Just days after Italian forces invaded Greece in the early hours of Oct. 28, 1940, The New York Herald Tribune published a story about Rome anticipating a quick Greek collapse.
“ROME — Italian military activity in Greece, aimed at ousting British influence and making the nation a satellite of the Axis powers, is being supplemented both by German diplomatic pressure and by ‘‘fifth-column’’ work. If these combined forces succeed to the limit of the Axis hopes, King George II will soon lose this throne and the government of Premier Gen. John Metaxas will be replaced by one under Constantine Cotzias, now Governor of Athens.“
“Well-informed Germans in Rome said tonight [Oct. 30] they expected the collapse of Greece within a few days. They are counting, in part, on the strength of Premier Benito Mussolini’s army, which will be shown when it comes to grip with the eight divisions of Greek troops reported to be concentrating in the north, and partly on the prospect of a Greek uprising against the Metaxas government. When the collapse comes, it is predicted, the King’s younger brother, Crown Prince Paul, the thirty-eight-year old heir, will be named sovereign.“
Prior to the invasion, Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas had faced a grim ultimatum from Italian dictator Benito Mussolini — surrender to Axis Powers, or fight for survival by entering World War II.
Mussolini’s forces had already amassed on Greece’s northern border and threatened to invade through Albania, but Metaxas issued a simple yet firm response that would echo for generations to come — “Oxi” (No).
Throughout the world, news of the invasion — and Metaxas’ stern reply to Italian threats — featured on front page news such as the New York Times, which put the event in big, bold letters for all readers to see.
But Rome’s prediction of a quick victory would prove false, as Greek forces pushed the Italians back into Albania after only two to three weeks of fighting.
The subsequent German invasion, occupation and the events that came with it would leave permanent scars that persist in Greece to this day.
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