stalemate for some months, a lasting disgrace and a drain on the entire Italian military establishment. If, operating from their new strongholds in Crete, British naval power could gain mastery of the Adriatic, past minefields and submarines, the entire Italian expedition, including last week's reinforcements, might be annihilated, or forced to execute a sorry withdrawal like the British from Norway.
"Children of Socrates." Bravely over the sandbagged Parthenon last week, as November ended and bitter winter began, flew the blue & white flag of Greece. And bravely through the world, Minister of National Security Constantine Maniadakis, right bower of Premier General John Metaxas, appealed for aid in the struggle to come. Said he: "We address ourselves particularly to the great, strong, liberal union of the United States of America. We pay no attention to the enemy's material strength, and neither do we dare pay attention regarding the intentions of other probable enemies [Germany] . . . the children of Socrates, Plato and Aristophanes are prepared for any ordeal . . . to die rather than submit."
In London, Secretary of State for India Leopold Stennett Amery put the brightest of all faces on the historic stand of Greece. Said he: "If we can enable Greece to hold her own until we have disposed of the Italians in Egypt, we shall have secured for our armies a foothold from which we might threaten the flank of any German attack on Turkey.
"From that foothold we might eventually, with our own armies and new allies whom our growing strength will gather, deal a mortal thrust at the German dragon, not against the scaly armor of the Siegfried Line, but against his soft underside."
(«Time», Monday, Dec. 16, 1940)
Surprise No. 6
(See Cover) The Greeks poured on. Pushing northward to Porto Edda, they crossed the marshes above Lake Butrinto which the Italians had thought were impassable. They waded armpit-deep through icy water, pushing their guns on rafts. They crawled over the mountains from the east, cut the road to Delvino and planted their guns on the heights above Porto Edda. The Italians set the town afire and retired up the coast road, leaving to the Greeks a destroyer (damaged by British bombs) which had taken refuge in the harbor.
Fifteen miles over the hills, the Greeks had taken all the heights surrounding Argirocastro. There the Italians also fired the town and fled up the road toward Tepeleni—harassed by snipers and artillery from the hills above. Before the Italian rear guard of tanks retired, the Greek infantry stormed the town. They dropped from balconies on to the roofs of tanks, threw hand grenades into the openings, jammed the tank-tread mechanisms with their bayonets.
In Athens people danced in the street by moonlight, carrying at the head of their procession the victory flag that had been flown on the Parthenon. First Corizza, then Porto Edda, then Argirocastro —the three advance Italian bases in Albania—now side by side over all three flew the double eagle of Albania and the blue and white banner of Greece. The Greeks rejoiced and the world was stunned.
War is always full of surprises, and afterwards the explanation of how they occurred gradually leaks out to the outside world. The first surprise of World War II was the German conquest of Poland in 27 days—explained by the inferior Polish materiel and the rashness of the High Command and the German development of Blitzkrieg tactics with tanks and planes. The second was the swift German conquest of Norway—explained by fifth-column activity and the elaborately daring German plan of invasion. The third was the German sweep through the Low Countries and France, an elaboration of Blitzkrieg tactics with Panzer divisions, planes, parachute troops, deception, fifth columny all used with symphonic mastery.
Even before the third surprise was complete, the fourth surprise had taken place. A British Army of 400,000 men, all but surrounded in Flanders, succeeded in effecting its escape by sea from Dunkirk—explained by dogged British courage, the reckless brilliance of British seamanship, and the ability of the Royal Air Force to maintain local command of the air. The fifth surprise took place no one knew exactly when—when Hitler found his forces unable to undertake a direct assault last summer on Britain herself. The explanation has never been completely given, but it included as its chief ingredients the ability of the R. A. F. to inflict devastating punishment on German daylight bomb ers and to upset German preparations for invasion across the Channel.
But none of these surprises was greater than Surprise No. 6: the ability of ill-armed Greeks to fight off and defeat the well-armed and more numerous Italians.
The methods and the tactics which made this possible were last week becoming apparent. They could be summed up in one military moral : the Greek Army knew how to use what it had. For example, it is said that one bomb tipped the scale at Corizza. Knowing that Italian reserves were being rushed along a certain road, a Greek general sent for some of the few British Blenheims available to him. They arrived in time, knocked out a bridge over which the Italians must pass, machine-gunned the halted column on the far side. Only one of the three Blenheims returned from that foray but the trick was turned.
Little John & the Parrot. Up from Athens last week to assay the situation and decide whether his troops should dig in for the winter pretty soon or try to strike on through, drive the Italians into the Mediterranean before they could poise a counterblow, went the long-nosed, aristocratic Commander in Chief who taught and led the Greek Army: General Alex ander Papagos (paa-paa-gos). Every morning, for two hours at Army Head quarters in Athens, he had conferred intently with Premier General "Little John" Metaxas. His enemies derided General Papagos as "Little John's" Papagei (parrot), overlooking the fact that the relationship between the two men is much like the Foch-Weygand relation: master and disciple.
Dumpy, round-faced Little John, now 69, learned his soldiering in Germany; lean, bat-eared Alexander, 57, learned his at France's Ecole Superieure de Guerre. Both suffered the pangs of Greece's sorry war with Turkey in 1922. Out of that defeat came their resolution to do better another time. Often the loser in one war wins the next (witness France after 1870, Germany after 1918). As Chief of Staff, General Papagos saw to it that Greece's 18-month compulsory training for all males between 21 and 50 was no child's play. King George II, after his restoration in 1935 by a military junta of which Papagos was a member, made the Army popular by insisting on clean barracks. But it was the combined, concentrated brains of Metaxas and Papagos which evolved the mountain strategy and tactics now bearing such startling fruit. Last week Norwegian mountain troops journeyed from Great Britain to get in on the Greek show, and the Swiss applied for permission to come and take notes.
Meticulous is the word for General Papagos. In private life a patrician to his long fingertips, a foppish lover of fine horses and a patron of racing, his lifelong study has been a huge collection of military books. John Metaxas' name went upon the defense system thrown up along the Bulgarian and Yugoslav borders, which were later extended hastily down the Al banian. But in General Papagos' head rests knowledge of every gully and goat track not only in the Greek mountains but far beyond. Like his soldiers, whom amazed correspondents found toiling with out lanterns at midnight to repair bridges, he can thread the Balkans blindfolded.
On occasion he works out each move, for platoons as well as divisions, in minutest detail before ordering it.
Fascist propagandists have insisted that their Greek debacle was caused by the perfidy of Albania and Albion, by "bad luck" (early rains) and by Greek treach ery in being all mobilized and ready in numbers far greater than Italy could get to the front.* The last part of this lame story is obviously untrue, but it may be that behind the beard of many an "Al banian" who incited his comrades' sur render or rebellion grinned the sly face of a British Intelligence operative. But the fact remains that Italy threw into the fight, at the outset, ten full divisions numbering, with supply and labor troops, over 200,000 men, to which two more divisions were added after the going got rough. These included many celeri (mobile) units. At the Pindus passes the invaders were confronted by not more than eight divisions out of the 13, plus one of cavalry, which Greece could mobilize but of which she could equip only ten for fighting. Not even numbers of airplanes made much difference, for Italian planes outnumbered the Greeks (even after the British based squadrons at Larissa, Athens) by at least 500 to 100, new planes versus old. And in artillery the Fascist advantage was estimated at 919 guns to less than 100.
