During World War II, the Germans wanted to take control of Crete, as it was an area of great strategic importance. So, on May 20, 1941, they attempted to occupy the island by carrying out an air raid – landing.
The head of the German forces, who assured Hitler of the success of the operation, as he believed that the occupation of the island would be an easy task, had at his disposal 1.190 planes (military and transport) and 29.000 men (paratroopers and infantrymen), while the Italians would contribute 3.000 soldiers.
The German air raid was called “Operation Hermes”. At 8 in the morning, the sky over the island was filled with thousands of paratroopers. The first German force landed at Chania near Maleme airport, while at noon of the same day, a few thousand more paratroopers fell over Rethymnon and Heraklion.
Crete was defended by 40.000 Allies (British, Australian, New Zealanders) and Greek soldiers. Despite orders didn’t allow the civilian population to participate, the Cretans heroically defended the island with all the means they had.
They used rifles they had from the Greek-Turkish war, agricultural tools, scythes, kitchen knives, walking sticks and stones. All the inhabitants of the island, elderly, women and children, took part in the battle.
Despite the fact that they fought with improvised weapons, the first day of the battle ended with the Germans counting 1.800 dead.
The battle that ultimately led to the takeover of the island was at Maleme Airport, which was defended by 600 New Zealand soldiers. The Allies lost contact with the rest of the units and left the 107th hill in the early hours of the next day. As a result, the Germans took control of the airport, though they had 3.986 casualties. (The Allies had 3.500).
In the following days, the Germans, through the airport, landed more forces on Crete that facilitated the total occupation of the island.
On June 1, 1941, Crete was under German occupation.