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Was Crete a success or a failure?

Discussions on WW2 in Africa & the Mediterranean.
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Was Crete a success or a failure?

Postby Ezboard on 29 Sep 2002 15:41

Gary Jones
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(2/24/01 11:41:09 am)
Reply Crete
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Was the german invasion of Crete a big success or something of a failure due to the loss of first rate troops that could have been put to better use in Russia?

Gary

Chris
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(2/26/01 12:46:35 am)
Reply Depends
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The actual military operation was a huge success.The Fallschirm and Jaeger routed a much much bigger army comprised of British,New Zealanders and Greeks.

Andy J Hill
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(2/28/01 12:01:05 am)
Reply Re: Crete
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Hi Gary

A sucess Yes, because the Germans beat the combined Allied force, but it was a near run thing. If the Germans hadn't had captured Maleme airfield when they did then the whole outcome would have been much worse for the German forces on Crete. If you were to ask the Luftwaffe if Crete was a sucess then they would have mixed feelings. In terms of there dive-bombers etc, they had a field day against allied shipping in the waters around Crete. Whilst as is well known the transport arm suffered hugely, losing many JU52's etc.

Could the troops have been put to better use in Russia, well that's open to question, certainly not in a strategic sense, but in certain tactical situations early in the invasion then yes. The transport planes lost in Crete could have been better used in Russia to supply units cut off etc (Kholm or Stalingrad etc)

The biggest effect of the use German paratroopers on Crete was Hitlers reluctance to use them elsewhere in large numbers, which could have had a strategic effect, such as the Invasions of Malta & Gibraltar.

Hope this helps

Andy

MadJim
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(3/4/01 4:41:57 pm)
Reply Kreta
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The question if the Crete battle was a success is many faceted. The Germans one the battle. It was a very close call for the Germans and the elite paratrooper arm took big casualties. The British/Greek forces on Crete may have been numerically superior, but was very disorganized. The Greeks were very poorly armed and large portions of the commonwealth force were not infantry, but technical troops.
Hitler wanted Crete secured as he feared that if occupied by the British it would become a base for bombers that would be in range of Poelesti, Rumania.
Gen Student suggested an all airborne force could do the job. To this point the Germans had not used airborne forces in the number they would be used on Crete. They were used in smaller numbers in the Low Countries and in Scandinavia, but Student wanted to prove they could secure a major objective alone.
Unfortunately, the British pretty much knew when and where the Germans were landing because of their codebreakers.
The paras were unable to do the job alone. A back up force of German Mountain troops were flown in by Ju52's as the airfields came under German control.
The one big thing that came out of the situation was that Hitler said "The day of the paratrooper was over".
he would approve no more large scale drops.
Crete was literally the GRAVEYARD of the FJ.

pdhinkle
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Posts: 247
(3/7/01 2:06:10 am)
Reply Crete? loss or win
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Andy and Jimbo:: You got it right! The capture of crete was a win, at a terrible loss of men and equipment. The Germans mounted a big one there and could not afford it. Their losses were not replaceable. It did not have that much effect on control of the area.
The US had no trouble holding Lebanon while the Germans had Crete.

MadJim
Visitor
(3/12/01 11:48:32 pm)
Reply what
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Paul, what does Lebanon have to do with Crete?

dazfos
Visitor
(3/13/01 11:20:12 am)
Reply Crete
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Crete was a success for the German could it could have turned out as an complete disaster. Mainly due to the codebrakes had got all the information on the attack, what Units the German's were using, were they we going to attack. This as they sent to Churchill, who then sent the information out to Freyburg, who was in command of Crete at the time, but he told Freyburg, to place his troops in such a way, that they had a good chance of defeating the Germans, but not arrousing the German Intelligence, on why they were get moved around at the places of the German Parachute drop sites. Freyburg would have wanted to place the troops were it would have meant the entire slaughter of the Fallschirmjager troops but Churchill, gave him such an order, that the troops couldn't be moved right exactly were the germans would landed, as the German's Intelligence would have fits about how all the Britsh troops happened to be at the right places at the right time during the invansion.
And would have come up with the conclusion that we had some how cracked the engima machine, so they would have started to devise a new coding way to send out there high command orders.
And all that all papers concerning the Gerrman attack were to be destroyed immediately before the invansion date of Crete.
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Re: Crete