Thermopylae in Reverse. 2,420 years ago, 1,400 Spartans, Thebans and Thespians, occupying a narrow mountain pass above the sea, were surprised from the rear by a large Persian detachment clambering around through the hills. Spartan King Leonidas and his men fought stubbornly for several hours, but all (except the Thebans, who surrendered) were annihilated. The Spartans at Thermopylae were great heroes but they lost the battle.
General Papagos' tactics of 1940 are basically the Persian tactics at Thermopylae and his troops too have repeatedly taken the long, hard way around through the mountains to attack the Italians from behind and above.
With their mechanized equipment, their heavier and more numerous artillery and their larger number of troops, the Italians naturally stuck to the roads, and the roads run through the valleys and the passes. General Papagos made use of the mountains by moving along the heights to outflank the Italians. His infantry, composed of mountaineers — all Greece is mountainous — knew exactly how to get through hills. Everything fitted.
Even the Greek shortage of artillery, particularly heavy guns, was turned to advantage. They dragged their light mountain pieces over rough trails and got into position where they could drop shells on Italians who could not see them. The effectiveness of these tactics was immense. Proud of their artillery, the Greeks thought it was an immense good omen when Përmet fell on the feast day of Saint Barbara, patroness of artillerymen.*
Only of simple equipment — rifles, hand grenades, bayonets — did the Greeks have reasonably adequate supplies, and of these they made the best. Military experts agree that the bayonet and hand-to-hand fighting are out-of-date in modern war, but the Greeks found use for them. Advancing through the mountains, they repeatedly stormed small positions held by Italian detachments who had been sent out to safeguard the flanks of columns on the roads below. Time and again, Greek bayonet and grenade proved conclusive.
The Finnlike toughness of the Greek soldiers was a final factor in what happened. The Italian peasant is not accustomed to a life of luxury, but Greek mountaineers live on even less. They ordinarily subsist on a little cheese, a few olives, goat's milk, a swallow of resinous wine, black bread and a few leeks. To them the hardship of mountain campaigning, far from field kitchens and services of supply, is hardly more than an inconvenience. The evzones or elite guards (who wear khaki kilts in battle, not their white dress fustanella and red pomponned slippers) are chosen for stature, and of them there are five regiments. The rest of the troops are wiry little men, averaging less than 5 ft. 5 in. Observers marveled at their endurance on long night marches up blizzardy mountains, through slushy defiles; their sleeping on cold rocks or in frozen ditches; their unfailing grins and cheery chatter before, during and after battles. In every way the poverty of Greece had given it strength and the Greek Command knew how to capitalize upon it.
The Course of Battle. With the fall of Porto Edda the Italians were left with only three ports to bring troops and supplies into Albania:
>> Valona, a windy harbor with two wharves with shallow draft.
>> Durazzo, a shallow harbor full of shoals, with one good pier.
>> San Giovanni di Medua, a primitive harbor, where ships anchor to a sunken hull.
Between them there is a connecting coast road, but the roads to the battleground (see map p. 29) lead diagonally into the interior with hardly a passable crossroad, so the Italian column operating in each valley is practically isolated from every other column and dependent on one sole route for supply. Greek supplies come up the other end of these roads, but they have some intercommunication via the lateral Corizza-Ioannina road.
Furthermore the Greeks, advancing on the mountain ridges, were in a position to attack the Italian lines of communications broadside on. The extreme Italian left, after yielding Pogradec and retreating up the west shore of Lake Ochrida, was in a particularly awkward position. Greek mules and shock troops pressed simultaneously along the Mokrë Mountain ridge and down the Devoll River Valley to try to cut those lines near Elbasan. Should they succeed, the Italian Ninth Army of the north would be in danger of encirclement, annihilation.
If this took place, the Greeks might be able to drive into the coastal plain. Whether it would profit them to do so will depend on whether the British can lend effective air support to prevent strong Italian reinforcements from being landed.
Whether the Italians will be able to form a strong defense line before they are pushed entirely out of the mountains remains to be seen. Even if they are not able to do so General Papagos may find it wiser to halt his advance on the edge of the higher mountains. In that region he would not lay his armies open to Italian mechanized attack; he might be able to cut the pipeline on which Italy depends for Albanian oil; he would also have strong defensive positions in the mountains; and his army would not be too far extended if the Germans come to the Italians' aid by marching down through Yugoslavia and Monastir to attack his rear.
Scapegoat elected for Mussolini's Albanian fiasco was white-haired, crinkle-eyed Marshal Pietro Badoglio, Chief of the General Staff, universally recognized as Italy's sagest soldier. He had opposed the Greek venture. Germany's Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel is also said to have opposed the Pindus push, recommended instead a sudden naval encirclement with multiple landing parties, such as Germany sprang on Norway. Being obliged to cons jit Keitel last month, to be told how to retrieve his subordinates' botch of a campaign which he never approved, must have made the 68-year-old Marshal swallow hard. Last week he retired "at his own request" from the service of a Duce whom he once offered to crush as an upstart.
Shoved in to replace Badoglio was Genera Ugo Cavallero, 60, a seasoned soldier, now double-chinned and pince-nezed, whom Mussolini trusted in 1925-28 as Under Secretary of War (Benito was Minister) and builder-upper of the modern Italian Army; again in 1938-39 as Army chief (under the Duke of Aosta) in Ethiopia. General Cavallero's acceptability to the Germans is high. He has had time out from his military career to make a success of running war industries (rubber, planes, steel). Lately he has been chief liaison man with the German General Staff. His promotion and the official fanfare that went with it did not, however, drown out much angry comment by well-beloved old Badoglio's adherents.
Next to go was General ("of the Army for War Merit") Cesare Maria de' Vecchi, Conte di Val Cismon, 56, mighty-mustached Governor of the Dodecanese Islands. One of the original Fascist quad-rumvir— of the 1922 March on Rome, De' Vecchi has even been mentioned as successor to II Duce, but he rated as an administrator rather than a soldier. In his stead, Mussolini appointed lean, hard-boiled General Ettore Bastico, 64, a veteran of the 1911 war with Turkey in which the islands were acquired, veteran also of World War I, Ethiopia, the Spanish Civil War, in which his "volunteers" captured Santander. Cut off from home by the British blockade out of Crete, General Bastico's new berth will not be cushy.
Third to the chopping block was Admiral Domenico Cavagnari, Chief of Staff and Under Secretary of the Navy. If Albania was bad, what has happened to the Italian Fleet is horrible — whittled down in each & every encounter it has had with the British. To replace Cavagnari, Mussolini chose Admiral Arturo Riccardi, with Admiral Angelo Jacchino taking the new post of Commander of the Fleet at Sea.
