The Greek Fight - 28 October 1940
On this day 76 years ago, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini made an ultimatum, asking that Greece allows Axis forces to enter the country peacefully. The Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas refused to surrender his country, however, and signaled Greece’s entry into the Second World War with the single phrase “Then it is war!”
Italy stationed troops in Albania and attacked the Greek border right before dawn. On that day, the people of Greece took to the streets, people of all ages and ideologies chanting “όχι!” time after time as a form of resistance.
Although the country had little equipment, all of it outdated, its people fought bravely. The Italians’ plan to capture the pass at Metsovo and break into the Greeks’ supply, which would be decisive to the war, was thwarted by the Hellenic warriors. Men, women and children, the sick, the elderly and the handicapped all helped recapture the villages initially taken by Mussolini’s men, who - along with the Albanian reinforcements - suffered heavy losses.
The local population did not know how to hold a gun or strategize. They were short of food and clothing, and the long journeys over the mountain terrain, surviving harsh weather conditions, were deadly. Nevertheless, they held the Pindus Mountains successfully and cleared the area of Italian units.
It is no wonder that Winston Churchill later exclaimed the words “Hence we will not say that the Greeks fight like heroes, but that heroes fight like Greeks.”