WASHINGTON, DC On April 13, 2005, AHI hosted a Noon Forum at the Hellenic House to commemorate the anniversary of the "Battle of Crete." The speaker was Mr. George C. Chryssis, the former President of the Pancretan Association and currently President and CEO MISTsoft Corp. The topic of the presentation was "The Battle of Crete: Fight for Freedom."
In his presentation, Mr. Chryssis expressed that this topic is one which is close to his heart. He said, "The Battle of Crete is a piece of history that has captivated me since I was a young boy in my hometown of Chania. The region around Chania, and specifically Maleme, is the battleground of the initial Nazi invasion of Crete and the place where the fiercest battles took place. As a young boy I was able to connect the living stories told by my father and others regarding World War II and the Battle of Crete, with many monuments that were erected in various spots in the prefecture of Chania…I was fascinated by the stories of bravery told by the Cretans who participated in the Battle and the resistance that followed. Some of them had the scars of battlefield wounds on their bodies as a testament to their stories."
In reminiscing he said, "I remember as a young lad asking an old fighter how many Nazis he killed during the Battle, only to get a stern gaze and two eyes full of tears as an answer… then and there I understood that freedom is indeed earned with pain and sacrifice, and I never asked that question again!"
In describing the Battle of Crete Mr. Chryssis began, "Sixty-four years ago on May 20th, 1941, at 6:30 am, the Nazi air assault against the island of Crete began, primarily around the Maleme airfield just outside the town of Chania. For about one hour squadrons of bomber and fighter aircraft started to shell and bomb the area, reaching climax around 7:30 am when five bomber aircraft dropped a string on 1,000 kg bombs on the Tavronitis and Platanias area. As the eruptions of those bombs were subsiding, the sky filled with transport and glider planes releasing colorful parachutes, with soldiers and supplies, toward earth. The Battle of Crete had begun!"
Mr. Chryssis continued, "Hitler had decided to invade Crete with the hope that its capture would allow the Nazis to take control of the communications channels through the Suez Canal, to conquer the Middle East in order to control its oil fields and thus cutting off the important supply lines to the British…The allied forces from Britain, Australia and New Zealand, assisted by make-shift Greek military forces and heroic Cretan civilians who used knives, pitchforks and sickles as weapons, fought bravely and held the invading force at bay for ten days, before Nazi Germany finally declared victory. The commanding German General Kurt Student called it ‘the fiercest struggle that any German formation had ever had to face’ and on the ninth day of the Battle, Adolph Hitler asked General Student, ‘France fell in eight days, why is Crete still free?’"
Additionally, Mr. Chryssis read an entry from his father’s personal diary on the Battle of Crete: "The day of the invasion the Athenian sky was covered with planes. Later on, waves of different types of aircraft were flying to and from Crete. The (censored) newspapers published the distraction that the planes were inflicting on Crete, while from various sources I learned about the casualties that the Germans suffered. I start to worry about my family in Crete, since I cannot get any news…[months passed since the invasion] and I have decided to leave Athens for Crete…When we reached Chania I was shocked! The town was leveled; all the buildings appeared to be destroyed…"
"The AHI is very honored to have had this opportunity to commemorate the anniversary of the ‘Battle of Crete’ which was a very significant and some might say pivotal battle of World War II. The Greek nations strong resolve and determination to withstand for weeks the powerful Nazi war machine assisted immeasurably in Hitler’s defeat in the Soviet Union. Not enough is written or discussed regarding the contributions of Greece in World War II and it’s important to continue to highlight these contributions whenever possible." said AHI Executive Director, Nick Larigakis.
Mr. Chryssis resides in Weston, Massachusetts. He was born in Crete and educated in the United States receiving Bachelor and Master Degrees in Electrical Engineering from Northeastern University.
(Click here to read the full text of the presentation delivered by Mr. Chryssis at the American Hellenic Institute in Washington, D.C.)