AHI Forum Commemorates 70th Anniversary of the
Battle of Crete

WASHINGTON, DC—--The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) hosted a forum titled “Reassessing Operation Mercur: The Significance of the Battle of Crete, May 1941,” featuring Dr Alexandros Kyrou, associate professor, History, and director, East European and Russian Studies Program, Salem State University, at Hellenic House, May 16, 2011. The forum served to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the 1941 battle between the Allies and Axis forces on Crete.

According to Dr. Kyrou, the Battle of Crete is historically significant because of the considerable delays it caused on Operation Barbarossa, forcing the Germans to engage the Red Army in the Russian winter and thus contributing to its eventual failure. It is also of interest to military strategists because of the Germans’ innovative use of their paratrooper division, which later inspired the Allies to create their own paratrooper corps. However, following the invasion, Hitler failed to make use of the island to destroy the British Mediterranean Fleet and capture Cyprus and Malta in order to secure the south eastern Mediterranean. Instead, he focused on Russia, Dr. Kyrou added.

Read full text of Dr.
Kyrou's speech or
see a video of his

“We were pleased to host such an important presentation about a historically significant battle that is often overlooked by many,” said AHI President Nick Larigakis. “In addition to the delay caused to the German invasion of Russia, the people of Crete fought admirably and bravely against the Nazis.”

Dr. Kyrou also discussed the strategic importance of Crete’s airbases and harbors and provided an account of the battle itself, describing the Allies counterattack and eventual surrender to the Germans on May 28, 1941. Allied troops numbered 50,000 and were comprised of British, Greek, New Zealander, and Australian forces. He added that the Battle of Crete was the costliest British engagement of World War II brought about by “shockingly poor leadership” and negligence.

(Posting date 16 June 2011)

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