Dodecanese Campaign

8 Sep 1943 - 20 Nov 1943

Contributor:

ww2dbaseThe Dodecanese Islands, known as the "Twelve Islands" to the Greeks, served as bases for the German invasion of Crete, Greece. With Benito Mussolini's government removed in Sep 1943, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill wished to take control of these islands as bomber bases to attack the German-controlled oil fields in Romania. His plans were opposed by American General Dwight Eisenhower based on his suspicion of British imperialistic ambitions as well as Eisenhower's favor for a direct confrontation with German forces in Western Europe. Churchill proceeded with his own plans to align the Dodecanese Islands with the Allies despite Eisenhower's decision that he could only spare some air cover for British troops. Eisenhower believed that the number of troops the Allies could send on such an expedition would be insufficient since he could not be certain whether the Italian troops would assist the Allies or simply back off; further, even if such an invasion succeeds, Eisenhower did not believe the Allies had enough forces to form occupation garrisons.

ww2dbaseDuring September, 4,000 British troops from the Middle East command were welcomed by eight of the twelve islands. The German forces in the region fought back from Rhodes, from which air raids took off and attacked the British. German troops took Kos on 4 Oct, Leros on 16 Nov, and finally Samos on 20 Nov. With this failed campaign, Churchill lost almost 5,000 men, large numbers of aircraft, six destroyers, and two submarines. German losses were minimal in comparison.

ww2dbaseUpon recapturing of the islands, German troops carried out severe reprisals on the Italians who cooperated with British forces.

ww2dbaseAfter the war, Eisenhower noted that while he saw the strategic importance of the Dodecanese islands, the importance of the campaign in Italy outweighs this deviation from the master plan. He claimed that the Combined Chiefs of Staff agreed with him on this view, but Churchill chose to ignore the advice against such an attack.

ww2dbaseSources:
Dwight Eisenhower, Crusade in Europe
BBC

Last Major Update: Aug 2005

Dodecanese Campaign Timeline

11 Sep 1943 Italian forces in various Aegean islands surrendered to the Germans, including those at the island of Rhodes.
13 Sep 1943 Allied aircraft bombed Rhodes, a Greek island recently under Italian occupation, now garrisoned by German troops.
14 Sep 1943 Kos Island, Greece was occupied by British Royal Navy Special Boat Service troops.
16 Sep 1943 Leros Island in the Aegean Sea was captured by British troops.
3 Oct 1943 Germans invaded Kos Island under a heavy air umbrella.
4 Oct 1943 German forces captured Kos in the Dodecanese Islands.
12 Nov 1943 A combined German sea and airborne attack began on the British-held Greek island of Leros.
15 Nov 1943 The British attempt to retake Leros, Greece failed.
16 Nov 1943 Greek island Leros again surrendered to the Germans; Germans carried out severe reprisals against the Italians who cooperated with British forces.
20 Nov 1943 On Samos Island, Greece, nearly 5,000 British prisoners were taken by the Germans.
22 Nov 1943 The German occupation of the Dodecanese Islands was completed.




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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. susan says:
3 Apr 2011 01:20:58 PM

the Dodecanese campaign is very interesting. Would you have any information about Italian soldiers that were taken or captured by the english speaking soldiers. I know they were held as prisoners of war in africa. They worked loading and unloading ships. Is there a specific camp that they were taken to? Where would this infrmation be available? Does anyone outthere know. Thank you for any information.
2. Scott in California says:
5 Apr 2011 09:34:29 PM

Someone from the far reaches of Scotland wrote about the unfortunate British soldiers, and followed the fate of the local lads, all of whom passed away in the 1980s. I believe it's in that account where was mentioned that the Italians captured by the Germans were lined up and executed en masse in many instances, for changing sides.
3. FG says:
17 Nov 2013 09:32:02 AM

Opening sentence is not correct, actually Italy took the Dodecanese Island in 1911-12 during the Tripolitania War with Turkey.
4. Anonymous says:
4 May 2015 08:38:06 PM

Why hasn't your opening sentence been corrected as FG told you 28 monthes ago?
5. V. WilkieAnonymous says:
5 Apr 2017 04:37:59 PM

My uncle Edmund (ted) Corkill from Isle of Man, captured Leros 1943. I think he was in the Kings Own Regt. (Lancaster) any info please about which POW camp in Germany he went to.

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More on Dodecanese Campaign
Participants:
» Campioni, Inigo
» Löhr, Alexander
» Müller, Friedrich-Wilhelm

Location:
» Greece



Famous WW2 Quote
"I have returned. By the grace of Almighty God, our forces stand again on Philippine soil."

General Douglas MacArthur at Leyte, 17 Oct 1944