The Battle of Crete during World War II was one of the hardest-fought victories for the Nazi Germans with more losses here than in any other battle prior.
Numerous books about the May 1941 battle have been written from different perspectives but none more fascinating than by those who fought the Nazis.
Here are four of our picks:
During the Second World War, Xan Fielding served for two years as an officer in the British Special Operations Executive on German-occupied Crete, where he ran an intelligence network in cooperation with the Cretan resistance movement. Seven years later, Fielding returned to Crete to spend a year traveling in the island’s White Mountains (the “stronghold” of the title), revisiting sites of his wartime exploits and seeking out former comrades who had returned to their peacetime lives. His sojourn resulted in this remarkable memoir, a documentary-like record of days spent among Cretan peasants blended with history and literature— a travelogue like no other.
George Psychoundakis was a twenty-one-year-old shepherd from the village of Asi Gonia when the battle of Crete began: “It was in May 1941 that, all of a sudden, high in the sky, we heard the drone of many aeroplanes growing steadily closer.” The German parachutists soon outnumbered the British troops who were forced first to retreat, then to evacuate, before Crete fell to the Germans. So began the Cretan Resistance and the young shepherd’s career as a wartime runner.
In this unique account of the Resistance, Psychoundakis records the daily life of his fellow Cretans, his treacherous journeys on foot from the eastern White Mountains to the western slopes of Mount Ida to transmit messages and transport goods, and his enduring friendships with British officers (like his eventual translator Patrick Leigh Fermor) whose missions he helped to carry out with unflagging courage, energy, and good humor.
One of the most daring feats in Patrick Leigh Fermor’s life was the kidnapping of General Kreipe, the German commander in Crete, on April 26, 1944. Abducting a General, now published for the first time in the United States, is Leigh Fermor’s own account of the kidnapping. Written in his inimitable prose, and introduced by the acclaimed Special Operations Executive historian Roderick Bailey, it is a glorious firsthand account of one of the great adventures of the Second World War.
Also included in this book are Leigh Fermor’s intelligence reports sent from caves deep within Crete, which bring the immediacy of SOE operations vividly alive, as well as the peril under which the SOE and Resistance were operating, and a guide to the journey that Kreipe took, from the abandonment of his car to the embarkation site, so that the modern visitor to Crete can relive this extraordinary trip.
Ill Met By Moonlight is the gripping account of the audacious World War II abduction of a German general from the island of Crete. British special forces officers W. Stanley Moss and Patrick Leigh Fermor, together with a small band of Cretan partisans, kidnapped the general, then evaded numerous German checkpoints and patrols for nearly three weeks as they maneuvered across the mountainous island to a rendezvous with the boat that finally whisked them away to Allied headquarters in Cairo.
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