Postby swrhal on 06 Jan 2013 17:52

apparently freyburg was said to be sat having breakfast waiting for the paratroopers- when informed they had invaded- he said "they were a little bit late"-- amazing- maybe the ultra didn,t help hold crete in hindsight-- si
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Re: Crete

Postby mariandavid on 12 Jan 2013 07:20

A tactical success but an operational disaster for the Germans. The loss of parachute, glider and mountain troops meant that a: plans to 'then' attack Cyprus and then Syria were immediately ditched and
b: the units were not able to intervene in Russia until long after intended.

Blaming Freyberg is an easy game given perfect hindsight. In fact he was correct in his dispositions, since the naval invasion was logically more likely to succeed than the airborne (note that Ultra did not specify actual strengths only assigned elements). It is often forgotten that the parachute and glider drops failed everywhere - that the change came when, for some unknown and highly questionable reason a NZ battalion commander marched his men away from the position that covered the airstrip at Malame. Upon which the Germans landed mountain troops and artillery by plane and the whole game changed. How Freyburg can be blamed for that (other than selecting the CO involved) is doubtful.
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Re: Crete

Postby Kilgore Trout on 12 Jan 2013 08:05

Ah yes, the famous "Ultra" nonsense again. So many times this tired fable is trotted out with the ludicrous caveat "Oh, we knew, but didn't want them to know" - the excuse for Coventry and any number of Allied failures in the war. The simple fact is that a German force of less than 20,000 routed more than 56,000 Allied troops, sending the British Army into yet another of its by-then habitual "big skedaddles." But this time the Royal Navy suffered grievous losses in the first clear demonstration of the power of air attack against combat ships at sea - a skill the U.S. Navy later used to defeat Japan. Transport aircraft were lost - but that's what they are for. They aren't hugely expensive or complicated to produce. Any attack at Cyprus or elsewhere would have been much harder nuts to crack, and THAT realisation had more to do with the cancellation of the projects than any other factor. The Crete operation stands as the most successful large-scale airborne operation ever undertaken in military history.
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Re: Crete

Postby swrhal on 14 Jan 2013 00:37

i do think you need to read the facts about the battle- yes there were a lot of allied "troops" but a lot had very poor supplies- and a lot were technical support facing crack troops- it was a very close thing- the germans close to abandoning the whole mission- si
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Re: Crete

Postby Kilgore Trout on 14 Jan 2013 07:20

Oh. So sort of like Operation Market-Garden then? Where the "crack troops" of three Allied airborne divisions faced a lot of ad hoc formations and battered units that were resting, re-fitting and assimilating replacements. Big difference is the Germans WON at Crete. But don't ask them. Ask the Royal Navy how it felt about getting so many of its ships sunk or damaged to rescue ... let me see, what was it again? Oh, yes: "a lot of technical support". Don't rely on Churchill's interpretation of the operation. The fact is, the Crete force was large enough and well enough equipped that it should have been able to easily hold the island. - All of which calls to mind another shot at the famous "Ultra" - seems it completely missed the presence of a S.S. Panzerdivision near Arnhem. The result - British 1st Parachute Div. never saw action again in the war. You have to be honest and admit the times when the other side kicked ass. I stand by my previous comment.
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Re: Crete

Postby swrhal on 14 Jan 2013 19:00

yes, some good points- lucky for the allies the usa got involved otherwise it would be a different world today-certainly not good if you were jewish, black or a gypsy!
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Re: Crete

