Monday, December 23, 2013

The Attackers at Heraklion on 20 May 1941

The Germans apparently underestimated the strength of the defense at Heraklion on Crete in May 1941. They attacked with four battalions of paratroops. The German commander was Colonel Brauer. He had all three battalions of the 1st Parachute Rifle Regiment, of which he was commander. He also had one battalion from the 2nd Regiment. He also had some detachments, including a machine-gun anti-aircraft unit. General Student, the famous paratroop commander and commander of the XI Air Corps, complained later that his intelligence officer had underestimated the strength of the defenders at Heraklion. The British and Greek defenders (counting Australians in the mix) consisted of eight battalions. The anti-aircraft fire at Heraklion had been very effective and had done great damage to the fleet of transport aircraft. As many as 600 paratroops were left in Greece due to lack of transports. The plan had been to drop the four attacking battalions at geographically separated locations. One was to take the airfield, one to take the town of Heraklion, one to capture the wireless station to the east, and one to provide cover from reinforcements coming from the west. This is based on the account in Vol.II of the Australian Official History.

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