The role of Greece in World War II has been much studied and discussed, mostly in terms of the heroic victory against the Fascist Italians in Albania (see “The First Victory” by George Blytas), as well as the resistance to the April 1941 invasion by the Nazis, and the heroic fight by Greek civilians and military, alongside the British forces, in the Battle of Crete (May 20, 1941-May 31, 1941). Quite a bit also has been written about the resistance, both on the mainland and in Crete, for the duration of the war, as well as on the many Nazi atrocities against Greek civilians during the period of Nazi occupation.
What has not been much discussed is the actual significance to the final outcome of World War II of the Greek war resistance from 1941 through 1945, other than the true stories of the valor and heroism shown by the Greek population during this period.
The Greek resistance was a major contributor to the success of the Allied D-Day invasion, June 6, 1944, at Normandy on the west coast of France. It may, in fact have been one of the decisive factors that enabled D-Day to succeed. If the Allied invasion at Normandy had been repulsed by the Nazis, the final outcome of World War II would have been different, and we would be living in an entirely different world today.
In this way, it is apparent that the Greek people played a much larger role in the success of the Allies in World War II, in three ways: 1. By achieving the first victory against the fascists in Albania, resulting in the necessity of a German invasion of Greece, 2. By the heroic resistance in Crete and the decimation of Hitler’s Parachute divisions, which were never used again, and which delayed the invasion by Hitler of the Soviet Union, resulting in Hitler’s defeat by the Soviets in the east, and 3. By engaging in a systematic and massive resistance on the mainland and on Crete, (albeit unknowingly) as part of an Allied deception plans, resulting in the Germans withholding of 9 out of 10 divisions away from Normandy and instead keep them near the Mediterranean coast of France. It also resulted as well in holding many more German troops in the Balkans instead of moving them westward to defend from the Allied invasion, or eastward to help stop the Soviet Red Army. The Nazis held these troops back to defend against an anticipated invasion of Greece through Crete and the Peloponnese, and in south France. This was all part of a massive Allied plan of deception, called ZEPPELIN.
Most members, perhaps all, of the Greek resistance did not realize that they were playing a role in this massive plan of deception. Only a few key Allied leaders were privy to these plans, and for good reason: the more people who knew about it, the more likely it was to get out to the wrong people.
Allied deception plans were well organized and planned under the official designation “A” Force. They were detailed, thorough, and massive. Staged for the most part in Syria and North Africa, they included state of the art sound effects (tanks driving, and practicing, using huge speakers), dummy airplanes and tanks, dummy landing craft (all set up for the benefit of German aerial reconnaissance photos), false shipping movements and real shipping movements, the occasional planting of corpses with “secret’ documents in their possession, continuous false radio broadcasts, and a complete false order of battle, including false armies, air wings, brigades, divisions, and officers.
They also included a huge network of agents and double agents to leak the word to the Nazis. ZEPPELIN, just one of these plans which were run overall by the British mastermind Dudley Clark, focused on the Mediterranean, and within ZEPPELIN there were two other deception plans: TURPITUDE, which was designed to persuade the Nazis that the Allies were going to invade the Balkans, and VENDETTA, which was designed to threaten the Mediterranean coast of France.
One part of the TURPITUDE plan was an notional ground invasion of Greece by the Allies through Turkey and Thrace, but this never deceived the Germans because they knew beforehand that their secret Turkish allies, who were supposedly neutral, would not join the Allied cause in time to allow this imaginary invasion through their territory. The Nazis knew this information because the valet for the British Ambassador to Turkey was a German spy with the nom de guerre of “Cicero”.
The remainder of the plans were very successful, resulting in the Nazis holding many more forces in and near the Balkans and Southern France than they needed to, which in turn allowed the Soviets to advance westward, and the D-Day invasion at Normandy to be successful.
On the ground in Greece, the TURPITUDE plan lead the Greek resistance forces, and their British SOE companions, to step up their attacks on the occupying Nazis in the belief that an allied invasion to free them was on its way. It is doubtful that the SOE personnel, or any Greek officers, were aware of the fact that TURPITUDE was a deception plan, and that in fact no Balkan invasion by the Allies was going to take place. That the Greeks, especially in Crete, really believed that an Allied invasion was coming is beyond doubt when one reads the various histories of the resistance.
It is also beyond doubt that many Nazi reprisals against Greek civilians for resistance attacks would not have occurred had the Nazis withdrawn more forces from Crete and Greece; a terrible price for the Greeks to pay, but in this author’s opinion the heroic Greeks would have willingly paid this price even if they had known that TURPITUDE was a deception plan. The Greek nature is to resist tyranny by all means, and no matter what the odds. If the plans had not been used or had failed, it is likely that Greece in the long run would have remained under the Nazi yoke, because D-Day would likely have failed, and the Soviets would have had their westward advance stymied by a reinforced Nazi eastern front.
The cloak and dagger aspect of the deception plans can not be overstated. Famous personalities such as Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Peter Fleming and his brother Ian Fleming (later the author of the James Bond books), among many others, were all active in the deception plans. Agents, sub-agents and double and triple agents were indispensable in conveying the false information to the Germans and their agents. Many of these were Greeks, including Greek women, operating out of North Africa and the Greek islands. In nearly all cases, these agents were not aware that the information that they were transferring to the enemy was false.
What is written here is barely scratching the surface of the Allied deception plans and its various operations. Even so, it becomes apparent that the heroic Greek efforts at resistance against the Nazi war machine played a major, probably decisive role in winning World War II, and that this Greek resistance effort was waged against German forces far in excess of what was necessary for the Germans to actually have positioned in the Balkans at the time. Stepping up resistance attacks against the Nazis was part and parcel of making the Germans believe that a Balkan invasion was imminent.
For the reader who desires a more detailed knowledge of these events, it is suggested that they obtain a copy of “The Deceivers: Allied Military Deception in the Second World War”, by Thaddeus Holt, 2007, Skyhorse Publishing, 1148 pp, from which much of the information contained in this article is taken.