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AHIF Commemorates the Battle of Crete with a Book Presentation of The First Victory: Greece in the Second World War
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: C. Franciscos Economides
May 21, 2010—No. 36 (202) 785-8430

AHIF Commemorates the Battle of Crete with a Book Presentation of The First Victory: Greece in the Second World War

WASHINGTON, DC — On Wednesday May 12, 2010, the American Hellenic Institute Foundation (AHIF) in cooperation with the Pancretan Association of America held a book presentation and reception at the Hellenic House for the release of AHIF’s latest publication, The First Victory: Greece in the Second World War, by George C. Blytas.  The book is published jointly with Cosmos Publishing.

The First Victory provides a broad explanation of Greece’s vital role in the Second World War. Greece’s resistance against the invading Axis powers resulted in the first Allied victory. Detailed descriptions and maps are used in Blytas’s account of the events leading up to the war as well as the diplomatic and military progressions which further strengthened the role of Greece, helping her to attain the first victory.

Hitler’s delayed invasion of the Soviet Union was a direct result of Greece’s diplomatic and military resolve. The Greek struggle is illustrated with the assistance of multiple interviews, archives, and Blytas’s use of a comprehensive bibliography. The book aptly demonstrates the importance of the local conflict and its broader, international relevance.

In his welcoming remarks, Executive Director Nick Larigakis said: “In the process of presenting this book tonight, we are also commemorating the very important day of the Battle of Crete, marking the 69th anniversary of the heroic battle which we celebrate on May 27, 2010. Many historians will agree that it is one of the most significant battles of WWII. The people of Crete fought admirably and bravely against Nazi Germany forces and cost the Germans to delay Operation Barbarossa: The Invasion of Russia for an additional eleven days for a total of two months. This delay, many historians will tell you changed the final outcome of WWII as the Germans had to face the brutal Russian winter, which as we all know did not bode well for the Germans. The Battle of Crete is significant for many other reasons…The resistance displayed by civilians, the use of intelligence to combat the Nazis, and the first time invasion by airborne military among others.”

Ted Manousakis, president, Pancreatan Association of America, provided introductory remarks: “I want to tell you that the Pancretan Association of America very much supports the American Hellenic Institute and congratulations on your recent policy statements, which we support. It was truly a work of art on your part.”

He continued, “I want to share with you some personal experiences…On May 20th  1941 Nazi Germany invaded Crete.  The mighty war machine of Adolf Hitler planned to capture and occupy the island within 12 hours.  It was a reasonable calculation they thought. After all it had taken only eight days to capture all of France.  On that point, however, the Germans were mistaken. It took 10 days for Crete to finally fall and 10 days later the Germans were shocked by the loss of nearly one-third of their 7th Parachute Division. My father gave refuge to two British soldiers in our home in the village of Antalokos near Hania. They were hidden for three days in the ceiling of our house. A dangerous risk on my father’s part since there were German troops camped in the olive groves around the village at our house. One night my father relocated the Englishmen to the far range of the village at the foot of the Lefkari mountain range. They camped under the trees and each day my mother brought them food and water.

“The Battle of Crete is one of the most significant yet underreported battles of the Second World War. Unfortunately, history becomes what the historians’ record and does not always reflect what actually transpired. It is our responsibility therefore, to tell the story over and over again. The Battle of Crete is a piece of history that must be reported and represented in its proper context. Crete was very useful to the Germans because of its proximity to the Suez Canal and the Middle East oil fields. Germany won the battle but at a steep cost, more than 6,000 of its soldiers, more than the total killed in the entire war up to that time. The German forces declared the Battle of Crete as the fiercest struggle that any German formation had ever had to face.”

In introducing the author, George C. Blytas, AHIF President Gene Rossides remarked: “I got involved with this book, The First Victory, because of my belief in the importance of Greece’s total role in World War II and its importance as a turning point in the war. This book is the finest book in English on Greece’s role in World War II.”

“George Blytas was born in Egypt, studied there and in Europe and then came to the United States and became a chemical engineer for 35 years. Now how does this person become the author of an exceptional book…a book that ranks with Speros Vyronis’ book, The Mechanism of Catastrophe, on Turkey’s destruction of the Greek community of Istanbul in 1955. He will tell you why and how he did it. This book belongs in every Greek American household in the nation, particularly those with children.”

Author George Blytas explained why he wrote his book: “The Second World War started in September 1939 and lasted 70 months. In the thirteenth month of that war, Greece was dragged in by Italy but in the mean time, in the first 13 months, Germany had conquered seven nations subjugating more than a 100 million people to the Axis. During the fighting periods, on average, European nations were falling to the Axis every two weeks…Then Mussolini without any provocation decided to attack Greece expecting that he would be in Athens in less than two weeks. Mussolini was not alone in thinking that way…everybody else thought Greece would capitulate in two weeks, everybody that is except for the Greeks. In an attempt to hold onto Crete, Churchill sent two anti-aircraft battalions to the island but not a single British solider set foot on mainland Greece. In fact the diplomatic relations between Greece and Germany remained normal throughout the fight with Italy. This is an important fact to keep in mind. Greece was at war with Italy but not with Germany.

“Coming back to the invasion of Greece on October 28th 1940 after rapid incursion of about 15 miles into Epirus, three Italian divisions were stopped by the artillery of Division A which at that time was only 60 percent mobilized. In the course of the week-long battle that followed the Italian divisions were badly hurt.”

“The most important thing I learned was that battle at Kelpaki was the first victory fought by an allied army against the Axis. It took me a long time to get a complete picture of what happened in Greece during those years and that is because there is hardly any discussion of the Greek resistance in the English speaking world. The contribution of Greece in the Second World War has been systematically swept under the rug with the English historians. That happened during the war.  The entire world was stunned by the success of the Greek army in Epirus and Albania. All of that was forgotten by 1950, and that is why I have written this book.”

The First Victory: Greece in the Second World War may be purchased online at www.ahiworld.org, by mail or my calling 202-785-8430. It is available in hard cover, 600 pages with 24 maps and 43 pictures. ISBN 978-1-932455-19-9; Price $39.95 plus $5 for postage and handling. AHI/AHIF members receive a 25% discount - $30 plus $5 postage.

Click here to view photos of this event.

The American Hellenic Institute Foundation (AHIF) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit tax-exempt Greek American think-tank, educational and research organization. The American Hellenic Institute (AHI) is a 501 (c) (6) non-profit, tax-exempt organization that works to strengthen relations between the United States and Greece and Cyprus, and within the Greek American community.

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For additional information, please contact C. Franciscos Economides at (202) 785-8430 or at [email protected]. For general information about the activities of AHI, please see our website at http://www.ahiworld.org.