For the Greek-German battle in April 1941, see Battle of Kleisoura Pass.
|Capture of Klisura Pass|
|Part of the Greco-Italian War|
Greek soldiers near a captured Italian tank
|Fascist Italy||Kingdom of Greece|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Ugo Cavallero||Alexander Papagos|
The Capture of Klisura Pass (Greek: Κατάληψη της Κλεισούρας) was a military operation that took place during 6–11 January 1941 in southern Albania, and was one of the most important battles of the Greco-Italian War. The Italian Army, initially deployed on the Greek-Albanian border, launched a major offensive against Greece on October 28, 1940. After a two-week conflict, Greece managed to repel the invading Italians in the battles of Pindus and Elaia-Kalamas. Beginning on November 9, the Greek forces launched a major counteroffensive and penetrated deep into Italian-held Albanian territory. The Greek operations culminated with the capture of the strategically important Klisura Pass on January 1941.
After its successful counter-attack and the Battle of Morava-Ivan, the Hellenic Army penetrated deep into Italian-held Albanian territory, taking control of the local urban centers of Gjirokastër and Korçë (December 1940). In a war council, at 5 December, General Alexander Papagos, worried about the possibility of German intervention in support of the Italians, attempted to hasten the advance. Moreover, Generals Pitsikas and Tsolakoglou suggested the immediate capture of the Klisura pass so as to secure the Greek positions.
During the period of the Greek counter-offensive, the Greek forces had much greater distances to contend with and their logistics and road network were substantially inferior compared to the Italians. The Klisura pass was a particularly strategic location towards the town of Berat and the topography of the terrain in addition to bad weather made the operation extremely difficult.
Aerial view of the battlefieldThe attack was led by the 2nd Army Corps, and especially by the I and XI Divisions. During the battle, the Italians used for the first time the new M13 medium tanks of the Centauro Armored Division. They were used on frontal attacks, but the result was disastrous, as they were decimated by the Greek artillery fire. On January 10, after four days of fierce battles, the Greek infantry divisions finally captured the pass. The final assault that led to the location's capture was led by the recently brought 5th Division, which consisted mainly of Cretans.
The Italian headquarters immediately launched counterattacks to recapture the sector. Italian Supreme Commander Ugo Cavallero ordered the newly arrived Lupi di Toscana Division to support the Julia Alpine Division, but the operation was ill-prepared. Although they faced only four Greek battalions, they rapidly lost one battalion of their own due to encirclement. By January 11, the Italian attack had been pushed back and over the next days, the Wolves of Tuscany were almost annihilated. This failure secured Greek possession of the pass.
The capture of the strategic pass by the Greek army was considered a major success by the Allied forces, with the Commander of the British forces in the Middle East, Archibald Wavell, sending a congratulatory message to Alexander Papagos.
In the following weeks the front lines stabilized, with the Greek forces facing a bad logistical situation and the Italians managing to gain numerical superiority in order to stop their retreat. Both sides kept their positions until the German intervention in April 1941.
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