Meanwhile, not only had Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Turkey been emboldened (with sardonic Russia's encouragement, too) to stand off the Axis, but the war itself, the Germans' war, was increasingly unpopular in Italy. Last week's war budget of 14,000,000,000 lire with 700,000,000 additional for home relief, is not an immense sum in real money (total: $735,000,000). But it is a lot to a poor country where a soldier's wife gets only 1.20 lire (five cents) per day allowance and bread costs 1.50 lire a pound. General Papagos and the Greeks had not yet won a war, but they had put Mussolini in a difficult spot.
* Greek last week produced photostats of orders allegedly takes from Italian officers, announcing the offensive into Greece on Oct. 26. two days before hostilities were declared.
* Barbara, a beauteous Middle East virgin of the Third Century, was kept in a tower by her stern, heathen father, one Dioscorus. Be fore leaving on a journey, he ordered a bath house for her, with two windows. In his absence, she got the architect to make it three windows. When her father returned, she confessed the three windows were for the Trinity: she had become a Christian. Dioscorus had her tortured, sentenced to die, himself beheaded her. On his way home from court he was struck by lightning, burned to death. Thereafter people, especially gunners and miners, called on Barbara during thunderstorms, fires, explosions.
* The others: the late Italo Balbo and Michele Bianchi, and white-bearded Marshal Emilio De Bono.
(«Time», Monday, Jan. 06, 1941)
Winston Churchill, Man of the Year
Those who write history with words sometimes forget that history is made with words. The course of the 20th Century has been shaped by three stupendous movements. Each movement has been led by a man of words, who used words as instruments of policy, of persuasion and of power, who epitomized the character of his movement in words of historic simplicity.
> In the autumn of 1917, in Smolny Institute in Petrograd, Nikolai Lenin quietly said: We shall now proceed to construct the Socialist State.
> In the autumn of 1924, in Landsberg Fortress in Bavaria, Adolf Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf: I, however, resolved now to become a politician.
> On May 13, 1940, in his first statement as Prime Minister to the British House of Commons, Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill declared: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.
Those eleven burning words summed up the nature of Britain's war, turned Britain's back on the weaknesses of the past, set her face toward the unknown future.
Because of them the rest of that speech has been forgotten. It should not be forgotten, for it is not only a great example of Winston Churchill's eloquence, but the epitome of the movement which he leads.
After a brief report on the formation of his Government, Winston Churchill said: "You ask, what is our policy? I say it is to wage war by land, sea and air—war with all our might and with all the strength God has given us—and to wage war against a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy.
"You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word. It is victory. Victory at all costs. Victory in spite of all terrors.
Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival.
"Let that be realized. No survival for the British Empire, no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for the urge, the impulse of the ages, that mankind shall move forward toward his goal."
December 31, 1940, was not only the end of a year; it was the end of a decade —the most terrifying of the 20th Century.
The decade which ended in 1920 had seen a war that was to prove inconclusive. It had seen a revolution that was to lie quiescent after establishing itself in the largest country of the world. The decade which ended in 1930 was one of confusion and wasted energy—the wasted energy of gambling and gin-drinking in the U. S., of civil war in the Far East, of misdirected revolutionary effort from the U. S. S. R., of the attempt in Europe to hold resurgent peoples in check. The decade which ended this week saw the failure of that attempt and the unleashing of ruthless war. It saw the Far East's battle of warlords turn into a war for the supremacy of one people. It saw the U. S. turn to a feverish effort to protect itself and its neighbors. It saw, in the Battle of Britain, the life-&-death struggle of the greatest empire the world has ever known.
The Candidates of 1940. No artist, no athlete, no scientist, only a man whose place was on the stage of world politics, could be Man of 1940—last and stormiest year of a stormy decade.
The obvious U. S. candidate for that title was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who got himself elected for an unprecedented third term. But Franklin Roosevelt's other accomplishments of 1940 were not breathtaking.
On the score of leadership Wendell Willkie, who, although a businessman, convinced 22,500,000 voters that he spoke for a vital cause, performed more strikingly.
But in the end Willkie did not succeed in leading his crusade to victory.
The great accomplishments of 1940 belonged, if anywhere, across the waters as they did in 1938 when Man of the Year Hitler conquered without fighting in Austria and at Munich, as they did in 1939 when Man of the Year Stalin got half of Poland by a shrewd deal and a free hand to work his will on Finland. But 1940 did not fall like a plum into the lap of the Dictators. One of them, Benito Mussolini, thinking conquest was easy, proved the year's greatest flop. Another, Joseph Stalin, lost several teeth before he chewed off an edge of tough little Finland. A third, Adolf Hitler, was more successful.
Hitler during the year conquered five nations by arms—among them France, his most powerful opponent on the Continent—and subjugated part of the Balkans by threats. His conquests were on a par with those of Napoleon Bonaparte. But in one vital respect he failed. He did not master Britain, as scheduled, before the summer was out. He did not bring the war to a victorious conclusion. At year's end he had a tiring people at home, and a war abroad, a war which, unless he could end it swiftly, might ultimately prove Germany's undoing. All his victories had not saved him from jeopardy nor won him real success. Before the end of fateful 1941 Hitler may be Man of the Century —if Britain falls. If Britain still stands at the end of 1941, Adolf Hitler may be on his way to join the distinguished company of Benito Mussolini, Generals Gamelin and Almazán, and John Llewellyn Lewis, those men of high hopes who failed to come through in the crisis year of 1940.
Among other Europeans who had made their mark in 1940, one was short, squat General John Metaxas, Premier of the Greeks, who had made a monkey of Benito Mussolini. Another was Britain's Union Leader Ernest Bevin, who became a tower of strength in Britain's Government, who rallied Labor to Britain's cause, who became a symbol of the breakdown of class distinctions by which Britain achieved a new unity to fight her battle.
Yet the curious fact was that in most men's minds everywhere—even in Germany, to judge by Nazi denunciations—Winston Churchill outranked all others as Man of 1940. He came to power as Prime Minister just as the Blitzkrieg descended upon Britain's outposts. In his first few weeks in office they toppled about him like ninepins. Norway had already been lost. Then fell The Netherlands, Belgium, France.
Against this roll call of defeats, all the victories which Churchill gave his countrymen, aside from isolated successes at sea, were such that any Cockney could count them on his thumbs: 1) the gallant evacuation at Dunkirk, really a disaster in which, although upwards of 335,000 men were saved, the equipment of virtually the entire British Expeditionary Force was lost; 2) the Battle of the Marmarica which smashed the Italian Army in Egypt.
But Churchill was not without accomplishment. He gave his countrymen exactly what he promised them—blood, toil, tears, sweat—and one thing more: untold courage. It was the last that counted, not only in Britain but in democracies throughout the world.
One evening just before year's end millions of U. S. citizens sat silent before their radios and heard their President identify the future of their country with the future of Great Britain. But more than six months before, when France was tottering, it was Winston Churchill who raised his brandy-harsh voice and made that identification real, saying: "We shall defend our island whatever the cost may be; we shall fight on beaches, landing grounds, in fields, in streets and on the hills. We shall never surrender and even if, which I do not for the moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, will carry on the struggle until in God's good time the New World, with all its power and might, sets forth to the liberation and rescue of the Old."
