The Battle of Crete (20 May – 1 June 1941) was one of the most dramatic episodes of World War II. After occupying the rest of Greece, the Germans launched an unprecedented airborne operation on Crete, spearheaded by parachutists who were to seize the airfields so that ground troops could then be landed. The island was defended by Cretan civilians, the remnants of the Greek Army (without its Cretan Division, stranded on the mainland), as well as British, Australian and New Zealand allies. After suffering heavy losses on day one of the Battle, the Germans seized the Maleme airfield on day two and thereafter occupied the entire island. The heroic resistance of the Cretan people won them worldwide admiration, but also led to harsh German reprisals.