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Oxi Day and Warriors of Greece in World War II

Oxi Day 01At 3:00 am on October 28, 1940 in the early days of World War II when all of Europe was already under Axis occupation an ultimatum was presented to the Greek government by Fascist Italian dictator Benito Mussolini demanding that Greece immediately allow Axis forces to enter Greek territory and occupy certain unspecified strategic locations or otherwise face war. An answer was expected within three hours, but that timeline made no difference—the answer would be the same no matter how long they were given. On that cherished day in Greek history Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas strongly rejected Italy’s request with a single laconic word:  “OXI” (NO in English). In response to this refusal an embarrassed and enraged Mussolini ordered his troops already standing by in Albania, then an Italian protectorate, to attack at once. The much larger, more modernized, better equipped and fully prepared Italian Army crossed over the Greek border at 5:30 am thereby plunging Greece into World War II. 

When the over-confident Italian army entered Greece they expected an easy victory but instead met an enemy who was preparing to deliver a response that would devastate the Italian battle plan. As the columns of Italian infantry and tanks advanced through the valleys into Greece, the Greek forces converging from all over northern Greece went into action. Every able-bodied Greek man came down from the surrounding mountains, where they had been monitoring the troop movements, and attacked from all sides, stopping the invasion dead in its tracks.

In one of the most amazing episodes in military history, the Greek Army trapped the Italian 3rd Alpine Division in the mountains and shocked the Italian High Command by annihilating the unit and taking over 5,000 prisoners. By the middle of November the Greek Army had stopped the Italians from going any further into Greece and then went on the offensive driving the Italian Army out of Greece and back up into Albania. The panic-stricken Italian army was retreating in a disorganized rout. 

At the end of December the victorious Greek Army had not only completely repulsed the Italian invasion but had gone on to cross over the border pushing the Italian forces out of the southern third of Albania completely and vowing to continue marching all the way to Rome! On December 28, Mussolini had to acknowledge that his grandiose vision to show Hitler how Italy could easily conquer Greece was a complete failure and he was forced to ask for German assistance before the Greeks could do any more damage or advance further. Hitler, furious that Mussolini had attempted to invade Greece against his orders now had to rescue the defeated Italians.

This amazing Greek victory over the Italians became known as The Epic of 1940 to the Greeks and to the rest of the world as the first ever defeat of the Axis powers that gave them reason to hope that the aggression could actually be halted.

At the end of the war, German officers on trial at Nuremburg had commented that if the invasion of Russia had taken place on schedule early in the spring of 1941 instead of at the end of June, they would have succeeded in conquering the Soviet Union before the harsh winter of 1941 which proved to be the only thing capable of stopping the German advance. Field Marshall Keitel, who was the Nazi Chief of Staff of the German army said bitterly, “The unbelievably strong resistance of the Greeks delayed by at least two or more vital months the German attack against Russia; if we did not have this long delay the outcome of the war would have been different on the Eastern Front and in the war in general and others would have been accused and would be occupying this seat as defendants today.”

After the war there were 10% fewer Greeks alive than when the war started and the overall devastation of the country took years to recover from, but this small country showed the world at a time when it mattered most that freedom is not free, but worth fighting for.

The sacrifices made by the Greek nation ultimately changed the course of history and contributed to preventing the evils of Fascism and Nazism from dominating the world.     

Oxi Day is celebrated every year in Greece and throughout the many Greek communities around the world on October 28. 

"Until now we used to say that the Greeks fight like heroes. Now we shall say: The heroes fight like Greeks."
-Winston Churchill (From a speech he delivered from the BBC in the first days of the Italian invasion of Greece during WWII that was ferociously repulsed by undermanned, poorly equipped but patriotic, hard-core Greek guerilla fighters)

"For the sake of historical truth I must verify that only the Greeks, of all the adversaries who confronted us, fought with bold courage and highest disregard of death."
-Adolph Hitler (From a speech he gave at the Reichstag, 4 May 1941) after his  previously unbeaten storm troopers suffered tremendous casualties in their battle for Greece.

"The word heroism I am afraid does not render the least of those acts of self-sacrifice of the Greeks, which were the defining factor in the victorious outcome of the common struggle of the nations, during World War II, for the human freedom and dignity. If it were not for the bravery of the Greeks and their courage, the outcome of World War II would be undetermined."
-Winston Churchill (speech to British Parliament, 24 April 1941)

"You fought unarmed and won, small against big. We owe you gratitude, because you gave us time to defend ourselves. As Russians and as people we thank you." 
-Moscow, Radio Station when Hitler attacked the U.S.S.R.

