Saturday, May 21, 2011

Bismarck saga -- elsewhere the war goes on

Maleme Airfield map detail from Hunters From the Sky

It's expedient for the purposes of narrative coherence in historical accounts to carry a story through from beginning to end, so naturally the story of the Bismarck normally doesn't discuss concurrent events elsewhere nor do histories dealing with topics such as the invasion of Crete normally mention the high drama in the Atlantic that was going on at roughly the same time.

But for Churchill, the Admiralty and other decision makers it was hard to give undivided attention to anything, a fact that armchair strategists and critics would do well to remember.

Even as the Bismarck lay in a Norwegian fjord, making final preparations for its sortie and the British admiralty began making its preparations to cope with that potential threat, the battle for Crete was raging. At almost the same moment that the British became aware that the Bismarck was at sea German glider troops and paratroopers were landing on Crete. While the Germans landed at several points, the key battle turned out to be at Maleme. The Capture of that airfield on May 21, 1941, was the turning point, as the Germans were able to start landing additional troops and heavy weapons.

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