Timeline of the German Invasion of Crete (May 20th - June 1st, 1941)

Timeline of the German Invasion of Crete (May 20th - June 1st, 1941)

With the Greek mainland firmly under Axis control, Hitler set his sights on the small - yet strategically-important - Mediterranean island of Crete.





With most of Western and Eastern Europe until Axis control, the German/Italian war machine once again jumped into action - literally - as a combined force of German and Italian paratroopers took part in landings on the strategically important island of Crete. Allied air defenses proved deadly at first where some 50% of Axis transports were destroyed while still in the air though any presumed Allied victory was short-lived as the enemy force quickly engaged strategic points. The Germans committed 14,000 paratroopers and were further backed by 15,000 mountain troops as well as air support through bombers, dive bombers, and fighters. For their part, the Italians used 2,700 men. All this was against an Allied force made up of 15,000 British, 11,451 Greek, 7,100 Australian, and 6,700 New Zealanders in defense of the island. The invasion began on May 20th, 1941.


The valiant Allied troops battled it out with modest success until eventually being forced on the run. By the end of May, the Allies were forced to evacuate and relinquish control of the island to the invaders. Additionally, several important Royal Navy ships were also lost in the fighting. The war dead included 4,123 Allied personnel with 2,750 wounded and 17,090 captured. The enemy lost 370 aircraft in the fighting - which ended on June 1st, 1941 - just eleven days after the initial assault wave.


The Invasion of Crete marked the first large scale use of paratroopers in an attempt to overtake an enemy-held territory. German airborne troops made up most of the ground fighting force which forced the Allies to take a closer look into developing their own respective airborne elements. The battle also marked the first useful application of intelligence garnered from German Enigma code machines. Despite the success of the German airborne force, the losses were such that Adolf Hitler limited their large-scale use in operations going forward. ©www.SecondWorldWarHistory.com




There are a total of (25) entries in the Timeline of the German Invasion of Crete (May 20th - June 1st, 1941). Entries are listed below by earliest date to latest date.


April 25th
1941
Fuhrer Directive No.28 is issued by Adolf Hitler, calling for the invasion of the island of Crete through Operation Mercury led by General Kurt Student.
April 26th
1941
Allied codebreakers intercept word of the impending German invasion of Crete.
April 30th
1941
Allied forces based on Crete receive a new leader in the form of Major-General Bernard Freyberg.
May 19th
1941
In advance of the Crete invasion, RAF fighters are relocated to Egypt for safe-keeping.
May 19th
1941
Allied codebreakers intercept word that Operation Mercury will commence the very next day. The Allies begin preparations.
May 20th
1941
Allied flak teams destroy as many as 50% of the invading German transport planes in the first few hours of the operation.
May 20th
1941
Operation Mercury is officially launched.
May 20th
1941
At approximately 7:00 AM, the first German airborne troops land at locations near Maleme and Khania.
May 20th
1941
At least 500 Junkers Ju 52 transport aircraft are utilized in the first wave of airdrops over Crete.
May 20th
1941
Between 1:30 and 2:00 PM, the second wave of German airborne troops take off from Greece towards drop zones in Crete.
May 20th
1941
In-air losses for the second wave of German paratroopers is nearly equal to the first thanks to the stellar Allied flak defenses on Crete.
May 20th
1941
At about 2:00 PM, the second wave of German paratroops land around Heraklion and Rethymnon.
May 20th
1941
The first day of the German invasion of Crete sees little progress as many strategic positions are not under German control yet.
May 21st
1941
A German offensive against Heraklion is pushed away by at least 8,000 dug-in Allied soldiers.
May 21st
1941
German Army troops making their way to Crete via the sea are intercepted and pummeled by elements of the Royal Navy. Just 60 of these German soldiers live to see another day.
May 22nd
1941
The HMS Greyhound, a British destroyer, is downed by German bombers.
May 22nd
1941
New Zealand troops are repelled from an attempt to retake the airfield at Maleme from the Germans.
May 23rd
1941
German dive bombers destroy the HMS Kelly and HMS Kashmir, two Royal Navy destroyers.
May 23rd
1941
German dive bombers destroy the HMS Gloucester and the HMS Fiji, two Royal Navy cruisers.
May 27th
1941
The German Army takes Heraklion and her all-important airfield.
May 27th
1941
Allied forces retreat to defensive positions at Galatas.
May 30th
1941
The brave defense of Rethymnon by Australian soldiers finally falters under intense pressure from the German Army.
May 31st
1941
By this date, Crete is firmly entrenched under German rule.
May 28th
1941
Heraklion in the north and Sphakia in the south of Crete will serve as major evacuation junctions for the Allies.
May 28th
1941
The evacuation order is given by Major-General Freyberg for the gradual withdrawel of Allied troops from the island of Crete.