View Full Version : Insurgency & COIN in Greece (in WW2 and after)

03-25-2007, 04:08 AM
I'm looking to write a 25-30 page paper on British action in Greece between October 1944 and January 1945, during which they fought the leading (and communist controlled, of course) Greek resistance force, the ELAS. I've found in the University library what seems to be a narrative of the 23rd Armoured Brigade (They were known as Monty's Foxhounds in North Africa), and I'm going to check it out first thing Monday. I'm interested in looking at how forces that were pretty much used to perfect limited war (the north africa desert campaigns) adapt to messy, political, civilian-rich, primarily urban (Athens) struggle.
Does anyone have any recommendations for books on this subject, or the Greek Civil War in general?

03-25-2007, 05:37 PM
The book, Guerrilla, by Charles W. Thayer discusses the Greek Civil War in general terms.

03-25-2007, 08:58 PM
Robert Asprey has a summary of the Greek Civil War in his book War in The Shadows.

Mike in Hilo
03-26-2007, 03:01 AM
Red Acropolis, Black Terror, The Greek Civil War and the Origins of Soviet-American Rivalry 1943-1949, by Andre Gerolymatos, Basic Books, 2004. Available from Amazon...This is a useful work--possibly even the definitive account...


03-26-2007, 06:36 PM
You might read the Marine Corps' The Guerrilla and How to Fight Him. It has a chapter on Greece, titled "Winning in the Mountains-Greece" by Col. J.C. Murry. The manual is FMFRP 12-25. Also, Hold the Balkans! could be valuable. It as a book concerning German antiguerrilla operations in the Balkans from 1941-1944.

03-26-2007, 07:50 PM
If you're on a budget, my favorite is www.newspaperarchive.com.

Great downloads, some converted pictures and tons of history.

Good Luck !

03-26-2007, 08:24 PM
I do recall contemporary newsreel of the street fighting in Athens, when the tiny British force was surrounded and fought desperately. I am sure the narrator commented fighting Germans in Italy and flown to Athens to liberate an Allied city to find themselves fighting for their lives. Less certainly I think the initial troops were paratroopers.

There ia short succint chapter on the Greek Civil War in 'Intervention and Revolution by Richard J. Barnet (pub. 1972), which mentions 75,000 British troops being deployed. The footnotes refer to Edgar O'Ballance's 'The Greek Civil War' (pub. NY 1966), who was an ex-British Army officer.

Oddly Field Marshal Michael Carver's book 'Britains Army in the 20th Century' does not mention this! Scanned a few books here, nothing.


03-26-2007, 10:08 PM
I believe there was an initial glider-deployed force that was later reinforced. Thanks for the recommendations and keep them coming.

Any good general works on British armored units in N. Africa?

03-26-2007, 10:51 PM
Field Marshal Michael Carver's book 'Britain's Army in the 20th Century, is a very general history, but was a prolific author on the desert war, where he served and ended as a brigadier before Italy. He wrote: El Alamein ('62), Tobruk ('64), Dilemmas of the Desert War ('86) and less certain on the desert The Apostles of Mobility ('79).

I am sure there are general histories, but not my subject nor an my bookshelves.

Of subject try 'With the Jocks: A Soldier's Stuggle for Europe 1944-45' by Peter White (pub 2001). Best frontline account of the British Army in NW Europe I've read.

Good night.


03-27-2007, 02:58 PM
For British action in North Africa, Brazen Chariots is always the classic. Written by Maj. Crisp, it details approximately 30 days of action against Rommel in the desert.

Tom Odom
03-27-2007, 07:27 PM
My favorites on North Africa: Barrie Pitt's 3 Volume Series: The Crucible of War and Correlli Barnett The Desert Generals

There are many others of course.



03-27-2007, 07:55 PM
From a great website (that no longer functions) http://www.regiments.org/wars/20ww2/greece43.htm

(http://www.regiments.org/wars/20ww2/greece43.htm)The senior formation HQ was the 4th Infantry Division (10, 12, 28 Bde) and 11Ind Inf Bde.

1944 Dec. 2-
1945 Jan. 15 Athens Cav: DG1
Inf: 2/F7 2/F8 2/F13 2/F16 2/F37 1:4/F37 2:4/F37 5/F37 6/F42 ?/F44 1/F50 16/F68 2/F71 1/L16 4/Para 5/Para 6/Para

1944 Sep. 16-
1945 Jan. 15 Greece 1944-45 Cav: DG1 4/RTR 50/RTR 4Recce
Inf: 2/F5 F7 F8 6/F10 F13 F16 2:5/F17 1:6/F31 2/F32 1/F35 F37 F42 F44 5/F45 F50 2:4/F51 F60 6/F65 F68 F71 2/F79 L16 Para SAS Cdo9(CdoAssn) RSR
Cav: 21 Engr: BySM
Inf: 9/4 4/6 MG/6 2/11 1/GR2 2/GR7 1/GR9

05-06-2007, 03:19 AM
I'm putting together the paper this weekend. I'm not sure how it'll turn out, but should it come out well I might put it up here for yays and nays. Thanks for the help.

