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Mussolini's Defeat at Hill 731, March 1941 (Hardback)

How the Greeks Halted Italy's Albanian Offensive

WWII Italian Front in WWII Military

By John Carr
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 219
Illustrations: 20 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526765031
Published: 15th October 2020


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Hill 731 was the scene of the most ferocious battle of the Greek-Italian War in Albania. Watched by Mussolini himself, on 9 March 1941 the Italians launched their Spring Offensive, designed to stem four months of humiliating reverses. The objective was a pair of parallel valleys dominated by the Greek-held Hill 731 that had to be taken at all costs.

The Italian Eighth Corps, part of Geloso's 11th Army, had the task of seizing the heights, spearheaded by 38 (Puglie) Division. Holding the position was the Greek 1 Division of II Corps, with 4 and 6 Division on the flanks.

For 17 days, after a massive artillery barrage (which reduced the hill’s height by 6 metres), the Italians threw themselves with great courage against the Evzones on the hill, to be repeatdly smashed with appalling losses. It was an Iwo Jima-type merciless fight at close quarters, where bayonets held the place of honour but the battered Greeks held.

Mussolini had wanted a spring victory to impress the Fuehrer. Instead, the bloody debacle of Hill 731 could well have contributed to Hitler’s decision to postpone his invasion of Russia by at least four weeks, a costly delay.

What can I say more, a book that has the balance of the narrative as its strength, stretched between the two forces, the Greek and the Italian, who fought for a hill of very little importance in the strategic perspective of war in general but which assumed great symbolic significance. That place for the Italians is "Zona Sacra" (Sacred Zone) and even the Greeks, after years of confrontation with the various Albanian governments, finally see the opportunity to celebrate and honour their dead. A campaign that was terrible and that led to nothing, both for one and for the other side but that makes one appreciate even more the resilience and courage that animated both armies that fought for Hill 731 . A book which I hope will be translated into Italian and which undoubtedly enters by right among the best written about the Greek campaign.

Read the full Italian review here

On The Old Barbed Wire

About John Carr

John Carr has enjoyed a career as a journalist, correspondent and broadcaster (The Times, Wall Street Journal Europe, Vatican Radio), mainly in the Mediterranean and particularly Greece, where he now resides. He is the author of On Spartan Wings: The Royal Hellenic Air Force in World War IISparta’s KingsThe Defence and Fall of Greece 1940-41RHNS AverofFighting Emperors of ByzantiumThe Knights Hospitaller; and The Komnene Dynasty, all published by Pen & Sword.

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