Panzers in The Balkans and Italy

German forces began assembling in Rumania in January 1941 and moved into Bulgaria in March after Hitler had forced the Bulgarian Government to join the Tripartite Pact on the 1st of that month. This put obvious strategic pressure on Yugoslavia, whose borders had become untenable as a result, and on March 20 Prince Paul’s government also decided to join the Pact. For once, however, matters did not proceed in the German favour for, a week later, a coup d’etat by General Simovic overthrew the Yugoslav Government and replaced it by an anti-Nazi regime in the name of King Peter. Hitler retaliated with Directive No 25 ordering the destruction of Yugoslavia as well as Greece. The operation against Yugoslavia, which involved the 5th, 8th, 9th, 11th and 14th Panzer Divisions, with the 16th held in reserve, as well as the 2nd SS Division ‘Reich’, was a virtual walkover since the country was divided into so many different ethnic groups, including the pro-German Croats and others of German or Italian extraction and sympathy. Simovic only succeeded in mobilising two-thirds of his 31 divisions (three of which were cavalry and none of which included any armour), and the Croatian troops surrendered in droves at the first opportunity.


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