Germany Launches Airborne Attack on the Island of Crete

The Battle of Crete (German: Luftlandeschlacht um Kreta; Greek: Μάχη της Κρήτης) was a battle during World War II on the Greek island of Crete.

The battle began on the morning of 20 May 1941, when Nazi Germany launched an airborne invasion of Crete under the code-name Unternehmen Merkur ("Operation Mercury") Greek and Allied forces along with Cretan civilians defended the island.

After one day of fighting, the Germans had suffered appalling casualties and none of their objectives had been achieved. The next day, through miscommunication and the failure of Allied commanders to grasp the situation, Maleme airfield in western Crete fell to the Germans, enabling them to fly in reinforcements and overwhelm the Allied forces. The battle lasted for about ten days.

The Battle of Crete was unprecedented in three respects: it was the first mainly airborne invasion; it was the first time the Allies made significant use of intelligence from the deciphered German Enigma code; and it was the first time invading German troops encountered mass resistance from a civilian population. In light of the heavy casualties suffered by the parachutists, Adolf Hitler forbade further large scale airborne operations. However, the Allies were impressed by the potential of paratroopers and started to build their own airborne divisions.

On the morning of 20th May, 1941, the Germans launched the first airborne invasion in history. They chose the Greek island of Crete in the Eastern Mediterranean.

"To lose Crete because we had not sufficient bulk of forces there would be a crime"; Churchill in his book "The Second World War"