Anglo-American. As a symbol of Anglo-American unity Winston Churchill is a paradox because his Americanism is more British than American—more British, even, than average-British. This seven-month child of a British peer and an American heiress went back to Elizabethan times to find his spiritual forebears; he grew to maturity with a stomach for strong food and drink, with a lust for adventure, with a tongue and pen that shaped the English language into the virile patterns of a Donne, a Marlowe or a Shakespeare. His father he worshiped, but never got close to; his mother he respectfully admired.
He had money, a name and a flair for publicity; he had Lord Randolph Churchill's "force, caprice and charm"; and he had an incomparable gift for words. During his years of eclipse between the two World Wars he was an articulate and consistent critic of British Empire policy, the most feared politician in Britain by the narrow-minded men who made that policy. He was the one man in the British Empire most obviously equipped to lead the Empire in war, and it was small credit to Britain that he was not chosen to lead it until the Empire rocked on its heels.
The year 1940 found the man, as well as the man the year. It found him speaking, not only as a Briton, but as an American, taking his words from Oscar Hammerstein and Edna Ferber: "These two great organizations of the English-speaking democracies, the British Empire and the United States, will have to be somewhat mixed up together in some of their affairs for mutual and general advantage. For my own part, looking out upon the future, I do not view the process with any misgivings. No one can stop it. Like the Mississippi, it just keeps rolling along. Let it roll. Let it roll on in full flood, inexorable, irresistible, to broader lands and better days."
War of Words. Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill are the two men alive in the world today who best understand the power of words as weapons of warfare. Their techniques are different. Hitler uses words as poison gas; Churchill uses them as a broadsword. Yet he, too, can be cunning. Last May he wrote a letter to Benito Mussolini couched in the sort of language Captain John Smith might have used to a savage chieftain:
"I ... feel a desire to speak words of good will to you, as chief of the Italian nation, across what seems to be a swiftly widening gulf. . . . We can, no doubt, inflict grievous injuries upon one another and maul each other cruelly and darken the Mediterranean with our strife. If you so decree, it must be so. But I declare that I have never been the enemy of Italian greatness, nor ever at heart the foe of the Italian lawgiver. . . . Down the ages, above all other calls, comes the cry that the joint heirs of Latin and Christian civilization must not be ranged against one another in mortal strife. Hearken to it, I beseech you in all honor and respect, before the dread signal is given. It will never be given by us." This plea failed, but last week Winston Churchill made it again, this time over the head of II Duce in a broadcast directly to the Italian people. This time he used his broadsword. He said: "One man and one man alone has ranged the Italian people in deadly struggle against the British Empire and has deprived Italy of the sympathy and intimacy of the United States of America. . . . One man has arrayed the trustees and inheritors of ancient Rome upon the side of the ferocious pagan barbarians. . . . There lies the tragedy of Italian history and there stands the criminal who has wrought the deed of folly and of shame." How many Italians hearkened to these words no one knows,* but it was necessary for King Vittorio Emanuele to make a plea for unity to his people and for Crown Princess Marie Jose publicly to join the Fascist Party.
The Men. Man-of-the-Year Churchill does not stand alone. Neither does Runner-up Hitler. Beside and behind Hitler stand the German armed forces, the superbly destructive machine fashioned by Goring, Brauchitsch, Raeder and hundreds of others. Beside and behind Churchill stands a very small man multiplied a millionfold. He is just an Englishman. He was born in the country, or in one of the big cities of the Midlands, or in a grey house in a London suburb. The hands that reared him were hard. His food was tepid or cold: butter and bread, jam and strong black tea, mutton and what was left over of the Sunday joint. His boyhood was tough. At school he was caned. He grew to know history in a simple way; he grew to love his King as he loved the mist in the park on a summer's morning, the hedges and the downs and the beaches.
But he never spoke of these things.
When the war came he did not like it.
For a moment he knew fear, then he lit his pipe and poured himself a whiskey.
When the blackout came he groused.
Churchill took over: the right man for the job. Then came Dunkirk: a bloody shame.
Then the stuff fell: St. Paul's, the club, women and children, London afire. He got mad, but he did not show it. There was too much to do: business to carry on, children to be sent to the country, people to be dug out of shelters, sleep to be got somehow. A bloody nuisance.
On his behavior hung the shape of the future. His civilized toughness, his balanced courage and his simple pride altered the course of history in 1940. Without him there could have been no Churchill.
"Their Finest Hour." Great history makes great literature. Seven years after the Spanish Armada an Englishman wrote: This royal throne of kings, this scept'red isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise, This fortress built by Nature for herself Against infection and the hand of war, This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall, Or as a moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of less happier lands; This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England. . . .
In times of action literature is the words of men of action. Afterward come the poets. To the small men of Britain in 1940 Winston Churchill spoke words that may live as long as Shakespeare's: Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duty and so bear ourselves that if the British Commonwealth and Empire last for a thousand years, men will still say "This was their finest hour!"
* National Broadcasting Co. picked up British Broadcasting Corp.'s broadcast of the speech in Italian, rebroadcast it over short wave to Italy.
(«Time», Monday, Jan. 27, 1941)
Dominick the Greek
Last week, while the skirted Evzones hammered at Mussolini's Albanian Army, the greatest Greek since antiquity did his belated bit for Greece. For a great Greek, he was practically a modern, having been born on the island of Crete exactly 400 years ago. His name: Domenikos Theotokopoulos, nicknamed El Greco ("The Greek"). His aid to embattled Greece: a one-man show (the first and finest in the U. S. in many years) of 18 of his paintings at Manhattan's Knoedler Galleries, the proceeds to go to the Greek War Relief Association. The fanatic fire of his ghostlike saints and flame-licked madonnas made many a gallerygoer stop, look, and look again.
Like many a later Greek, Domenikos Theotokopoulos as a young man found Greece too small for him, went to seek his fortune elsewhere. But Domenikos Theotokopoulos never forgot he was a Greek. Haughty, aloof and fiercely independent, he went to Italy, studied with Titian, warmed his hands at the dying flames of the Italian Renaissance. He got a little too close to the fire. When he claimed arrogantly that he himself could do a better job on the Last Judgment, than Michelangelo, "a good fellow, but with no idea of painting," Italy's art world became too hot for him. He moved to Spain.
In the dry, rocky town of Toledo, Painter Theotokopoulos found himself on the rip-roaring crest of the Spanish Inquisition. Gaunt Dominican monks prowled the streets, hunting heretics. Middle-aged St. Theresa, businesslike in her hair shirt, wrote, declaimed, founded convents by the dozen. King Philip II's weedy, emaciated aristocrats, shunning the world with proud incompetence, vain of blood and sharp of feature, were furnishing Miguel de Cervantes with ideas for his best-seller Don Quixote.
Domenikos Theotokopoulos didn't like the Inquisition. But he was a devout Catholic, and Toledo's faded, invalid nobles, Quixotic bishops and hagridden monks were pigments for his palette. Himself a mystic, he painted the tortured, visionary aspirations of his subjects, seared the flesh further from their hollow cheeks, elongated their bodies till they looked like trembling candle flames, lit like flickering shadows in the glow of the Inquisition. The best painter in all Spain, Theotokopoulos became wealthy, got himself a 24-room palace, a beautiful wife named Doña Jerónima de las Cuevas, a scholar's library, musicians from Venice to play for him at mealtimes. But to the Spaniards he was never a real Spaniard. They called him, condescendingly, ''El Greco."
