D-Day and OXI Day
WASHINGTON, DC—The following Op-Ed by Gene Rossides appeared in the National Herald 11-01-08, Hellenic Voice 11-05-08, and Greek News on line11-10-08, and theHellenic News of America.
D-Day and OXI Day
By Gene Rossides
October 28, 2008
D-Day and OXI Day are two key dates in the history of World War II. D-Day is well-known throughout the world while OXI Day is little-know outside of Greece and communities of Greek descent.
D-Day is June 6, 1944, the day that the Allied forces stationed in England and under the command of General Dwight D. Eisenhower crossed the English Channel with a large armada of ships supported by an overwhelming air force cover to invade Normandy, France and liberate France and from Nazi Germany’s occupation and to defeat Germany.
The operation was named Operation Overlord. General Eisenhower, as supreme Allied commander, was in charge of 2.8 million troops. The graves of 8,000 Americans are in a cemetery at Normandy.
D-Day is considered the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany which after D-Day was fighting a two-front war—one in France and the other in the Soviet Union.
D-day is rightfully known throughout the world because of its monumental effort and its significance as the beginning of the end for Hitler’s Germany.
But what about OXI Day which is October 28, 1940 and why do I couple it with D-Day, June 6, 1944? October 28, 1940 is the day the Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas said OXI (NO!) to Mussolini’s request, delivered by the Italian ambassador to Greece, that Greece surrender Greek territory to the Italian army, 250,000 of whom were on Greece’s border with Albania.
I couple D-Day and OXI Day because little-know OXI Day is a key date in World War II and in my judgment second only to D-Day in its importance. OXI Day symbolizes a turning point in World War II because of Greece’s victory over Mussolini’s invading forces and pushing them back deep into Albania. It was the first defeat of Axis forces which had swept through Europe and only Britain remained free.
But that was not all of it. For six months from October 28, 1940 to April 1941 Greece had so defeated the Italian forces of Mussolini that Hitler was compelled to invade and conquer Greece to protect his flank before he initiated Operation Barbarossa against the Soviet Union.
Hitler’s conquest of Greece delayed by several weeks his attack on the Soviet Union, which delay is credited with being a “vital factor” in his failure to take Moscow and defeat Russia before the heavy winter stalled the Nazi war machine. Hitler credited Greece for his failure to defeat the U.S.S.R., as did a number of generals and military analysts.
General Andrew J. Goodpaster, former Supreme Commander of NATO stated in the introduction to the American Hellenic Institute Foundation book Greece’s Pivotal Role in World War II and its Importance to the U.S. Today (2001):
“As the years pass, it becomes more and more necessary to recall and record for new generations just how the people of Greece...in one special moment in history at heavy cost and sacrifice and with great courage and determination played a pivotal role in World War II in defying the forces of tyranny and Axis aggression that were arranged against not only Greece but the whole of Western civilization. It is an inspiring story….
Never to be forgotten is the valiant role of Greece against the Axis nations that were on the march in Europe. Brought into the war by Mussolini’s attack in October 1940—at a time when Britain stood alone against the Axis partners—Greek forces in defense of their homeland brought the Italian forces to a standstill, and in fact threw them well back into Albania by the end of the year. When Hitler, to support his humiliated partner, launched his attack against Yugoslavia and Greece in April 1941, he did so with massive forces that were capable and sufficient to overwhelm the Greek and supporting British forces. The delay that resulted, however, is widely held to have been a vital factor tipping the scale against decisive victory by Hitler in Russia.”
Gregory Pappas, editor and publisher of Greek America magazine spoke at the American Hellenic Institute’s noon forum commemorating the 68th anniversary of OXI Day. In his remarks he stressed “the importance of the preservation of our history” and the things he learned as he devoted himself to collecting memorabilia about Greece in World War II. He spoke about covers and articles from Life and Time magazines and articles from leading newspapers regarding the heroic Greek people in their struggle against the Axis powers. His collection includes a number of U.S. posters regarding the gallant fight of the Greek people for survival and requests for humanitarian aid for the starving people of Greece under Nazi occupation. The U.S. public responded magnificently.
AHI will be issuing a press release on his remarks and his remarks will appear on the AHI website www.ahiworld.org.
Greg’s remarks reminded me of my own story of that period. I was in the eighth grade in Public School 92 in Brooklyn, New York. From October 29, 1940, when the daily newspapers and radio first reported Greece’s response of OXI to Mussolini, my classmates would say to me “How great the Greeks were to stand up to Mussolini and Hitler.”
And a most important aspect of Greece’s heroic role was the impact on our parents and community. The Greeks were the last of the ethnic groups to come to America in the immigration wave from 1890 to 1925. We were the bottom of the barrel. No more after OXI Day. Overnight there was a change in the attitude of our fellow Americans.
Modern Greece has a glorious history with some bumpy periods. We should make sure to learn about and preserve that history and the history of our community in the United States.
D-Day and OXI Day