While everyone knows the heroic story of D-Day and how it led to the Allied victory in WWII, far less is known about the 216-day Battle of Greece from October 28, 1940, to June 1,1941, the cost Germany the war. Even Hitler had to acknowledge their bravery, saying, “against all our opponents, only the Greeks fought with such endless courage and defiance of death.” Larger France with a far bigger military fell on the Nazi tanks in 43 days.

Now Christopher Cosmos, a former Evans Scholar from Grand Rapids, Michigan, has made sure the world pays its respect to the country of his ancestors in his new novel Once We Were Here. His meticulous WWII  research, with apt allusions to both ancient Greece’s real Alexander the Great and Homer’s Iliad about the Trojan War.

President Roosevelt said this about the little country that gave the world democracy. When the entire world had lost all hope, the Greek people dared to question the invincibility of the German monster, raising against it in the proud spirit of freedom.

So how did Greece’s sacrifices fighting off Nazi tanks with rifles save WWII for democracy? The Nazis had planned to invade Russia in Mid-May, Knocking the Soviets out of the war which their Panzer Blitzkrieg would have – Had not the Greeks delayed them. Think of Napoleon’s disastrous 1812 Russian campaign that started June 24; Germany’s 1941 invasion began June 22. While 216 days don’t sound that important, they gave Russia’s best weapon time to kick in as it did for Napoleon. The brutal winter of 19141 made the difference between a fascist authoritarian world order and  a democratic one.