Toledo's intellectuals and painters treated him like royalty, but Spain's King Philip II didn't like him, and Toledo's ordinary citizens thought his weird, restive, distorted canvases the work of a madman. Critics suggested that he was astigmatic, if not insane. When he died in 1614 his fame was already on the wane, and soon his greatest paintings were tucked away in dim sacristies and behind altars. The flashy, flattering portraits of brilliant Court-painter Velásquez became the rage, and El Greco was forgotten. Forgotten he remained for nearly 300 years.
By foreigners this foreigner was rediscovered. In the 1870s and '80s, when French Impressionists like Manet, Monet, Pissarro and Sisley were experimenting on new methods of painting light and color, travelers began to notice El Greco again. The famous German critic Julius Meier-Graefe went to Spain to write a book praising Velásquez, wrote one in 1910 praising El Greco instead. French Post-Impressionists like Cézanne, abstractionists like Picasso, studied him for ideas. U. S. collectors began paying fabulous prices for his pictures. Because Europe's great museums had not bothered to secure many of his works, Americans were able to buy some 55 authentic (plus scores of spurious) El Grecos.
Today, Greek-born Domenikos Theotokopoulos is the most modern and still the most discussed of old masters. But of El Greco himself little record remains. No authenticated portrait of him exists. The site of his 24-room palace in Toledo is disputed, and where Domenikos Theotokopoulos' bones were buried no one knows.
(«Time», Monday, Feb. 10, 1941)
Wanted: Bone and Gristle
In Belgrade last fortnight a German medical specialist boarded a fast Greek military plane for Athens. The chief surgeon of the British Mediterranean Fleet was rushing simultaneously in the same direction. Both were bound for the bedside of Greece's Premier, General John Metaxas. Both arrived too late.
Only after his death did Greece announce that for two weeks its stocky little 69-year-old Premier-Dictator had been fighting for life. A tonsillectomy on Jan. 18 was followed by blood poisoning and finally uremia. When three blood transfusions failed to revive him, a destroyer was dispatched to the Island of Tinos for the miracle-working Holy Icon of the Virgin which 25 years before had been brought to the bedside of King Constantine.
To a nation unaware that its leader was even ill, King George II proclaimed: "John Metaxas, who for five years governed my country at my side with adroitness and self-sacrifice, who placed his stamp upon the nation by his luminous intellect, his productive energy, who gave new life to the national feeling and stood up courageously against the enemy's calumnies, has left our midst to take his place in the chorus of illustrious figures of Greek history."
"Little Moltlce." Life for "Little John" Metaxas had more ups & downs than a scenic railway. At the Potsdam Military Academy (Germany's West Point), where he wore high heels to increase his height, his brilliance in solving strategy problems earned him the nickname "Little Moltke." From school he plunged into that prelude of World War I, the Balkan War. When war exploded throughout Europe two years later, he supported the pro-German faction in Greece so vehemently that when Greece finally chose her side, he was escorted aboard a seedy freighter and carried to Corsica as prisoner of the French.
Back home after the war, he plugged for restoration of the Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg monarchy. George II, living in genteelly poor exile, had indicated his willingness to take his old job back and restoration fever grew. Little John glimpsed victory, but at the last moment powerful old General George Kondylis neatly elbowed him aside, brought George back to the throne, and himself became first commoner. Only a falling out between George and the General, followed by an opportune death, finally dropped the plum of premiership into Little John's lap in 1936.
Backed by seven parliamentary votes, opposed by 293, he could not risk an election, and prevailed upon George to proclaim martial law and dissolve Parliament. In the face of violent public wrath the King argued, "Little John gets things done," and slipped off for a fortnight until his new premier had proved his mettle.
"Sparta, not Athens, is our model," proclaimed Little John, but he took political cues from Berlin and Rome. He ruthlessly abrogated all civil liberties and constitutional guarantees, created a secret police and Nazified youth organization, filled prisons and concentration camps with political opponents, drove hundreds into exile, purged others with liberal doses of castor oil. Public performance of classical dramas extolling freedom was prohibited and Pericles' funeral oration was banned in schools. He spent the Kingdom's money to build an Army on the Prussian model and to maintain a police force large enough to inspire love of government in the nation. In his Cabinet he made himself Premier, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of War, Minister of Marine, Air Minister, Minister of Education. In 1938 he proclaimed himself "Premier for life." But unlike the Axis dictators, he fomented no wars, rarely made speeches, indulged in no pageantry, maintained no sycophants to shout his praises. He sought friendship with all his Balkan neighbors and cemented a cordial entente with Greece's traditional enemy, Turkey. He was a hardheaded, hardworking, unpretentious administrator in shell-rimmed spectacles who rested his claim to authority on the fact that he got things done.
He was content if the Greek people called him "Uncle Johnny." He saw in Italy and Germany congenial partners and encouraged cultural and commercial relations with the Axis until its blundering southern member stepped on his toes and forced him into the British camp.
Ever the military strategist at heart, he planned theoretical field campaigns against all his neighbors in the event of an attack on Greece, studied the weaknesses and flaws in every European war machine.
Italy's war in Ethiopia and her Spanish blunders provided him invaluable information, and the construction of Italian highways through Albania to the Greek frontier revealed Mussolini's plan of conquest.
When Der Tag came, Metaxas let the Italians filter through mountain passes almost to loannina; then sent his Evzones, born mountaineers, trained in the manner of German Alpine troops, against them.
Clinging "flowing" to the around peaks, positions that avoiding did not valleys, fall quickly, attacking constantly, his tough little Army soon cleared Greece of all but dead and captive Italians, carried the war into Albania. Deprived of its great strategist, Greece still has his plans worked out in minutest detail. Future success will depend on the ability of Commander in Chief Field Marshal Alexander Papagos to execute them without the lashing vitality of Banker Little at John the behind him.
Banker at the Helm. Metaxas' death opened at least four political possibilities: dictatorship of a successor; dictatorship of George II; a constitutional monarchy; a republic. The selection of tall, dignified Governor of the National Bank of Greece Alexander Korizis as Premier did not settle the question. Greeks last week were inclined to view Banker Korizis as a leader in name only. King George, who had played at kingship and run away from responsibility, had become by elimination the strong man of Greece, and the banker was the King's man.
Alexander Korizis is better-known for his impeccable sartorial appearance, his ringing speeches on "service," and his national welfare work than for political attainments. He grew up in the National Bank of Greece and, except for two short vacations to become Minister of Finance in 1933 and Minister of Public Assistance in 1936, devoted his life to banking. He is not "a burly man of bone and gristle," the kind demanded by King George for modern Greek leadership, and his only military experience was as an artillery captain in the Balkan War of 1912-13.
