Last weekend, when things were, shall we say, a trifle slower, some readers and I got going on a nice historical riff about Vietnam and World War II. For all those who would like to take a break from New Hampshire for another little sip of history:
“You quoted a correspondent as follows:
“‘The Brits fought in Greece due to principle. Even though they
lost that battle, their sacrifice caused the Nazis to postpone
their invasion of Russia from late April to late June.’”
“This is not true (the part about causing postponement). I used
to think so myself, but have since learned that…
“Only a small part of the German army was diverted from the
preparations for Operation BARBAROSSA to carry out
Operation MARITA (Yugoslavia and Greece).
“Aside from the paratroop corps which fought in Crete in late
May, the Germans were back in place on the Soviet border by
“What held up the invasion was not the diversion to the Balkan
theater, it was the muddy and impassable condition of roads
and countryside in the USSR. The spring thaw in Russia is
called the ‘rasputitsa.’ When it happens, everything turns
into glop, and nothing moves except on paved roads. In 1942
and 1943, campaigning shut down for months when the rasputitsa
arrived. (It’s possible to campaign in winter, because the
ground is frozen.)
“In 1941 there were almost no paved roads in Russia, and the
Germans had to wait till the ground was dried out. The spring
of 1941 was unusually rainy, and so the rasputitsa lasted
longer than usual.
“It should be noted that Operation BLAU, the German offensive
of 1942, began on June 28, six days later than BARBAROSSA.
The 1943 offensive, Operation ZITADELLE, began on July 5.
“Yours in hope of striking a head off the Hydra of popular