Postby merdiolu on 23 Jan 2013 12:37

Kilgore Trout wrote:Oh. So sort of like Operation Market-Garden then? Where the "crack troops" of three Allied airborne divisions faced a lot of ad hoc formations and battered units that were resting, re-fitting and assimilating replacements. Big difference is the Germans WON at Crete. But don't ask them. Ask the Royal Navy how it felt about getting so many of its ships sunk or damaged to rescue ... let me see, what was it again? Oh, yes: "a lot of technical support". Don't rely on Churchill's interpretation of the operation. The fact is, the Crete force was large enough and well enough equipped that it should have been able to easily hold the island. - All of which calls to mind another shot at the famous "Ultra" - seems it completely missed the presence of a S.S. Panzerdivision near Arnhem. The result - British 1st Parachute Div. never saw action again in the war. You have to be honest and admit the times when the other side kicked ass. I stand by my previous comment.



If you ask a German paratrooper in Crete he might have answered differently. The fact is Fallschmjager casaulties and Luftwaffe Transport Arm's aircraft losses were so heavy Germans never tried any large scale airborne operations in reminder of war. Actually after Crete Hitler himself remarked that "Airborne forces are a thing of past" (these are his words ) After Crete all German airbrone divisions were used no no WASTED as frontline infantry formations. Allies at the other hand raised several airborne divisions and used them in several times in actual airborne operations sucessfully during Sicily (despite wide scattering of landings) , landing and defence of Salerno , Normandy , South of France and crossing of Rhine in Weser. Arnhem was a fiasco yes but that did not stop execution of Operation Varsity (crossing of Rhine with airborne landings)
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Re: Crete

Postby Kilgore Trout on 24 Jan 2013 08:44

The reasons for the lack of large-scale parachute operations by the Wehrmacht post-Crete are much more complex that those stated above. However, the view of Hitler that parachute operations had passed their point of surprise and were now more of a novelty WAS decisive in bringing about their end. No one was going to stand face-to-face with "Der Chef" and challenge his declaration.
Nazi high command made other short-sighted decisions too: the affinity for dive-bombers, far beyond their usefulness, to such a degree that the He-177 (a craft as large as a B-17) was expected to dive-bomb; or to use the Me-262 as a "blitz-bomber" instead of a bomber killer.
At Crete, a German force that, because it was air-landed, had to enter the combat area in driblets and at no time ever amounted to more than 20,000 still defeated or put to flight 56,000 Greek, New Zealand and Australian troops. All of these were allegedly well-positioned and prepared because of "ULTRA." And the R.N. suffered grievous losses to evacuate the ones who got away - despite the magical (mythical) "ULTRA."
Luftwaffe losses to tranport aircraft was not a serious limitation - the men could have jumped from bombers if necessary.
Were there places where the Wehrmacht could have (and probably should have) employed parachute troops after Crete? Certainly. E.g.; to seize the hydro-electric power plants at Dneipro-Petrovsk; to help break the S.U. line to enter the Crimea; to re-inforce the Demiansk Pocket or help it to break-out; to be a bridge to Armee 6 at Stalingrad when Unternehmen Wintergewetter was stalling. - Those are just a few examples.
And it was the effort to keep Stalingrad supplied that caused the true serious losses to the Luftwaffe transport fleet.
Airborne operations, to be effective, require an at least localised air superiority, if not supremacy. The Luftwaffe never enjoyed such a benefit after 1941. Therefore, large airborne opeations could not be undertaken with a good likelihood of success.
You cannot say the Fallschirmjager were "wasted" by use as general infantry. They were superior troops and served as "courage" for many middle to bottom-drawer units around them wherever they appeared. They generally caused the Allies to employ a disproportionate force of men and ordnance to expel them from their positions.
It is as ludicrous as saying that the U.S. 82 and 101 Airborne should NOT have been used in "the Bulge." Yes. It could ahave been a serious loss had Bastogne fallen. But it didn't fall, mostly because of the quality of the troops who held it.
Contrary to your misperception, I did NOT hold "Market-Garden" as a fiasco. It was a brilliant and bold plan. The flaw was its execution - and here, the magical "ULTRA" and/or alleged Dutch resistance blew it in a major way. The British Parachute division should have been withdrawn as soon as SS panzers were detected. Instead, the Polish battalion sent to re-inforce it was quite literally shot to pieces as it dropped. THIS is an example of a division being wasted.
As to other Allied airborne escapades, none were particularly effective. The drops at Sicily were a fiasco. Some well-trained men ended by drowning in the sea. The drop in front of British 8 Army was foiled by a German counter-drop that denied the British airborne goal and caused the entire Sicily operation to be only a slow pursuit of a well-executed German withdrawal.
The Normandy drops were nothing more than adding more men - basically infantry - to those who landed on the beaches.
The use in S. France was of no significance whatever to the flow of operations, and could have been omitted with no adverse effect.
The cross-Rhine drops were just more Monty excess. Again, they served no constructive purpose, and could as easily have been omitted.
So. At the end of all this, what do we have? We have what I declared at the outset: The German parachute operation at Crete was the boldest and most successful operation of its type undertaken in WWII- and perhaps in all history.
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Re: Crete

