“1. The outcome of the battles in Albania is still uncertain. In the light of the threatening situation in Albania it is doubly important to frustrate English efforts to establish, behind the protection of a Balkan front, an air base which would threaten Italy in the first place and, incidentally, the Rumanian oilfields.
2. My intention is therefore:
(a) To establish in the coming months a constantly increasing force in Southern Rumania.
(b) On the arrival of favorable weather—probably in March —to move this force across Bulgaria to occupy the north coast of the Aegean and, should this be necessary, the entire mainland of Greece (‘Undertaking Marita’). We can rely upon Bulgarian support.”
– Fuhrer Directive 20 “Undertaking Marita”, the Invasion of Greece in early 1941
Throughout the early part of the war in Europe, the Dornier Do 17 light bomber established itself as a workhorse of the Luftwaffe, able to provide close air support for advancing Wehrmacht forces and, to a lesser extent, provide strategic bombing over Great Britain in concert with other bombers. It was therefore no surprise that it would again be pressed into service when the Axis High Command deemed it necessary to invade both Yugoslavia and Greece as a prelude to Operation Barbarossa due to their leaning with the British camp.
Developed during the early 1930s under the restrictions of the Treaty of Versailles, the Dornier Do17 was originally described as a freight aircraft for the German State Railway and a high-speed mail aircraft for Lufthansa. The aircraft was in fact a new breed of fast attack aircraft, or Schnellbomber, which was intended to carry out lightning bombing attacks, at speeds making it almost impervious to enemy ﬁghter attack. With its sleek tapering fuselage, the Do17 was nicknamed “The Flying Pencil” and whilst this design certainly prevented the aircraft from carrying anything other than a modest bomb load, its proﬁle made it more difficult to target in the melee of a dogﬁght. Seeing extensive service in the early part of WWII, the Do17s of KG.2 would support Luftwaffe operations during “Operation Marita” as the Wehrmacht attempted to invade Allied occupied Greece, following a failed Italian offensive. Attacking ground and coastal targets, the Dorniers also took a heavy toll of Allied shipping in the Mediterranean theatre.
During the invasion of the Balkans, Kampfgeschwader 2 “Holzhammer” (KG 2) I. Gruppe committed 29 Do 17s with 28 operational. It participated in the bombing of Belgrade, the Battle of Greece and Battle of Crete, attacking ground and naval targets. On May 20th, 1941, the unit claimed many Allied ships sunk north of Crete. It reported the loss of 6 Do 17s and 7 damaged. II. Gruppe did not take part. III. Gruppe participated with 30 Do 17s, 29 operational. It reported losses of 6 aircraft shot down and 5 damaged during the campaign. During June 1941, I./KG 2 was partially converted to the Do 217.
Look for Corgi’s rendition of this bomber (AA38807) to take to the skies in September.