28th October 1940: «OXI» (NO) DAY – the day Greece
The magnificent Greek holiday Oxi Day is celebrated every year in Greece on October 28th and mostly remembered for General Ioannis Metaxas’ strong reply of ‘OXI’ (NO) to Mussolini’s request to allow Italian troops to come into Greece at the beginning of WW II.
The result of this stern message was powerful, and in the end, helped to maintain Greece’s course of neutrality for generations to come. Nevertheless, the Italians did invade Greece, but were subsequently driven back into Albania.
While the rest of Europe offered little or no resistance to the Axis powers, little Greece did put up a heroic fight, one that won the admiration of the rest of the world.
Today in Greece, the celebrations of “Oxi Day” culminate in a large, impressing military parade down the main boulevards of Athens and Thessoloniki. Soldiers, tanks, armored vehicles and students parade through most Greek cities with an air of pride, and politicians’ in reviewing stands have an opportunity to show their own spirit to Greece and the resistance and how in future generations it should be continued.
Winston Churchil said : HEROES FIGHT LIKE THE GREEKS
“Until now, we knew that Greeks were fighting like heroes; from now on we shall say that the heroes fight like Greeks.”
– Winston Churchhill, Prime Minister of Britain – 1940.
By wrapping round themselves the dusky cloud of death these men clothed their dear country with an unquenchable renown. They died, but they are not dead, for their own virtue leads them gloriously up again from the shades.
Thucydides, Pericles Epitaphy, 431 BC
The second World War, broke out in 1939 during a time that Greece was trying to act peacefully, and had decided to not take part in the war.
In 1940 though, Italy’s dictator Mussolini, tried in several ways to fight against our country. On August 15th 1940, an important Greek Orthodox holiday (Hmera tis Megalocharis tis Tinou), an Italian submarine shot a torpedo inside the island’s harbor and shot one of the Greek ships.
The governing body of Prime Minister Ioannou Metaxa, which had just come into office, pretended that they did not recognize who had done this, even though they did, in order to avoid any form of battle.
The Italians continued their attacks in Greece, and war began to seem inevitable. Even so, Greece did not move its forces along its borders, for good reasons. Mussolini though was determined and he wanted to take over Greece.
Therefore, on the night of the 28th of October, the Italian ambassador to Athens, Gratsi went to the home of the president I. Metaxa, woke him up and asked for free entrance of the Italian forces on to Greece.
He immediately gave a negative reply, and with him the Hellenic people answered «oxi». The war began, the sirens sound, the enemy planes flew over the skies of Greece, and the Italian army was on Greek land.
conflict between Italy and Greece which lasted from October 28, 1940 to April 23, 1941. It marked the beginning of the Balkans Campaign of World War II. From the April 6, 1941 intervention of Nazi Germany onwards, this conflict is known as the Battle of Greece.
The reasons of the war lie in the expansionist policies of Benito Mussolini’s Fascist regime in Italy. By mid-1940, Mussolini had grown jealous of Hitler’s conquests and wanted to prove to his Axis partner that he could lead Italy to similar military successes.
Italy had occupied Albania in spring 1939 and several British strongholds in Africa (mainly with the Italian conquest of British Somaliland in summer 1940), but could not boast victories on the same scale as Nazi Germany. At the same time, Mussolini also wanted to reassert Italy’s interests in the Balkans, threatened by Germany (he was piqued that Romania, an Italian client, had accepted German protection for its Ploieşti oil fields in mid-October) and secure bases from which British eastern Mediterranean outposts could be attacked.
On 28 October 1940, after Greek prime minister Ioannis Metaxas rejected an Italian ultimatum demanding the occupation of Greek territory, Italian forces invaded Greece.
The Hellenic Army counter-attacked and forced the Italians to retreat and by mid-December, the Greeks occupied nearly a quarter of Albania, tying down 530,000 Italian troops.
In March 1941, a major Italian counter-attack failed, with small gains around Himare. In the first days of April, as the German attack on Greece unfolded, the Italian army resumed its attacks. From April 12, the Greek army started retreating from Albania to avoid being cut off by the rapid German advance.
The Greek victory over the initial Italian offensive of October 1940 was the first Allied land victory of the Second World War, and helped raise morale in occupied Europe.
Some historians argue that it may have influenced the course of the entire war by forcing Germany to postpone the invasion of the Soviet Union in order to assist Italy against Greece. This led to a delayed attack and subjected the German forces to the conditions of the harsh Russian winter, leading to their defeat at the Battle of Moscow.
At the end of the war there were 10% fewer Greeks alive than when the war started and the overall devastation of the country took years to recover from but this small country showed the world at a time when it mattered the most that freedom is worth fighting for. The sacrifices made by the Greek nation ultimately changed the course of history and contributed in preventing the evils of Fascism and Nazism from dominating the world.
The following poem was written in 1941 as a tribute to the heroism of the Greek nation after their defeat by the Germans.
Il Duce with his mighty legions
Knocked at Greece’s ancient gate
He had forty million people
And the Greeks had only eight
With his Fascist banners gleaming
From the high Albanian Peak,
“I am coming,” cried Il Duce.
“Come ahead” replied the Greek.
“Forward!” shouted the commanders
With a good old Roman curse;
And the legions started rolling,
Rolling swiftly – in reverse,
And throughout the startled nation
The news began to leak
That the Duce had been walloped
By the sturdy little Greek.
Then that poor, moth-eaten Caesar,
What a different song he sang!
“This great big bully licked me!
Hey Adolph, get your gang!”
“You’re a dumkopf,” cried the Fuehrer,
As he pulled his trusty gun;
“You don’t know how to murder kids;
“I’ll show you how it’s done.”
And then the tanks began to roll
With clank and roar and groan:
The great planes blacked the sky and filled
The air with ceaseless drone,
In endless ranks with flame and bomb
And gray guns long and sleek;
The mighty German war machine
Moved down upon the Greek.
And still that fellow wouldn’t run –
He didn’t quite know how.
“We’ve got some help,” he said, “and that
just makes it even now.”
“ Bring on your millions, Adolph dear,
We’re neither scared nor meek.
The British, sixty thousand strong,
Are standing with the Greek!”
They fought a fight like Homer’s song
They died, as brave men must
Their ranks, “neath dark odds,
Were beaten to the dust.
And then heroic chivalry
Attained its highest peak
As the victors clasped their bloody hands
Above the fallen Greek.
Someday, beyond this veil of tears,
We’ll all stand on the spot
To tell the Judge of all the world
Just who we were – and what.
I wouldn’t be a Fascist then,
Or Nazi grim and bleak;
But I’d be proud to tell my God
That once I was a Greek!
By John Dennis Mahoney
The Greek artillery in Albania
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Then came Stalingrad, which changed the course of the war…
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