Sunday, 11 October 2015

Operation Mercury, May 1941 - Battle of Crete. Another Pyrrhic victory.Compiled by Alex Halley

The fuel . In the modern world, military power fell , due to the lack of access to this material. In the first half of 1941 Nazi Germany preparing for aggression against the Bolshevik giant. A very important role in the plans of the Germans played the oil fields in Ploieşti, Romania.  The ships of the Royal Navy and stationed in Crete British troops posed a threat to Hitler's plans. Units of the Royal Air Force operating from Crete was able to effectively destroy targets in the Romanian oil fields. The invasion of
Crete seemed to be a logical consequence due to the upcoming implementation of the plan Barbarossa. Another argument was , benefit from the control of the Mediterranean and gain their freedom attacking the British troops in the Middle East and North Africa.
The invasion - the only way to thwart the possibility of undermining Operation Barbarossa and gain a new foothold to implement their own plans in the Middle East and North Africa. The first airborne operation in history armed conflict on such a large scale has become a reality.It was the largest in scale operation of the troops air transport during the second world War.It was the largest in scale operation of the troops air transport during the second world War.
Junkers Ju52 3mg4e ferrying in supplies prior to operation Mercury 1941

Early May 1940. All the Crete was observed daily by the German reconnaissance airplanes. They monitored all the moves allies troops. During planned Operation Mercury In the command there was disagreement concerning the places where they were to land the troops.
Colonel General Alexander Lohr, commander Luftflotte 4 commander of the entire operation was a supporter of landings in only two locations: around Canea and Maleme. Paratroop commander, Lieutenant General Kurt Student, opted for the three places Canea, Maleme, Retimo (the western part of the island) and Heraklion in the central part of Crete. It was found a compromise. Landing divided into two phases. Morning when made in the region have attacked Maleme / Canea. Afternoon, when the attacked areas Retimo and Heraklion.

20 may 1940- early morning German aircraft's attacked and strafed everything that was moving on the north of the island. Observers have the impression that on each of them on the ground, there is one Messerschmitt or Stukas. A moment later, everyone could hear the monotonous hum. New Zealand troops stationed around Maleme, they saw in the sky a huge fleet of transport aircraft, later filled the whole sky to bowls parachutes. Despite the surprise, the defenders of Crete turning very strong resistance.
Many Germans were killed even during the release of the harness, a crew of several gliders were killed during landing.
Nevertheless, German commandos in spite of large losses and the strong pressure of the defenders managed to create strongholds west of Maleme and Canea.

In the afternoon of Retimo and Heraklion dropped a second wave of landings. The British, together with the allied again posed a strong barrage fire. The Germans were, however, this time better prepared. Those who survived formed two groups in the chapel and plant oil production. Both were in the lap.
Everything changed overnight. Two battalions of the New Zealanders, protecting Malam and the so-called point 107, close to the airport withdrew, fearing encirclement. German patrols in the morning discovered this fact provided information authorizing the seizure of the airport. Airport being in possession of Germans could move to attack. Kurt Student acknowledged that it was time to quit residual reserves. On May 22, 1950 German soldiers landed, and the next day their number reached 3650 people. Troops from Maleme, after receiving the support they went east to join with branches in Canea. British garrison at that time, was still plagued by attacks from the air. Command decided to leave Crete. 

Finally German win the battle of Crete, but why we start call this victory Pyrrhic? Simply, German used 8500 soldiers. 44% of their died, most of this numbers in first day of Operation Mercury. Nearly half of  German fleet of transport aircraft was destroyed during this battle. In finally result Hitler decided neevr used again the airborne troops during WWII. 

It is worth remembering that the British soldiers and the British Commonwealth, allies of the Luftwaffe assault on Crete was unheard of. At the same time in terms of the use of parachutists and the amount of used machines in the sky.

 Striking element of Lufftflotte 4 (Colonel General Alexander Lohr):
  • Fliegerkorps XI General Karl Student
  • Fliegerkorps VIII Lieutenant General Freiherr von Richthofen
  • Fliederkorps X The German command evolved into machines to participate in Operation Mercury.
    Generaloberst Kurt Student directed Operation Mercury (Unternehmen Merkur), the airborne invasion of the island of Crete in May 1941.

 United Kingdom
 New Zealand
Commanders and leaders
New Zealand Bernard Colonel General Alexander LohrFreyberg Nazi Germany Kurt Student
United Kingdom:
New Zealand:
40,000–61,800 (10,000 without fighting capacity)
14,000 paratroopers
15,000 mountain troopers
280 bombers
150 dive bombers
180 fighters
500 transports
72 troop gliders
Casualties and losses
4,123 dead
unknown wounded
17,479 captured


Total: 6,698
370 aircraft destroyed or damaged