Hill 731 was the scene of the most ferocious battle of the Greek-Italian War in Albania. Watched by Mussolini himself, on 9 March 1941 the Italians launched their Spring Offensive, designed to stem four months of humiliating reverses. The objective was a pair of parallel valleys dominated by the Greek-held Hill 731 that had to be taken at all costs. The Italian Eighth Corps, part of Geloso’s 11th Army, had the task of seizing the heights, spearheaded by 38 (Puglie) Division. Holding the position was the Greek 1 Division of II Corps, with 4 and 6 Division on the flanks. For 17 days, after a massive artillery barrage (which reduced the hill’s height by 6 metres), the Italians threw themselves with great courage against the Evzones on the hill, to be repeatdly smashed with appalling losses. It was an Iwo Jima-type merciless fight at close quarters, where bayonets held the place of honour but the battered Greeks held. Mussolini had wanted a spring victory to impress the Fuehrer. Instead, the bloody debacle of Hill 731 could well have contributed to Hitler’s decision to postpone his invasion of Russia by at least four weeks, a costly delay.
MUSSLINI’S DEFEAT AT HILL 731- MARCH 1941 How the Greeks Halted Italy’s Albanian Offensive
The Italian invasion of Greece in 1940 was, at best, a disaster. There are very few parts of it that show the Italian Army in a good light, and the final offensive of that invasion is no exception. In this book, John Carr takes us through the final Operazione Primavera (Spring Offensive) that was carried out at Mussolini’s behest. It focusses on the fight for Hill 731, the key part of the Greek Defensive line some 20km north of Këlcyrë in Albania. The Italian plan saw the main strength of their assault fall upon a 6km long line of the Greek positions.
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