Postby ljadw on 05 May 2013 19:52

Is there any information about the number of Axis soldiers that
a) landed by parachute
b) by aircraft
c)from sea
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Re: Was Crete a success or a failure?

Postby ClintHardware on 08 May 2013 22:26

Why hold Crete?

Once the Germans had control of it was it not a self-run prison camp?

What advantage did the Germans have in holding Crete?

Were the Germans duped into attacking Crete?
Imperialism and Re-Armament NOW !
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Re: Was Crete a success or a failure?

Postby ljadw on 09 May 2013 10:35

Unless the Germans captured Crete,Britain would hold Crete,and,from Crete,the RAF could attack the Romanian oil fields.
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Re: Was Crete a success or a failure?

Postby ClintHardware on 09 May 2013 20:58

So Wellingtons or Whitleys could not reach from Egypt? It is 1067.35 from Cairo to Ploesti and the maximum range of a Whitley is 1400 - so no return flight possible. But I doubt a Whitley could have got there without being intercepted and also go on to bomb anything usefully.It would need 633 Squadron with shed loads of drop tanks.
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Re: Was Crete a success or a failure?

Postby ljadw on 09 May 2013 21:07

That the RAF could attack/or not,in 1941 Ploesti,is irrelevant,the fact is that they could do it from Crete(and Crete was nearer.)
From Crete,the British could also attack the Greek islands and continent.
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Re: Was Crete a success or a failure?

Postby phylo_roadking on 09 May 2013 22:07

Unless the Germans captured Crete,Britain would hold Crete,and,from Crete,the RAF could attack the Romanian oil fields.


The British would have had to put a LOT of resources and development into the Crete airfields (another two were being surveyed IIRC) They were all three of them VERY rough and stony...doubt a bomber pilot would have enjoyed taking off and landing on them! And the runway at Maleme was too short IIRC because of the River Tavronitis running across one end of it...Maleme was also the bumpiest of the lot IIRC, its "boneyard" filled with RAF aircraft that had cracked up on landing. It would have needed something like the time, labour and investment put into Malta to make Crete useable as a somewhere to mount a bombing offensive from...

The question THEN arises of how do the British keep Crete supplied with POL, ordnance, munitions etc.? Malta began its war with relatively large stocks...Crete didn't!

Why hold Crete?

Once the Germans had control of it was it not a self-run prison camp?

What advantage did the Germans have in holding Crete?


LW transport aircraft flying across the Med from Crete contributed a large part of the Luftwaffe's aerial resupply of Rommel's advances....AND retreats!...until he passed out of range in the very last months of 1942. Cargo would be brought to the island by ship, then loaded Ju52s would ferry it to the huge Luftwaffe transport "depots" they threw up in the desert immediately behind his front line.

Crete only became the proverbial "self-run prison camp" from early 1943 on. Once its role as a cargo nexus had vanished, the Germans basically forgot about it! Only three more cargo ships ever reached Crete with food for the garrison, and in the end they had to mount a series of scavenging raids, find as much food from the locals as they could, and retired into the enclave at Chania to await events...
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