Oxi Day 02"I am sorry because I am getting old and I shall not live long enough to thank the Greek People, whose resistance decided World War II."
-Joseph Stalin (From a speech of his broadcast by the Moscow radio station on 31 
January 1943 after the victory of Stalingrad and the capitulation of German 6th Army Field Marshal Von Paulus)

"If the Russian people managed to raise resistance at the doors of Moscow to halt and reverse the German torrent, they owe it to the Greek People, who delayed the German divisions during the time they could bring us to our knees."
-Georgy Constantinovich Zhoukov (Field Marshal of the Soviet Army: Quote from his memoirs on WWII)

"Regardless of what the future historians shall say, what we can say now, is that Greece gave Mussolini an unforgettable lesson, that she was the motive for the revolution in Yugoslavia, that she held the Germans in the mainland and in Crete for six weeks, that she upset the chronological order of all German High Command's plans and thus brought a general reversal of the entire course of the war and we won."
-Sir Robert Antony Eden (Minister of War and the Exterior of Britain 1940-1945, Prime Minister of Britain 1955-1957 - Paraphrased from a speech of his to the British Parliament on 24/09/1942)

 

Oxi Day 03"It would not be an exaggeration to say that Greece upset the plans of Germany in their entirety by forcing her to postpone the attack on Russia for six weeks. We wonder what would have been the Soviet Union's position without Greece." 
-Sir Harold Leofric George Alexander (British Field Marshal during WWII Paraphrased from a speech of his to the British parliament on 28 October 1941)

"I am unable to give the proper breadth of gratitude I feel for the heroic resistance of the People and the leaders of Greece." 
-Charles de Gaul (From a speech of his to the French Parliament after the end of  WWII).

"The war with Greece proved that nothing is firm in the military and that surprises always await us."
-Benito Mussolini (From speech he delivered on 10/5/1941)

"Your soldiers instead of fleeing frantically, as they did in France and Poland, were actually shooting at us from their positions!"
-A German officer of the Luftwaffe declaring to Greek LtGen. Dedes, commander of Greece’s Eastern Macedonia division that the Greek Army was the only one in which the Nazi Stuka dive bomber fighter planes did not cause panic.

"Greece is the symbol of the tortured, bloodied but live Europe. Never a defeat was so honorable for those who suffered it." 
-Maurice Schumann, Minister of the exterior of France 1969-1973, member of the French Academy 1974 (From a message of his he addressed from the BBC of London to the enslaved peoples of Europe on 28 April 1941, the day Hitler occupied Athens after a 6-month war against Mussolini and six weeks against Hitler).

"On the 28th of October 1940 Greece was given a deadline of three hours to decide on war or peace but even if three days or three weeks or three years were given, the response would have been the same. The Greeks taught dignity throughout the centuries. When the entire world had lost all hope, the Greek people dared to question the invincibility of the German monster raising against it the proud spirit of freedom."
-Franklin D Roosevelt, US President 1933 - 1945

"The heroic struggle of the Greek people... Against Germany 's attack, after she so thunderously defeated the Italians in their attempt to invade the Greek soil, filled the hearts of the American people with enthusiasm and moved their compassion." 
-Franklin D Roosevelt, US President 1933 – 1945

On 10 April 1941, the undermanned, poorly-equipped, starving but still ferociously fighting Greek army finally ran out of ammunition.  The last remaining free country in Europe to defy the Nazi war machine alone was done. The Germans expressed their great admiration to the battle-hardened Greek soldiers, declaring that they were honored and proud to have as their adversary such courageous warriors and requested that the Greek Commandant inspect the German army in a demonstration of honor and respect! The German flag was raised only after the complete, honorable withdrawal of the proud Greek Army.  For the rest of the war any German solider who fought against the Greeks was authorized to wear a black armband on their uniform to signify their role in Germany’s toughest battle of World War II.

Europe’s Resistance Days Against Axis Forces During World War II:
Greece:  219 days
Norway:  61 days
France:  43 days
Poland:  30 days
Belgium:  18 days
Netherlands:  4 days
Yugoslavia:  3 days
Denmark:  0 days
Czechoslovakia:  0 days
Luxembourg:  0 days

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