Monday, April 5, 2010

German Assault on Crete

When I was in junior high I purchased my first two wargames on clearance from a Kay-Bee store. One was Struggle of Nations and way over my head (still is...). The other was Air Assault on Crete. I played Crete game several times and enjoyed it immensely.

This map details that fateful battle. Actually, as I learned from playing the game and is illustrated on the map, it was three separate battles. The forces defending the island were a mix of Australians, New Zealanders, British and Greeks. Though superior in number to the Germans, many of the Allied soldiers belonged to support units, not combat. 
The German assault was the first battle where the Fallschirmjägers ("hunters from the sky") were used as the primary attack force. Losses were heavy and the Fallschirmjägers were never used in a major role again. However, their display of power so impress the Allies that they stepped up their plans to develop airborne capability.The airborne troops had one mission, capture the three airfields and hold long enough until reinforcements could be flown in. On may 20th, the Germans suffered heavy causalties as they landed. Crete civilians joined in the fight and provided stiff resistance. The battle lasted ten days but finally the Germans prevailed. Over 16,000 of the Commonwealth forces were evacuated to Egypt. The remaining 5,000 defenders at Sphakia surrendered on June 1st. Many took flight to the hills, causing the Germans problems for many months.This map is from of Wikipedia. The is from the caption from the Wikipedia site reads:
In keeping abreast with today's technology, the Department of History is providing these maps on the internet as part of the department's outreach program. The maps were created by the United States Military Academy’s Department of History and are the digital versions from the atlases printed by the United States Defense Printing Agency. We gratefully acknowledge the accomplishments of the department's former cartographer, Mr. Edward J. Krasnoborski, along with the works of our present cartographer, Mr. Frank Martini.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

World War I devastation

Known at the time as "The Great War" and now as the first World War, it is somewhat ironic that much of the carnage was contained to a relatively small part of the globe (just don't tell that to the Belgians). This map comes from The World's Work: A History of Our Time (Volume xxxviii, Oct. 1919).

From the caption in the book:
The shaded area contains practically all the greatly devastated districts and ruined cities, with the exception of a few in Belgium such as Louvain, Verdun, Rheims, Cambrai, Arras, Lille, and many other cities and towns are centres of heavy destruction, while in a number of heavily shelled districts such as the Chemin des Dames and Ypres, every mark of human habitation is obliterated.
It looks like about 1/3 of Belgium was laid waste and Parisians appear to be justified over any concern they might have held as the war was fought in their front yard. In the northwestern corner can be seen the Ardennes forest, and the names of many villages that would be an important part of the Battle of the Bulge in World War II including Bastogne, Stavelot and St. Vith. 

I have added the blue lines to highlight national borders.