Europe 1941: Germany in the Mediterranean
By April, Germany was ready to salvage the Italian position. In North Africa, German and Italian forces led by Rommel threw back the British in Libya. In the Balkans, Germany and its allies swiftly overran Yugoslavia and Greece. It was now Britain that was on the defensive in the Mediterranean.
8 Mar 1941 Lend-Lease▲
An Act to Promote the Defense of the United States (known as the Lend-Lease Bill) was passed by the US Senate, allowing the US to provide the United Kingdom with food, oil, and materiel either as a gift or with minimal payment. The Bill was signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt on 11 March. In April, it was extended to include China, and, in October, the Soviet Union.
31 Mar–12 Apr 1941 Operation Sunflower▲
In February 1941 German troops under the command of General Irwin Rommel—the Afrika Korps -
were dispatched to Libya to support the Italy after the destruction of the Italian 10th Army during Operation Compass. In late March the combined Axis forces launched an attack on British positions near Mersa Brega, capturing that town on 1 April and rapidly overrunning Cyrenaica. By 8 April Rommel had reached Tobruk, besieging that town before coming to a halt near the Egyptian border.
1 Apr 1941 Iraqi coup d’état▲
Four Iraqi nationalist army generals, known as the “Golden Square”, overthrew the pro-British regime of Regent ‘Abd al-Ilah and Prime Minister Nuri al-Said in Iraq, installing Rashid Ali Al-Gaylani as Prime Minister. The coup was supported by Nazi Germany, which had provided funding and military assistance to the plotters. This challenged the British position in the Middle East and threatened the RAF air bases at Shaibah and Habbaniyah in Iraq itself.
6–18 Apr 1941 Invasion of Yugoslavia▲
On 27 March 1941, following the the pro-Western Yugoslav coup d’état, Adolf Hitler issued “Führer Directive No. 25”, ordering the invasion of Yugoslavia. Starting on 6 April, the Luftwaffe mounted an overwhelming air attack on Belgrade and facilities of the Royal Yugoslav Air Force, while German land forces invaded from southwestern Bulgaria. These attacks were followed by German thrusts from Romania, Hungary, and the Ostmark (Austria), and, from the 11th, the entrances of the Italians in the west and the Hungarians in the north. Overwhelmed, the Yugoslav army agreed to unconditionally surrender on 17 April 1941, effective as of noon the next day.
6–30 Apr 1941 Battle of Greece▲
In Operation Marita, Nazi Germany invaded Greece—already at war with Italy in Albania—from Bulgaria, opening up a second front. The Greeks were overwhelmed, with the First and Second Greek armies respectively trapped against the Albanian and Bulgarian borders and forced to surrender. In the face of this disaster, Greece’s British allies decided to evacuate to Crete, holding back the Germans at Thermopylae for a few days as they withdrew. On 27 April the Germans entered Athens.
9 Apr 1941 Greenland Protectorate▲
On the anniversary of the German occupation of Denmark, the Danish envoy to Washington D.C., Henrik de Kauffmann, against the instructions of his government, signed an executive agreement with US Secretary of State Cordell Hull, allowing the US to base forces in Greenland. This action effectively made Greenland a de facto US protectorate and earned Kauffmann the nickname “King of Greenland”.
10 Apr 1941 Independent State of Croatia▲
With the backing of the Axis powers, Slavko Kvaternik, deputy leader of the terrorist Ustaše, proclaimed the establishment of the Independent State of Croatia—the first breakaway state from Axis-occupied Yugoslavia. Ante Pavelić, leader of the Ustaše, became Poglavnik (his Ustaše title) of the new state and Italian Prince Aimone, Duke of Aosta, reluctantly accepted the crown as King Tomislav II, although he never moved from Italy to reside in Croatia. The state itself remained under German and Italian occupation.