My vote for the first Axis defeat would be the Italian attack into southern France. Some very outnumbered, and demoralized, second line troops managed to stop Mussolini’s legions cold. In the vast scheme of things, it did not matter, but it showed what could be done.
The battle of Britain was an ongoing battle even after the Greeks beat the Italians. It was also not a land battle, I should have mentioned first land battle.
The successful defense of France against the Italians is very admirable and I have read about it. But there was no incursion and occupation of Italian possessions by the French. I would also like to add that the French actually had ceded territory to the Italians after that battle as well. So, in my book, that is in no way, shape or form a defeat inflicted on the axis. A ‘victor’ doesn’t give up territory to a “beaten” force right after a battle.
The Greeks not only expelled the Italians from Greece proper, but initiated an invasion into southern Albania (at that time, Italian territory) and managed to expel the Italian army from one third of the portion of Albania, occupying it themselves and had inflicted tens of thousands of casualties/dead in addition to taking in thousands of prisoners. In essence, it is the first offensive victory over the axis powers.
Italy attacked Greece on October 28 1940 and suffered the first Axis defeat. Though Hitler had no plans for Greece at that time, he was forced to send troops to occupy Greece (since Greece’s neutrality was broken) on April of 1941. This resulted in the delay of Operation Barbarossa and the loss of precious troops. I understand, human nature being what it is, that we all want to put our ancestors and heritage in the best possible light, but I think the best heading you can accurately put on this thread is “Early defeat of AN Axis Power”.
I wasn’t trying to denigrate either you or the Greek Army. I don’t have “considerable heartburn”, although I might be getting there. All I said was that your original thread title was inaccurate. You responded by changing the ground rules. My second post (with a “sigh”) explained exactly why it was inaccurate. You then changed the thread title to include “(on land)”. That’s fine – one complaint down (although I tend to agree with Belisarius) – but it doesn’t address my other complaint, which was that the Greeks defeated Italy, not “the Axis powers”.
Well since you put it that way, and want to get technical, I can get technical as well. If you really want to split hairs, this war which was the first axis defeat on land probably cost them (yeah both of them)the whole war (The Russians and the Germans admitted as much anyway)since the Germans and Italians had to delay their plans for the invasion of Russia for a couple of months with this diversion ( time to invade Greece and time to prepare the invasion of Russia ). This caused the Axis to invade in the Russian winter. The Battle of Stalingrad ( a pivotal battle no?) would probably not happened as well.
I know it’s not a widely held belief because of some odd reasons or another, that the Greeks could have “conceivably” been directly or indirectly responsible for this but the statements of the German generals alone is enough proof for me. If you have any doubts I can post links to them, they are statements which were made at the Nuremberg trials. However, the measure of resistance was paid considerable homage to by German officials.
Hitler’s Chief of Staff, Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel stated “The unbelievably strong resistance of the Greeks delayed by two or more vital months the German attack against Russia; if we did not have this long delay, the outcome of the war would have been different in the eastern front and in the war in general.”
A speech Hitler made at the Reichstag in 1941 said of the campaign: “It must be said, for the sake of historical truth, that amongst all our opponents, only the Greeks fought with such endless courage and defiance of death.” The diary of Joseph Goebbels 9 April 1941: “I forbid the Press to underestimate the Greeks, to defame them… The Fuehrer admires the bravery of Greeks.”