The Battle of Crete began on the morning of 20 May 1941, when Nazi Germany launched an airborne invasion of Crete under the code name Unternehmen Merkur (Operation Mercury). Greek and Allied forces, along with Cretan civilians, defended the island.
A Rethymnon Military History Museum Production – English subtitles
After one day of fighting, the Germans had suffered very heavy casualties and the Allied troops were confident that they would prevail against the German invasion. The next day, through miscommunication and the failure of Allied commanders to grasp the situation, Maleme airfield in western Crete fell to the Germans, enabling them to fly in reinforcements and overwhelm the defenders. The battle lasted about 10 days.
The Battle of Crete was the first battle where German paratroops (Fallschirmjäger) were used on a massive scale and the first time invading German troops encountered mass resistance from a civilian population. Because of the heavy casualties suffered by the paratroopers, Adolf Hitler forbade further large-scale airborne operations.