Hitler’s Malta Option: A Comparison of the Invasion of Crete (Operation Merkur) and the Proposed Invasion of Malta…

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Hitler's Malta Option: A Comparison of the Invasion of Crete (Operation Merkur) and the Proposed Invasion of Malta (Operation Hercules)

In 1941, after the conquest of Yugoslavia and Greece, senior German military leaders were considering two airborne operations, one for the invasion of Crete and the other for the invasion of Malta. The invasion of Crete was executed from 20 May to 1 June 1941 with heavy German losses. The invasion of Malta never took place even though the senior military leaders in the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW) recommended invading Malta over Crete because of its strategic importance, but were overridden by Adolf Hitler. A year later, while the North Africa campaign was being conducted, another invasion was planned for Malta, but within a few weeks of executing the plan it too was postponed and eventually cancelled.

Why was Crete invaded in 1941, but Malta was not? Why in 1942 was a second planned invasion of Malta rejected and abandoned, and what were the strategic repercussions of not invading Malta? The Axis never captured Malta, and the offensive capability of Malta was never destroyed. This was a critical factor in the defeat of all Axis forces in North Africa.

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Mediterranean Theater Missions & Campaigns Hitler's Malta Option: A Comparison of the Invasion of Crete (Operation Merkur) and the Proposed Invasion of Malta (Operation Hercules) In 1941, after the conquest of Yugoslavia and Greece, senior German military leaders were considering two airborne operations, one for the invasion of Crete and the other for the invasion of Malta. The invasion of Crete was executed from 20 May to 1 June 1941 with heavy German losses. The invasion of Malta never took place even though the senior military leaders in the Oberkommando der Wehrmacht (OKW) recommended invading Malta over Crete because of its strategic importance, but were overridden by Adolf Hitler. A year later, while the North Africa campaign was being conducted, another invasion was planned for Malta, but within a few weeks of executing the plan it too was postponed and eventually cancelled.

Why was Crete invaded in 1941, but Malta was not? Why in 1942 was a second planned invasion of Malta rejected and abandoned, and what were the strategic repercussions of not invading Malta? The Axis never captured Malta, and the offensive capability of Malta was never destroyed. This was a critical factor in the defeat of all Axis forces in North Africa.

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