06-15-2007, 02:21 PM
In retrospect, the paper was kind of thrown together as a result of last-minute deadlines and related pressures. But I may try to give it a rewrite sometime this summer, should I get a decent block of spare time.

01-26-2011, 02:25 PM
SORO, 1961: Case Study in Guerrilla Warfare: Greece During World War II (http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=AD272833&Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf)

....The Special Operations Research Office is convinced that this case study of guerrilla warfare, utilizing the example of Greece during World War II, holds many lessons for the 1960's, from both a military and political standpoint. While many of the lessons may be known to a few United States experts, it is also true that not all persons who will be intimately concerned with guerrilla warfare in the near future have this expert knowledge at, their fingertips. In this sense, this study should prove most useful to a variety of military and non-military audiences.

For the policy maker, this study represents a detailed and comprehensive review of the major aspects of a guerrilla campaign, including its political implications and long-range effects. For the military planner, the study indicates, not only many of the problems inherent in such a campaign-of selection and training of men, of logistics and communication, for example, but also some possible solutions. For persons who may some day he in the same position as that handful of Allied men in Greece during World War II, the study considers many aspects of tactical operations and affords a glimpse of the complexities in working relationships between individuals and groups with diverse backgrounds and aspirations. For those responsible for countering guerrilla operations in the future, the record of the German performance against the Greek guerrillas gives insight into the reasons for their tactical success in antiguerrilla combat and their simultaneous failure to eradicate the guerrilla movement.....

01-09-2012, 02:03 PM
I didn't read it, just found it:

http://www.farposst.ru/2012/01/09/DAPAM_20_243___German_antiguerrilla_operations_in_ the_Balkans__1941_1944_.html

Department of the Army, Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1954, 8 MB, 100 pages

As I understand it, there's no copyright problem with this.

It might be interesting to contrast it with a report from the Greek Civil War ~1948/49.

01-09-2012, 03:31 PM
I think this link in English (http://www.scribd.com/doc/64477006/dapam-20-243-German-Anti-Guerrilla-Operations-in-the-Balkens-1941-1944-5-august-1954) may be easier on our viewers than the Russian site provided ;)

12-31-2012, 01:49 PM
Came across this surprise due to the cited length of deployment:
1944 to 1949, Greek Civil War; In a 5 year operation the RAF deployed approximately 15 squadrons/detachments and Hurricanes, Spitfires, Beaufighters, Wellingtons, Boston’s, Mosquito’s, Dakotas and Walrus. The FAA deployed a detachment of Sea Otters.

Alas no pointers to sources:http://www.thinkdefence.co.uk/2012/05/the-post-they-tried-to-kill/

12-02-2014, 12:00 AM
A long Open Democracy article on the opening of the Greek Civil War, or what outsiders know as that; the authors write a very different explanation and are from impartial IMHO:https://www.opendemocracy.net/can-europe-make-it/ed-vulliamy-helena-smith/british-perfidy-in-greece-story-worth-remembering

The sub-title gives a glimpse:
It was the day, seventy years ago this Tuesday, when the British Army at war with Germany switched their allegiance, opening fire upon – and arming Greek collaborators with the Nazis to fire upon – a civilian crowd in Syntagma Square.

There is a shorter version, which has aroused over seven hundred comments; it appears that this episode in Greece's history is still disputed:http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/30/athens-1944-britains-dirty-secret


11-18-2015, 10:58 AM
This thread was called Greece in WW2 (merged thread) and is now Insurgency & COIN in Greece (in WW2 and after).

I have a vague memory the subject appears elsewhere, maybe in another thread in this arena, but a search failed to locate it / them.

