Luftwaffe against the “Metaxa line” April 1941
For the operations against Greece Luftwaffe assigned the VIII Flieger Korp with strength of around 650 aircraft. To this total were added the 576 aircraft of the 4th Luftflotte and during the campaign some 168 more aircraft of the Χ Flieger Korp. A number of fighter plains and A/A units remained in Romania to guard the Ploesti oilfields and the remaining airplanes were assigned in direct support of the German Army operations. The Bulgarian airfields were flooded with German airplanes and the Germans, assisted by the Bulgarians started building new installations. It was also foreseen that in case of captured enemy airfields usage fuel would be provided by the German Army forward supply installations. All captured fuel over 30 tons would be reported to the VIII Flieger Korp HQ but captured gasoline would be used only after it had been tested for suitability.
The Germans did not repeat the Italian’s mistake to attack in haste. The aircraft of the period were not “all weather” and operational conditions were better in Spring. They knew very well that the Greek Royal Air Force was left with 80 aircraft in flying condition and most of them were outdated except 45 who had any chance of facing them with some measure of success. They also knew that the British had sent few, mostly outdated airplanes but they would not underestimate their opponents
The Greeks had no radar and based their air defense on ground observers. The Thessalonica air filed was considered exposed and there were on airplanes stationed there. The majority of the Greek-British air force was concentrated in Larissa airfield.
The Luftwaffe attacked with Do-17 and Ju88 bombers in successive waves. Messersmit 110 that swept everything with their 20mm auto cannons followed them. Except three Greek fighter planes that shot down a German reconasance He 121 plane and a Do-17 bomber over Stymon river the Hellenic Air force was wiped out. What few Greek or British aircraft were left withdrew to the Argos (Pelopenese) and Maleme (Crete) airfields.
Unhindered by enemy planes the German pilots went on the rampage over the Greek fortifications of the Metaxas Line. The brunt of the attack effort was born by the 150 dive-bombers Ju87 (STUKA) supported by Ju88 and Do-17. The desperate reaction of the few A/A guns assigned to the Greek forts caused some casualties. The multi-member crews of the bombers bailing out gave to the defenders the impression that they were also under parachutist’s attack But the only verified airborne troops attack in mainland Greece was the operation against Corinth Canal.
The second day of the operations the Germans started using 500 kgr bombs for their STUKA dive-bombers and managed to annihilate the sporadic Greek air defense. After that the Luftwaffe assisting in neutralizing the Greek artillery posted outside the fortifications with characteristic example the Krakor Hill heavy battery near Roupel fort. The pilots thought reported that the Greeks did not panicked and kept shooting at them even with their rifles!
The continuous presence of the Luftwaffe over the battlefield neutralized the Greek efforts to relieve the Istibei and Kelkagia forts and hence they were captured by the German 6th Gebirgs division. Luftwaffe was also instrumental in crashing the Greek defense in Thrace. Transport planes also supplied by air cut off forward German ground units.
“Hellenic Wings” Magazine Issue1 Spring 2007
Stuka pilot interview 14: Attack on Metaxas line