The Greek nation wept last week as it buried Little John in a simple marble tomb just below the Acropolis. War had changed political hatreds and passions into admiration, even affection. In his funeral oration, Premier Korizis said: "You have opened the road to victory. We shall march along inflexible and determined. We shall reach the end." Greece would have been more confident had Little John left at least one strong man to succeed him.
(«Time», Monday, Feb. 10, 1941)
Thirty-five wounded Greek soldiers had just been put to bed in Athens Hospital one day last week when a nurse confided to some of them that old John Metaxas was dead (see p. 29). "Put us back in the ambulances," they said. "Send us back to the front." The Italians entirely miscalculated the effect of the Premier's death on Greek morale. Thinking the Greeks would go into a funk, they launched the heaviest counter-attacks of the whole war. They threaded tanks into the valleys, sent flame throwers onto the heights, and with steadier German hands to guide them, set strafing planes to hedgehop at risky low levels, to dive on causeways, bridges, gun emplacements. For the first time in months Rome was able to announce the capture of positions and prisoners.
But the Italian guess was bad. Greek morale took a new lease. Determinedly the Greeks said that action of Kelcyre had now "lost the character of a movement of purely local importance." Greek forces rallied and hit Italian counter attacks with counter-attacks of their own.
With accurate artillery and automatic small-arms fire they stopped tanks, routed infantry, even took new heights. At week's end Athens spokesmen confidently predicted the imminent capture of Tepeleni, key to the coastal front; and on the northern front Greek Sanitary Corps mopping up the battlefield buried 650 Italians.
It looked as if the Italians were putting heart into the fight, and still the Greeks pushed them around. But even after these successes, Greek soldiers did not enjoy looking into the future. They saw a new courage in the Italian Army, they saw unprecedented risks taken, and firmness foreign to the enemy. On a limited front they had broken attacks in which there seemed to be German assistance. But if that assistance grew, if it struck at Greece's spine near Salonika, then the wonderful war might become a sadder thing.
(«Time», Monday, Mar. 17, 1941)
Even Without the Turks
The stuff that myths are made of was being spun out in Greece last week. The Greeks spoke and acted like a race of giants 20 feet tall, hurlers of thunderbolts, crushers of men. Far from being daunted by the noisy threat which was giving Germany victory after bloodless victory in the Balkans, the Government declared: "Greece has shown in the most definite way that any idea of armistice would find her disdainfully hostile." The heart was still fiercely hot in Greece's Army; it launched a violent attack along the entire central section of the Albanian Front, and within 48 hours announced the capture of positions which the Italians had spent months fortifying, and of 2,200 men.
But Greek valor did not entirely erase Greek realism. The Greeks had their promises from the British (see p. 26); perhaps the British would put on a show at Salonika which would help. But something else which would also help would be Turkish belligerency. Last week the Greeks were reported to have asked Turkey whether belligerency were possible, and if so, how much, where, when.
The Turkish answer was conditioned by some very concrete considerations. By terrain, by training and by materiel, Turkey is constrained to think only of defense.
Therefore, unless the British were prepared to participate generously in a Turkish effort, the greatest hope the Greeks could have—a Turkish stroke at the German flank in Bulgaria—was not probable.
The Turks would treat any attacker to a first-rate shindy. European Turkey, the small patch of land north of the Dardanelles hinged on Istanbul, is divided from Bulgaria by ranges of formidable hills. In them the Turks have spent four years maneuvering extensively. They also have two fortified lines: the Maritsa Line, running parallel to the river of that name from the Aegean to Edirne (Adrianople) and from there to the Black Sea, and the Chatalja Line, about 20 miles north of the Bosporus. Behind these run The Straits. To man her defenses Turkey has an Army of about 25 divisions, two armored brigades, four cavalry divisions, and about a half-dozen fixed garrisons—about 420,000 regulars in all.
Turkish equipment is poor. They have outmoded French-made Schneider 7 5-mm. artillery, some Mauser rifles, obsolete 105-mm. howitzers, German 1888 Mannlicher rifles, less than 100 anti-aircraft guns, a few out-of-date Russian-made six-ton tanks and six-wheel armored cars, perhaps 400 planes, mostly British Bristols, German Heinkels, U. S. Martins.
Cognizance of these factors—and the Greeks have assuredly been cognizant of them for a long time—made the tough talk in Athens and the tough acting in Albania seem all the more supermanly.
Even Italian Virginio Gayda, who habitually talks taller than all the Seven Hills of Rome, not only stopped trumpeting about the Greek war having been won by diplomacy, not only stopped talking about the huge force the British were supposed to be landing at Salonika, but even lent credence to "reports in Egypt" that now the Greeks were going to help the British in Libya. He wrote: "The British ... as well as Greek troops must abandon Balkan aid and rush to the weakened, endangered Wavell Army."
(«Time», Monday, Apr. 21, 1941)
Weakness Defies Strength
(See Cover [Dusan Simovitch]) Through the slow winter months Britain and her friends had nursed their little hope, and watched it grow. They had made much of Adolf Hitler's big mistake—not invading Britain straightway after Dunkirk. They had seen the R.A.F. stand up to the Luftwaffe. They had relished the Greeks' brave stand against bad Italian timing. They had let themselves enjoy, and enjoy again, like lingering bouquets of taste, triumphs in Libya and on the Mediterranean. They had heard noises of the U.S. stirring in its sleep. They even began to talk of a turning point.
Last week, in a matter of days, not months, in a campaign of hours, not weeks, they saw their hope badly shaken. A few days of war in the Balkans and in Libya, though they were days in which small forces forged huge swords out of nothing but courage, were nevertheless days in which the gains of long, hard months were suddenly — incredibly suddenly — threatened.
More than ever, Nazi speed was the shocking thing. This time it was more shocking than in previous campaigns be cause the terrain had been advertised as more or less Blitzproof. And despite this supposed handicap, the Nazis went breathtakingly fast.
In 1939 the Germans cleaned up Poland in 27 days. Last year Denmark and Central Norway fell in 23 days, the Low Countries and France in 38 days. When this spring's battle was joined, everyone thought that Belgrade, lying in an open plain, would fall. But not even the gloomiest super-realists believed that Nish and Skoplje and the whole strategic Vardar Valley — places protected by formidable hills — would lie under Nazi treads in two days ; or that the fall of Salonika would be accomplished in three ; or that the Serbian hills could be traversed and Albania reached in six. The speed of the Nazi recapture of eastern Libya was even more terrifying (see p. 32}.
Divisions to Divide. The fundamental rule of German strategy, whether in war, politics, mass psychology or terrorization, is to break the opposition into weak frag ments. In war especially, the Nazi technique is to divide and then subdivide, to cut and recut. until the enemy's communi cations, leadership, force and plan are hopelessly decimated and disorganized.
This rule rigidly defined the Nazis' plan of action in the Balkans: cut Yugoslavia from Greece, pro-Nazi Croatia from anti-Nazi Serbia, pregnable Thrace from defensible central Greece, the tough Greeks from the tough British.
