On October 29, 1922, fascist leader Benito Mussolini was offered the Italian premiership amid political and social upheaval.
Mussolini launched his first military action in 1923 when he bombarded and briefly occupied the Greek island of Corfu. For some reason, he always had it in for the Greeks, and this was to emerge later on, when he finally attempted to invade the mainland of Greece. For all his bluster, Mussolini did not enter World War II until June 1940, by which time his Nazi Germany allies had already swept through much of Europe.
It soon became apparent that Italy lacked adequate military equipment and that its pace of production was pitiful. In fact, the United States could manufacture more planes in a week than Italy could in a year. Mussolini did not help matters by repeatedly changing his war plans and stretching his forces too thin. His poorly executed attack on France made little progress, until the French asked the Germans for an armistice. Later that year, Italian troops invaded Greece, only to be pushed back into neighbouring Albania, by a ill equipped Greek army.
In Greece, the 28th October is Oxi day, which is the day when the Greek nation remembers and celebrates the courage of the citizens of Greece, and their determination to say no to II Duce, the fascist leader of Italy.
On 28th October 1940, the Italian ambassador to Greece, Emanuele Grazzi, after returning home from a party at the German Embassy in Athens, phoned Ioannis Metaxas – a Greek Army General, who served as Prime Minister of Greece from 1936 until his death in 1941 – offering the following ultimatum. Made on behalf of Benito Mussolini, it demanded that Greece should give permission for the Axis forces to enter and annex key locations in Greece, and to virtually occupy the country. Prime Minister General Ioannis Metaxas said no, and consequently little Greece was a war!
Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas leads Greece into World War II
At five thirty on the morning of 28th October 1940, that Italian troops, stationed in Albania, invaded Greece, and so began the Greco Italian war – Oct.1940 to April 1941 – finally leading to The Balkan Campaign of WW2, between the Axis powers and the Allies; leading to the Battle of Greece, when British and German ground forces intervened in 1941.
Patriotic posters during World War II
Greece managed to stop the initial Italian invasion, by pushing the Italian army back into Albania. This Italian defeat, caused by the Greek counter-attack, was the first Axis setback of WWII, although the Italian high command went on to organize a spring offensive in 1941. This again failed, because the feisty Greeks had – once more – surprised everyone with their courage and determination. It was not a surprise though to the Greeks, and from ancient times they had been known for their courage and bravery, because the Greeks will to never give up!
Each and every wartime leader was in awe of Greek fortitude and bravery
This atrocious war persisted for four horrific years. Greece was liberated from Nazi occupation on October 12th1944, but before it had time to recover, it was plunged once again into war; This time a Civil War. This bloody War – from December 1944 to January 1945 and then again from 1946to 49 – was a two-stage conflict, during which Greek communists unsuccessfully tried to gain control of Greece.
Greek schoolchildren marching through the streets in Orestiada
Every 28th October, Greece celebrates “Oxi” day, a public holiday, and – from the smallest village to the largest town – proud Greeks flock to the streets, to admire school children, patriotically dressed in blue and white, the colours of the Greek flag – H γαλανόλευκη or H Galanoleuki, meaning, the blue and white – local brass bands play and the Greek army parades through the streets. It is a day when all Greeks remember the motto of Greece:
“Freedom or Death!”
By The Editor