Battle With The Germans
As the negotiations stalled, the Germans prepared to resolve the issue by force, and presented the Italians with an ultimatum which expired at 14:00 hours on 15 September. On the morning of 15 September, the German Luftwaffe began bombarding the Italian positions with Stuka dive-bombers. On the ground, the Italians initially enjoyed superiority, and took about 400 Germans prisoner. On 17 September however, the Germans landed the "Battle Group Hirschfeld", composed of the III./98 and the 54th Gebirgsjäger Battalions of the German Army's elite 1st Gebirgs (Mountain) Division, together with I./724 Battalion of the 104th Jäger Division, under the command of Major Harald von Hirschfeld. The 98th Gebirgsjäger Regiment, in particular, had been involved in several atrocities against civilians in Epirus in the months preceding the Acqui massacre.
At the same time the Germans started dropping propaganda leaflets calling upon the Italians to surrender. The leaflets stated:
"Camerati Italiani, ufficiali e soldati, why fight against the Germans? You have been betrayed by your leaders!... LAY DOWN YOUR ARMS!! THE ROAD HOME TO YOUR PATRIA WILL BE OPENED UP FOR YOU BY YOUR GERMAN CAMERATI".
Gandin repeatedly requested help from the Ministry of War in Brindisi but did not get a reply. He even went so far as sending a Red Cross emissary to the Ministry but the mission broke down off the coast of Puglia and when it arrived three days later at the Italian High Command in Brindisi, it was already too late. In addition 300 planes loyal to Badoglio were located at Lecce, near the southernmost point of Italy and well within range of Cephalonia, and were ready to intervene. But the Allies would not let them go because they feared they could have defected to the German side. Furthermore two Italian torpedo boats, already on their way to Cephalonia, were ordered back to port by the Allies for the same reasons.
Despite help for the Italians from the local population, including the island's small ELAS partisan detachments, the Germans enjoyed complete air superiority and their troops had extensive combat experience, in contrast with the conscripts of Acqui, who were no match for the Germans. In addition, Gandin had withdrawn the Acqui from the elevated position on Mount Kardakata and that gave the Germans an additional strategic advantage. After several days of combat, at 11:00 hours on 22 September, following Gandin's orders, the last Italians surrendered, having run out of ammunition and lost 1,315 dead. According to German sources the losses were 300 Germans and 1,200 Italians.
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