11-18-2015, 11:04 AM
Within a broader critical review of COIN are these paragraphs on the Greek Civil War, a rare event IMHO:
One of the host nation victories to have had little exposure is the Greek Civil War (1946-49). The orthodoxy among most Anglo-American historians is that the only reason the Greek armed forces were successful against a Communist insurgency was purely because of training and material assistance provided by the US and Britain. While it is true that financial and material aid under the Marshall Plan proved vital to defeating the Communist insurgency, the Greek armed forces learned while fighting and ultimately developed an indigenous strategy for victory. Indeed, on many occasions, advice provided by the Americans and British was politely disregarded because it bore little relation to Greek realities. Between 1943 and 1949, Greek Communists made three attempts to take power, and what is generally referred to as the ‘Greek Civil War’ comprised the third round between 1946-1949. The first and second bids were prevented mainly because of British intervention, but the third round was characterised by the steady development of the host nation’s capability. After the Second World War, most of the Greek forces had to be rebuilt. The greatest obstacle facing the Greek National Army (GNA) initially was a chronic lack of manpower. By mid-1947, the GNA had 115,000 personnel, but these were spread very thinly throughout Greece. As a consequence, it had difficulty exploiting battles and holding territory gained.
In the meantime, the Communist insurgency was morphing into a regular army (DSE) after its senior leadership concluded that guerrilla tactics were not working. However, the Communists’ desire to create a regular army sowed the seeds of their ultimate downfall. A regular army called for a large support infrastructure and logistics footprint, and although manpower was always a significant constraint on the GNA’s ability to operate, recruitment was a far more serious problem for the DSE. Even at its height in April 1948, the DSE’s strength was no more than 26,000. Voluntary recruitment gave way to forcible recruitment. Women and children were not spared from frontline duty, and this proved to be a public relations disaster for the Communists. So, while the Communists benefitted from sympathetic northern neighbours (Albania, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria), through which a steady stream of Soviet weaponry flowed, they were never able to replace the losses they increasingly sustained.
By 1948, the government’s forces totalled 168,000 personnel, with equipment supplied by Britain and the United States. The tide had turned, both militarily and economically, for the Greek state, but it is important to acknowledge that success against the DSE from 1948 onwards was also due to the GNA’s own conceptual work. Prior to this point, planning and execution of operations largely reflected Anglo-American doctrine, with a focus on traditional schemes of manoeuvre. From the beginning of 1948, the GNA started to apply what would be recognised today as a ‘clear, hold, build’ strategy throughout the country, starting in the south of Greece. The first step involved dismantling the Communist ‘eyes and ears’, followed by the destruction or capture of Communist forces. The final function included robust policing, to prevent the regrowth of Communist infrastructure, and the re-education of DSE prisoners and their eventual reintroduction to Greek society. This strategy was underpinned by Marshall aid totalling $273.2 million during the last year of the conflict, but the strategy itself was indigenous in conception.
British and American training missions remained in Greece for several years after the recognised end of the Civil War as an added insurance policy, but the Communists concluded that they could not match a reformed and re-energised Greek Army. The Greek government had taken ownership of the anti-Communist effort, and succeeded in the long-term.

Plus two references and the link:http://defenceindepth.co/2015/11/18/counter-insurgency-a-question-of-victory/

06-21-2018, 08:20 PM
What was the US role post-VE Day? An article on a different topic has this, added due to value:
The United States can do better. Indeed, it has done better. One example is the program to build Greece’s military just after World War II. It was a fragile situation reminiscent of places like Syria today. As Dean Acheson reflected, “Greece was in the position of a semiconscious patient on the critical list where relatives and physicians had been discussing whether his life could be saved.” Its infrastructure was destroyed, more than 300,000 people dead from starvation alone, a ravaged landscape, and a weak military plagued by low morale and overwhelmed by aged soldiers. Greece was losing badly to guerrillas supported by Albania, Bulgaria, and Yugoslavia, and victory over them was nearly inconceivable.The U.S. approach to Greece was new and different—and in retrospect, rather mind-boggling. Simply put, the United States involved itself in all aspects of Greek military affairs. These include the most sensitive issues for a military, such as defining its mission, reorganizing its structure to align with that mission, and making sure capable military leaders were appointed to the right positions. This latter aspect is particularly provocative: U.S. officials oversaw a complete overhaul of senior Greek military personnel by helping appoint a new chief of staff, compelling all of the army’s lieutenant generals except one to resign, facilitating the promotion and placement of eight major generals, and encouraging the removal of division and corps commanders who were reluctant to or incapable of supporting the broader strategy. To be sure, all was not rosy between the United States and the Greek military. They disagreed over some U.S.-requested personnel changes, the size of the Greek army, and perceived shortcomings of U.S. equipment. But, overall the U.S. push to transform Greece’s military prevailed.

This story of success does not just focus on the partner military; however, as U.S. officials also prioritized unity of vision and capable personnel on the American side—both in the field and in Washington. When the relationship among senior American officials in Athens grew fraught, President Truman quickly pushed out the U.S. ambassador to Greece to ensure that all American officials in country supported the same vision. The flaccid U.S. defense official who initially ran the military assistance program in Athens was replaced by Lt. Gen. James Van Fleet, a charismatic leader who had both deep experience in strengthening fighting forces and a commitment to transforming the Greek military in accordance with his guidance from Washington. And throughout the program, senior U.S. national security officials regularly assessed it to ensure that its purpose was clear, adjusted it as the situation evolved, and seriously debated the circumstances under which the U.S. military would become a co-combatant.

Greece’s military prevailed over the communist guerrillas seeking to upend the state. With deep U.S. involvement in sensitive Greek military affairs and unity of vision across the U.S. national security apparatus, the Greek military was able to take advantage of the diminished support that the guerrillas received from antagonistic external actors, resulting in a capable security sector. And thus the first postwar example of the United States building a partner military for internal defense purposes became a triumph. Above all, the American investment in Greece consisted almost entirely of treasure, not blood. U.S. military personnel in Greece suffered four casualties; the program to build the Greek military cost about $350 million.

11-07-2018, 07:09 PM
This classic book, first published in 1976 has been republished in a new edition by Hurst & Co, London. To be fair it has had mixed reviews on a quick skim.

The late author, whose full name was Christopher Montague Woodhouse died in 2001, was commander of the Allied Military Mission to the Greek guerrillas in Greece in 1943–4 and Wiki has more information:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montague_Woodhouse,_5th_Baron_Terrington