Greece, the Decade at War: Occupation, Resistance and Civil War
by David Brewer
List Price: $29.00
Hardcover: 336 pages ISBN: 1780768540 Publisher: I.B.Tauris
Date Published: April 28, 2016
A Review by Michael Dilley
The decade of the 1940s was a bloody, divisive period for Greece. During this time Greece faced an invasion by Italy, then an invasion by Germany, and, finally, a Communist-led civil war. These wars are the subject of David Brewer’s latest book, Greece, The Decade of War – Occupation, Resistance and Civil War. This is the third book Brewer has written about Greece. Following college (Oxford University), he held several positions before concentrating his time and efforts studying and writing about Greek history.
In order to understand what happened in the decade of the 1940s, it is necessary to learn, however briefly, the recent history of Greece. Brewer establishes this history and an understanding of its events in an expert manner, showing the lead-up to World War II.
Mussolini’s invasion of Albania in 1939 was similar in some respects to Hitler’s invasion of Poland in that an “incident” needed to be created that would “justify” his military invasion. From his footing in Albania, Mussolini’s next target was Greece. However, Greece was not so easily overcome as had been Albania. In addition, Greece was assisted in its battles with Italy and Germany, following its invasion in April 1941 and Crete in May of the same year. Britain provided a wide spectrum of assistance, in the form of military units, political and economic help, and, later, advisors to the various resistance units from the Special Operations Executive. Not all of these elements, either British or Greek, were able to agree on plans of action, further complicating the fight with Germany. As in France and other occupied countries, the resistance forces included elements controlled by Communists, whose plans were far reaching – with an eye to control of the country following the war. Virtually all Communist resistance forces had political aims that over-rode any military considerations. This, of course, led to bitter infighting and little cooperation between the different resistance elements, despite efforts by Britain to bring about cooperation.
Attitudes among the various elements in Greece were further complicated because of the king and members of the royal family, who were located, eventually, in London. There was much uncertainty about whether the king would return after the war, when this might happen, and under what conditions. There was a major move to delay his return until a plebiscite was conducted which would determine the form of government that would be put in place.
This very complicated pot in which all the various elements were stirred is a challenge for any historian to handle. David Brewer is able to treat every phase and element in a fairly equal manner to lead the reader on a very interesting and information- packed journey. The depth of his research and analysis is very evident. He presents the
history of the events in a very straight-forward way. The various maps and charts provide manageable tools to keep track of who and what is happening.
One of the most interesting things that occurred during World War II in Greece was a series of military actions from May to July 1943, known in part as Operation Animal, which led the Germans (and, unfortunately, the Greeks) to believe that an invasion by the Allies into Greece was imminent. These operations were, in fact, part of the deception plan to prevent the Germans from learning that the real invasion target was Sicily.
Following World War II, a series of elections was held. During this period there were five different prime ministers, most of them in short-lived terms. In addition there were many attempts to reform or bolster the Greek economy. In all of this the Greek Communists had their own agenda, which was to take control of the country, and it usually led to problems implementing effective measures. These Communist elements, both political and military, received conflicting orders from Moscow about what to do in the elections. Eventually they took part but did not receive enough support to have a majority. Following the elections, a plebiscite on the future of the king was held in September 1946. By a 65% majority, the king was returned but his reign did not last long.
At the end of World War II, an agreement by the various resistance groups provided that the groups would turn in their weapons. The number of weapons specified was enumerated in the agreement but the amount was considerably fewer than that possessed by the Communists. What weapons the Communist groups did turn in were mostly old and out of date. What they kept was part of the plan for a continued insurgency.
In that insurgency, Moscow and its satellites did not provide any assistance to the Greek Communists. However, support in many ways, including providing sanctuary to its units, came from the Communists governments of Albania, Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria.
In accordance with the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan, the United States took over from Britain the military, political, and economic support to Greece. By 1949, the Communist insurgency was defeated. It would still take several more years before the Greek economy was in recovery.
Greece – The Decade of War is an in-depth, well research, and well written book. In one volume David Brewer has produced a well-rounded, detailed, and informative history for a troubled period. I recommend this book highly. It will be of benefit to a variety of students and readers – especially but not limited to those students of history, military history, and to those with a specific interest in Greece.
Written by Michael F. Dilley. The author retains the copyright to this piece bearing his name. No reproduction, copying, or other forms of retrieval without permission.
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About the author:
Michael F. Dilley has a B.A. in History from Columbia College in Missouri and is a retired U.S. Army Military Intelligence officer. He served two tours in Viet Nam and six and one-half years in airborne units. In the field of military history, he was written three books (one of them as co-author) and contributed to two anthologies. He has also written many articles and book reviews dealing with special purpose, special mission units.
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