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Lock, Stock, and History

Marinos Mitralexis, the Hercules of the Sky

On October 28th the Italians launched an invasion of Greece through Albania.  With a huge army and air force the Italians believed they could easily steamroll across Greece and add it to their empire.  However, the Italians did not count on the ferocity and bravery of Greek resistance.  The Italian Air Force especially thought it could sweep the skies, devoting 463 aircraft against the Greek’s mere 77.  Then again, the Italians did not count on the likes of Marinos Mitralexis, who became the most famous Greek fighter pilot of World War II.

On November 2nd, Second Lt. Marinos Mitralexis was the pilot of a PZL P.24 when his unit was scrambled to intercept a flight of 29 Italian bombers headed for Thessaloniki.  The two forces met in an aerial firefight in which three Italian bombers were shot down, while almost half of the others were badly damaged.  Mitralexis himself personally shot down one bomber and damaged another.  Terrified of the ferocious Greek assault, the Italian bombers turned around and retreated back to base.  However, Mitralexis wasn’t done yet.  Lining up his sights on a fleeing bomber, he fired until he ran out of ammo, damaging but not destroying the airplane.  Rather than giving up and breaking off the attack, Mitralexis decided to attempt a daring maneuver.  Slowly inching up on the bomber, Mitralexis rammed the rear section, using his propeller as a buzzsaw to slice off the bomber’s tail fin and rudder.  The bomber spiraled back to the earth, and Mitralexis, whose airplane was still flyable, followed it in.  The bomber made a level crash landing in a nearby field, and Mitralexis landed his fighter right next to it.  Armed with a pistol, Mitralexis took the four man Italian crew prisoner and marched them back to base.

The deeds of Marinos Mitralexis earned him the Gold Cross of Valour, Greece’s second highest award for gallantry.  By April of 1941 the Italian Army had been badly mauled and their campaign in Greece was near collapse.  Unfortunately the Italians requested help from their allies, the Germans.  While the Greeks had put up a stalwart defense against the Italian Army, they were quickly overrun by the German Wehrmacht.  Despite a courageous and determined defense, the Greek military was no match for the technology, size, and tactics of the German war machine.  By May 3rd Greece was overrun and forced to become an occupied nation in the Third Reich.

Marinos Mitalexis managed to escape Greece to North Africa, where he joined up with Allied forces to continue the fight against Italy and Germany.  He had a distinguished career during the war, shooting down five more enemy aircraft and earning the rank of Wing Commander.  In 1948 he was killed in plane crash near the Aegean Sea.

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    holy shit
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    Quando penso che Mussolini se ne era uscito con un: "spezzeremo le reni alla Grecia!". In effetti certi colpi, troppo...
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