In drawing up their plans, the Germans had first to compute the odds. In Yugoslavia they saw facing them some 16 fairly well trained infantry divisions, three moun tain divisions, two cavalry divisions, 16 frontier battalions, plus a few thousand relatively green reservists; an Air Force of perhaps 900 planes, but without reserve strength; an aggressive leader in the per son of General Dusan Simovitch, who had built the best air force in the Balkans virtually singlehanded — altogether a potentially formidable but completely un tried force of about 650,000 men. They counted a Greek force of at most 15 divisions totaling at most 300,000. Of these, over half had their hands full in Albania ; a division or two manned the defenses of Thrace and perhaps three were available to help the British; the rest were reserves.
They reckoned that the British had been able to land at most four divisions, at most 100,000 men — tough, tan, eager, hap py, seasoned Australians, New Zealanders and Britons, spoiling to avenge Dunkirk.
If all these enemies could get together, they would constitute an army of about 1,300,000: an army greater in numbers al though weaker in air strength, training and mechanization than the German force in the Balkans. Therefore the strategy of division was especially imperative. First and most urgent division: Yugoslavs from Greeks and British.
Yugoslavia: First Phase. As the battle opened, by far the heaviest German onslaughts came from Bulgaria, into southeastern Yugoslavia, through four passes (see map, p. 31). These spearheads were assigned to push across Yugoslavia and meet the Italians erupting from Albania.
Ironically, the Yugoslavs, who had not had staff talks with the British and had not even had time to dispose their troops, had stationed just one division of supposedly pro-German Croat reservists in the mountains facing Bulgaria.
The Croats did the best they could, but all kinds of terror came out to meet them.
Men on motorcycles bumped along the donkey paths beside each boulder-strewn rivulet bed, and from the sidecars bullets streamed mechanically. Behind them came curious little tanks which could climb any of the treeless slopes: tiny affairs, looking like hybrids between U.S. Army "Blitzbuggies" and Brengun carriers, clanking along on their treads at 25 m.p.h.
(but able to let down rubber-tired wheels and do 50 on roads), belching fire from both their 47-mm. cannon and 20-mm. machine guns.
Behind them came heavier tanks and trucks full of shock troops and busses full of engineers and men with artillery on muleback and just plain infantry. Wherever the Croats knotted together, men dressed in asbestos floated by parachute from the sky, and held nozzles which threw terrifying flames.
The Croats fell back; the Nazis poured through into the Vardar Valley. One spearhead turned down the Vardar towards Salonika, while others pressed on toward Albania.
Dusan Simovitch knew that his battle —as long as it was organized warfare, not just guerrilla fighting—would be won or lost by aircraft. As far back as 1937 he wrote: "If we wish to preserve the political independence of our dear Fatherland, which was created with the blood of the best and most worthy sons of our nation ... it is essential that we should have a strong and powerful and independently organized modern aviation." He was not always popular with the politicians but being tall, handsome, grey-haired, brown-eyed, particularly gallant and unusually slim for a middle-aged Serb, was always popular with the ladies. But he made himself indulge in politics for the sake of building an adequate Air Force. He was just beginning to get results when war came to his land.
Last week, in a few hours, he saw the bloom blown off his creation by the Luftwaffe's evil heat. In the first day of fighting the Germans claimed 89 enemy planes: 54 ruined on the ground, 35 shot down.
Each day thereafter they claimed bags of over 15. General Simovitch's 21 airfields were pocked, his hangars burned, his fuel dumps blasted.
According to New York Times Correspondent Cyrus L. Sulzberger, German bombing did just what it was intended to do: snarl communications and service. Wrote Sulzberger, after a spectacular three-day flight from Belgrade to Greece, of the scene after the first raids on Skoplje:
"Their bombing had been exceedingly accurate, although most of the bombs were of small caliber. Therefore, the damage was not permanently serious, but of a nature to disrupt all regular services. The power station was out of order. There was neither electric light nor telephone. The radio station had ceased functioning.
Army headquarters was knocked about and had been transferred. Telephone cables lay twisted in the road. Glass was piled everywhere and occasional craters testified to the effect of the bombing." With such damage from the air, and without any properly organized resistance in all of southern Yugoslavia, there was little that could be done to stop the in credibly daring German cross-country dash. Certainly the Yugoslav attack on northern Albania, capturing 100 men in about the time that the Nazis were taking 100,000 in Thrace and Yugoslavia was not the answer. At noon on the sixth day, German motorcycle patrols met the van guard of a pompous Italian parade (the Arezzo and Florence Divisions of regulars, a regiment of Bersaglieri, a legion of Blackshirts) which had succeeded in push ing about six miles out of Albania against little resistance except an unseasonal snow storm.
Greece: First Phase. Before they manned their guns on the Thracian front, the devout Greek soldiers asked for the last sacrament. They were not only resigned to death; many expected it. Then they went into the forts which, arranged in depth, were called the Metaxas Line.
The late, tough-minded General John Metaxas would have been proud of the use they made of his bastions.
The first Nazi blow was struck at about the same time as the main attacks were biting into southeastern Yugoslavia, in Rupel Pass. There the Greeks fought hard, using the same tactics of cross fire as had proved so deadly against the Italians in the Pindus Mountains. But the fight was vain: the Nazi break-through in the Vardar Valley, and the prong which had then turned eastward towards Salonika, threatened the troops' rear. It became necessary to abandon Salonika.
Nevertheless the Greeks in Thrace, who had death on their minds, fought on, both in Rupel Pass and farther east. In many forts they fought until every man was wiped out. In Fort Perithori, they abandoned the upper works, retired underground, and conked Nazis one by one as they tried to enter. Altogether the Nazis claimed 80,000 Greeks in Thrace; possibly there were not more than 30,000. As they were gradually cleaned out, the Metaxas Line took its place in the rank of sad, futile names: Maginot Line, Mannerheim Line, Albert Canal, Carol's Line.
The British tried to rationalize the loss of Salonika, calling the town a military nonentity, pointing to the fact that its fall had been so certainly expected that for three whole weeks tankers had hauled gasoline away, and since then sailing vessels and steamers had taken out all kinds of stores, and the wounded and helpless had been evacuated. This was true, for the British who until three weeks ago had little hope of Yugoslavia's fighting had disposed their limited forces further west in the obvious expectation that it would be foolish to try to hold Salonika. Yet the British themselves once called the town, not carelessly, "the gateway of two continents." Possession of the port gave the Nazis their first outlet on the Mediterranean. They could use it to grim effect as a base for planes and submarines.
In these early stages of fighting the British were not engaged at all. Dienst ans Deutschland sneered: "German quarters consider the supposition not unfounded that the English leadership at the present initiatory stages ... is taking the precaution of not losing contact with a suitable harbor for retreat." The supposition was correct. In the face of German superiority in strength, the British leadership—in the person of Lieut. General Sir Henry Maitland ("Jumbo") Wilson, General WavelPs right-hand man in the winter campaign in Africa—was not so foolish as to be inveigled into the error of Flanders: being drawn into hostile territory only to have communications cut to the rear.
