Αρχική > Ἀμυνα, Πολιτική, Σιδηρούντιος Γιώργος > 731: THE SECRET BATTLE WHICH CHANGED THE COURSE OF WWII

731: THE SECRET BATTLE WHICH CHANGED THE COURSE OF WWII

500000 ITALIAN TROOPS WITHIN SHORT DISTANCE, 200 AIRPLANES AND HUNDREDS OF HEAVY ARTILLERY, ALL FAILED AGAINST THE GREEK DEFENDERS OF HILL 731, A SINGLE BATTALION COMMANDED BY MAJOR DIMITRIOS KASLAS. DUE TO THE INTENSIVE BOMBING OF SUCH A SMALL MOUNTAINOUS AREA, WITH UNPRECEDENTED FEROCITY IN MILITARY HISTORY, THE ENTIRE HILL  WAS LOWERED FROM 731 DOWN TO 726 METERS. FIVE METERS OF ROCKS AND EARTH WHICH COVERED THE SURFACE OF THE HILL, AND AN ENTIRE FOREST, BECAME DUST.

DAY AFTER DAY, REPEATED ITALIAN INFANTRY OFFENSIVES WERE LAUNCHED DURING THE INTERVALS BETWEEN THE BOMBING. OFTEN WITHOUT AMMUNITION, THE GREEKS HAD TO RESULT INTO HAND TO HAND FIGHTING WITH BAYONETS AND STONES, THUS GAINING THE REPUTATION AMONG THE ITALIAN TROOPS THAT THEY WERE SUPERNATURAL BEASTS OR GHOSTS. FROM THE ENTIRE ORIGINAL GREEK BATTALION, ONLY THREE MEN AND KASLAS SURVIVED.

STARVED, THINNED LIKE SKELETONS, WOUNDED, WITH CLOTHES TURNED INTO RUGS BECAUSE OF THE BLASTS, VASTLY OUTNUMBERED, THEY NEVER GAVE GROUND. THIS UNPRECEDENTED BATTLE IN MILITARY HISTORY, WON BY SO FEW AGAINST SO MANY, MADE CHURCHILL, HITLER, STALIN, GOEBBELS AND OTHERS TO DECLARE THAT THE GREEKS HAD CHANGED THE ENTIRE COURSE OF  WWII.

ITALY’S FAILURE AT 731 FORCED THE THIRD REICH TO POSTPONE ITS ATTACK AGAINST MOSCOW, CHANGE THE STRUCTURE OF ITS FORCES AND SEND SOME OF ITS ELITE TROOPS AGAINST GREECE. THIS WAS TOTALLY OUT OF PLAN.  AS A RESULT, THE GERMAN ATTACK AGAINST THE SOVIETS WAS DELAYED AND FELL INSIDE WINTER, WITH CATASTROPHIC CONSEQUENCES FOR THE OFFENDERS.

FOR SPECIFIC POLITICAL REASONS, THE IMPORTANCE OF BATTLE 731 REMAINS UNKNOWN TO THE WIDER PUBLIC. MOST MEN OF THE HEROIC GREEK IRON DIVISION OF WESTERN THESSALY, WHICH STOPPED THE ITALIAN OFFENSIVE, LATER BECAME MEMBERS OF THE GREEK RESISTANCE MOVEMENTS AGAINST THE NAZIS, THE BRITISH AND THE AMERICANS.

EVEN TO NOWADAYS, HILL 731 IS COVERED WITH THE RELICS OF THOSE WHO PERISHED. THE ALBANIAN GOVERNMENT DOES NOT GIVE PERMISSION TO COLLECT THEM. THE MINUTE, HUMBLE MONUMENT THAT STANDS ON TOP OF THE HILL HAS BEEN REPEATEDLY DESTROYED AND VANDALISED BY THUGS.  731 HAS TO BE FORGOTTEN.

BEFORE THE BATTLES IN HILL 731, KASLAS HAD LAUNCHED THE FIRST COUNTER-OFFENSIVE OPERATIONS WHICH FORCED THE ITALIAN TROOPS TO RETREAT FROM INSIDE GREECE. HE WAS THE FIRST AND MOST SUCCESSFUL OFFICER WHO KEPT CHASING THE ITALIANS THROUGHOUT THE WAR, WITHOUT ANY BRAKE. HE ALSO WAS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT RESISTANCE OFFICERS WHO FOUGHT AGAINST THE NAZIS UP TO THE LAST DAYS OF WWII.

AFTER THE WAR ENDED, MAJOR KASLAS WAS STRIPPED OF HIS RANK, ARRESTED, TORTURED AND IMPRISONED BY THE COLLABORATORS OF THE GERMANS, WHO, BY THE HELP OF THE BRITISH AND THE AMERICANS, TOOK OVER THE ADMINISTRATION OF GREECE. KASLAS WAS FORBIDDEN TO RE-JOIN THE ARMY. HE WAS RELEASED IN 1950 AND DIED IN ANONYMITY IN 1966. HIS MEMORY WAS OFFICIALLY HONOURED BY THE GREEK STATE AND ARMY FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 1985. HE REMAINS UNKNOWN TO THE WIDER GREEK AND INTERNATIONAL PUBLIC.

G. Sidirountios

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