OXI Day 1940

Ioannis Metaxas, the Greek Prime Minister, left his mark on Greek history when on Monday 28th October 1940, he refused to surrender the country to the Italian forces.  Metaxas came into power in 1936 and led the country through a series of political and social changes prior to the Second World War to defend the country, its people and its glorious history.  Metaxas initially showed composure in the face of Italian challenges, but at the same time preparing for a military confrontation on the side of the Allies.  Responsible for the Metaxas Line, one of the largest fortification complexes at the time, Metaxas led the country to a victorious battle against the Italian invasion on March 1941 and a strong defence against the German forces during the Battle of Greece in 1941, raising the country's moral.  

When Italian ambassador Emanuel Grazzi knocked on Metaxa's door at 03:00 in the morning, after a party at the Embassy, to deliver the untimatum from Italian Fascist dictator 'Duce' Benito Mussolini, the Greek Prime Minister was prepared.  The ultimatum demanded that Metaxas allow the Italian Army free unopposed passage to enter and occupy strategic sites in Greece.  Metaxas delivered an unequivocal response in French, the diplomatic language of the day: "Alors, c'est la guarre". ("Then, it is war"), which was quickly transmuted into the laconic "OXI" (No") on the streets by the citizens of Athens and the national papers in the morning. 

The Italian offensive began at 05:30 in the morning of 28th October in the mountains of Epirus, Pindos and Palpaki, which form the natural border between Greece and Albania.  The bravery and dedication of the outnumbered Greek Army was such that within three weeks, Greece had pushed back the invading forces, much to the surprise of Mussolini and his Italian generals.  Then the Greek Army began a counterattack, driving the Italians back deep into Italian-held Albania.  Mussolini was humiliated and enraged.  Adolf Hitler was also furious at the failure of the Italian troops, blaming Mussolini not only for his incapability to take over Greece, but also for his promose that he would deliver the country to him within weeks.  

After Italy's humiliating defeat, the Nazis were forced to allocate substantial forces to take over Greece in April 1941, and remain there as an occupying force.  These were the same troops and resourses that would have been valuable in his effort to invade Russia.  Many historians agree that the Greek victory on the Albanian front redically changed Adolf Hitler's plan for Russia.  His offensive during the harsh Russian winter, instead of the previously planned Spring, led to his eventual defeat on the Eastern Front.