Yugoslavia: Second Phase. "Germany's early successes cannot discourage us. Though the present situation is difficult, I believe the justice of our cause, the very of our Army, and the help of our powerful allies will assure us victory. . . . . Our troops are concentrating on main battle lines to check the enemy's advance." Thus spoke General Dusan Simovitch— a man not given to loud and hollow talk over the Yugoslav radio in the evening the sixth day of fighting. Germany's early successes had been undeniably brilliant. Before the Yugoslavs had even been able to take battle stations, the Nazis had virtually completed the first phase of Blitzkrieg—the wild, daring dash for centers of communication and command. And they had done this just as fast as if the terrain were flat as Denmark. But Dusan Simovitch had been in tight spots before.
An extraordinary tradition in the Serb Army is for cadets to shut themselves in their messroom, turn out the lights, draw revolvers, and shoot it out. Dusan Simovitch, who passed this test of courage with flying colors, must have felt in much the same position last week. Now he hoped— as did the Greeks and British to the east—to prove that the point at which Blitzkrieg can fail in mountainous country is the second phase: consolidation.
In their second try, the Yugoslavs wrote off the northern provinces, including the capital. There they met the several advancing columns, including Italian and Hungarian drives, with nothing more than rear-guard actions. They were not impressed when the Germans, having bombed Belgrade to ashes and dust, occupied the capital with ceremony.
The Yugoslav Army, though cut in places, was still in being. German claims that it was annihilated were not supported by German claims of prisoners: only 40,000. And so the Yugoslavs, in divided units operating as colossal guerrilla parties, using the French tactics of artillery preparation and assault which Dusan Simovitch learned at St. Cyr, the elite French war college, began to counterattack in exactly the opposite direction from their pre-battle expectation. Their major effort was southward, into the Serbian hills. They counterattacked near Kragujevac, General Simovitch's birthplace — traditional home of the Obrenovitch dynasty. Their strongest push was into a rugged defile known as Kachanik Pass. There they claimed to have destroyed 90 German tanks, to have taken great toll of man power, to have checked the German drive.
In the hills Serbia's famous Komitaji (guerrillas) went into action.
Greece: Second Phase. In Blitzkrieg, columns which meet resistance turn aside, seeking weakness. More or less stopped at Kachanik Pass, some Germans turned southward to join others who were al ready assaulting the junction of Albania, Yugoslavia and Greece. Here they looked for an opportunity to drive a wedge be tween the main Greek force in Albania and the main British force, established in a circling line from Mount Olympus to Fiorina and Lake Ochrida.
The Nazis took Monastir Gap from its few Yugoslav defenders and drove about 25 miles into Greece. In the opening engagements that then occurred the Greeks and British came back at them with fury, and with daring to match daring. In the flat plains between Monastir (Bitolj) and Fiorina, British engaged Germans in the first mechanized encounter since Dunkirk.
The Germans withdrew, at least temporarily. One British advance patrol behind the German spearhead caught a Nazi infantry unit in busses, and annihilated it.
The Germans soon pulled in their horns while their patrols prodded for vulnerable spots, and the Luftwaffe went to work on the Allies' communications. The chief British-Greek ports of supply were Peirae-us, the port of Athens, and Volos, the port for Larissa. Both are inadequate. In the basin of Peiraeus, ships have to be parked by hawser, like so many cars in a tiny square. And these inadequate roadsteads were connected with the front by just one single-track railroad, by just one good road.
In wave after wave — sometimes 16 waves in quick succession — the Nazis went for the ports. This week they claimed that dive-bombers had sunk 30,000 tons of British transports in Peiraeus. They went for freight trains hauling heavy tanks, heavy trucks with enormous anti aircraft trailers, radio cars, searchlight trailers, troop-carrying busses. They went, carelessly, for hospital units. They went, in blissful ignorance, for lorries carrying the harmless stuff which could only be going to a British force in the midst of a desperate stand: tins of Australian beef, cases of toothpicks, cartons of boot polish.
The Outlook. These efforts showed that the Germans were preparing for an attack on the line from the coast of Albania to Fiorina, to the Aegean near Mount Olympus—the line on which the Greeks and British had prepared to make their major stand. The Greeks surged down from Salonika on the eastern end of the line, and this week the British announced that they had been obliged to retreat—but not without inflicting heavy casualties.
The Greeks, observing that the enemy was concentrating supplies in the Monastir sector, announced that their troops were "impatiently awaiting the first opportunity of getting at the Germans." Grimly the Yugoslavs pointed out: "It is one thing to conquer the Komitajis' territory; it is another thing to conquer the Komitaji." This week was Orthodox Holy Week, and devout men like General Simovitch (who was not too devout, however, to divorce his first wife and marry one of the handsomest women in Yugoslavia) threw a religious fervor into their fighting.
Yet fervor is not a substitute for strength. Cut off from reinforcement from his allies, cut off from any supplies—ammunition, guns and tanks—cut off in fact from any aid except such little air support as the British could send from Greece's small waterlogged airfields, General Simovitch might well have regarded his military position as nearly hopeless. But it is a Serbian feeling that men die in fighting, but nations die only in yielding.
(«Time», Monday, Apr. 28, 1941)
For the second time this month a Balkan Premier looked into the future and could see in it no solution but his own destruction. Fifteen days after Hungary's Count Paul Teleki had killed himself rather than break his country's pledge of friendship to Yugoslavia (TIME, April 14), Alexander Korizis of Greece read the hourly tale of Greek and British retreats in the northern mountains, heard the air-raid alarms as Nazi planes swooped over Athens, chose to die by his own hand.
Lean, grey-haired, 56-year-old Alexander Korizis was a banker by profession, a humanitarian by choice, a statesman by force of circumstance. Brought into the ,inner circle of the Government by his mentor and hero, General John Metaxas, in 1936, he served as Minister of Public Assistance. On his deathbed in January, General Metaxas named Korizis as his successor, left him the difficult war with Italy, the growing threat of German invasion. For 80 days Korizis did his best to defend Greece, killed himself when he felt he could do no more.
Athens gave the unsoldierly man who had filled a soldier's job the honor of a hurried military funeral. Behind the armored car that pulled his coffin marched generals, admirals, an honor guard of cadets. As the procession neared the cathedral an air raid started and the funeral service was read to a crackling background of anti-aircraft fire.
There was little time for mourning. At week's end amiable, Gable-eared King George II announced that he had taken over the Government, proclaimed a "national victory" Government, with himself as Premier, Vice Admiral Alexander Sakellariou as Vice Premier. Next day he turned the Premiership over to old-line banker-politico Emmanuel Tsouderos. That the new Government could stop the flood of the Nazi invasion few could hope, but George VI's cousin George II evidently intended to stick to the end.
Σημειώσεις: Τὴν ἰδέα γιὰ τὸ παρὸν ἀφιέρωμα μοῦ ἔδωσε ἡ δημοσίευσις τοῦ φίλου «ἀπὸ τὴν Μαντζουρία»: «Ἡ Ἑλλάδα στὸ ἐξώφυλλο τοῦ TIME τῆς 28ης Ὀκτωβρίου 1940».
Ἡ Ἑλλὰς τοῦ ΟΧΙ
Φειδίας Ν. Μπουρλᾶς
Ἀθῆναι, 8 Ὀκτωβρίου 2011