The War - A Concise History 1939-1945 by Louis L. Snyder (an excerpt of the book)
Dell Publishing Co., Inc. 1964 paperback (orig. published in 1960)
Front Cover (photo)
Back Cover (photo)
pages 201 & 202
The Balkans: Round II
Before attacking the Soviet Union, Hitler wanted assurance that no hostile power would endanger him from the Balkans. It was all-important to secure his southern flank. He would not only continue his diplomatic offensive there, but he would also punish the recalcitrants by invading them. He would rescue the Duce in Greece (a thankless task, but it had to be done), and then he would go on to tie up with French Vichy forces in Syria and the pro-Axis elements in Iran and Iraq.
Natürlich (naturally), he would carry on the war of nerves. Rumania and Hungary were already satellite states under Axis domination. One by one the other Balkan countries were supposed to capitulate. On March 1, 1941, Bulgaria signed a formal alliance with the Axis (approved by the Sobranje, the Bulgarian unicameral national assembly, by a vote of 150 to 20), and the next day German troops were in Sofia and Varna.
Only Yugoslavia and Greece remained unintimidated.
Yugoslavia was the largest Balkan state, 95,576 square miles in area (three-quarters the size of Italy), with a population of 14,000,000. To bring Yugoslavia into line, Hitler used his troops in Bulgaria and Hungary as a threat. On March 25, 1941, Yugoslavia was forced to sign the Tripartite Pact by which she became the newest member of Hitler's New Order. Germany agreed to respect Yugoslav sovereignty and territorial integrity and not to demand pasage for German troops.
The Yugoslav people reacted with consternation and boiling anger. Two days later, on March 27, 1941, came a 2 A.M. revolution. A cabal of army officers under General Dusan Simovic, in a coup d'état, arrested the leading members of the government, forced the regent Prince Paul from the throne, proclaimed 18-year-old Prince Peter as king, and organized a coalition government including all parties except those who had subscribed to the agreement with Germany.
Hitler could not tolerate this rebuff. The controlled German press promptly shouted that the Soviet Union was behind the anti-German demonstrations in Yugoslavia and that Yugoslavs were beating German residents and burning their homes. In was the familiar Nazi campaign preliminary to invasion.
The invasion came, mercilessly swift, at 5:15 A.M., April 6, 1941. A thousand Nazi planes plus 20 divisions of nearly 650,000 troops, in a new Blitzkrieg, struck at airfields, bridges, communications, vital services. In a matter of hours Yugoslavia was without electricity, telephones, radio.
It was a remarkable campaignthe Germans pushed across mountainous terrain hitherto regarded as blitzproof. From Rome came news that the Italian government had decided to act, with all its forces, in close collaboration with Germany. Pushing through the mountain passes in south-eastern Bulgaria, one German spearhead turned southward toward Greece, while others drove across Yugoslavia to advanced from Hungary toward Zagreb, still others moved southward from Rumania, and entered Belgrade, the Yugoslav capital.
In 11 days it was all over. The country was cut to pieces. The position of the Yugoslavs was so hopeless that they had to surrender. On April 17, 1941, the Germans announced the capitulation of the entire Yugoslav army. That same day an R.A.F. Sunderland evacuated King Peter from Kotor.
Yugoslavia was then carved into slices, portions going to Germany, Italy, Hungary, and Bulgaria, while the rest was frozen into a satellite state.
But to occupy Yugoslavia was not to conquer it. Guerrillas took to the hills, and continued resistance in the mountains, forests, and villages. They harried the invaders, immobilized their convoys, hit them pitilessly, especially the Italians. From then until the end of the war Hitler's troops in Yugoslavia found themselves in a hornet's nest.