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Macedonia was acquired by Greece only in 1912. It lies on the north side of the Aegean Sea from the Gulf of Salonika (inclusive) on the west to the Merich River (the boundary with Turkey) on the east. Parallel to the Aegean coast and some 30 miles from it are the Rodopi Mountains, which form the north boundary. This territory was inhabited partly by Greeks and partly by Bulgarians, each claiming to form the majority and so leading to rival claims to this province.

The Aegean coast, although very irregular, has few good harbors. There are only three, evenly distributed in a line at about 70-mile intervals. These are Salonika, Kavalla, and the mouth of the Merich. Salonika, whose correct name is Thessalonike, is an excellent port and most suitable for a base. It has ample facilities for handling large ships. The port contains stone quays and can handle large volumes of freight. From Salonika there are several important routes of advance into the interior.

The Vardar valley, with a good road and a railroad, leads northwards to Skoplje (or Uskub), about 125 miles away. This would be the first natural objective after Salonika is seized, for Skoplje is the junction for several main lines of communication. From here the main railroad leads to Nish and on through Yugoslavia to Belgrade. Another line of road and railroad extends from Skoplje into the Ibar valley. In 1940 this railroad did not extend north of the old boundary of Novi-Bazar, although there was no engineering difficulty against building it through to Kraljevok where connection would be made with the main Yugoslav railroad system. Both these routes north out of Skoplje have numerous good defensive positions.

From Skoplje there is a railroad and road southeast to Struga near the border of Albania. At this point it connects with the Egnatia road, a military highway constructed by the Romans and extending from Durazzo, through Tirana and Struga, to Bitolj (or Monastir) and Salonika. From Bitolj there is railroad communication direct to Salonika and northeast through Prilep to the Salonika-Skoplje railroad. On each side of the Gulf of Salonika terrain favors the defender to prevent any landings. Just west of the city is the delta of the Vardar, habitually swampy and unsuitable for landing operations. South of the city is the Khalkidike peninsula, along the high ground of which are positions covering a few narrow beaches. The south end of this peninsula consists of three smaller peninsulas, each a strip of mountain connected with the main peninsula by a narrow isthmus. The more easterly of the three is Akte, the end of which is Mt. Athos, 6,670 feet high and the site of famous monasteries.

The north side of the Khalkidike is covered by Lakes Langaza and Bechik, substantial obstacles. A landing would be possible northeast of the Khalkidike, near the mouth of the Struma River. An advance direct on Salonika would encounter these lakes, which also have swamps on the north side to further restrict the space available for military operations.

The Struma River is not marshy at its mouth, but there are extensive swamps along its banks only 6 to 7 miles inland; these will constrict an advance to a relative small space. Rough hills separate the Struma valley from the two lakes. The first road across them is from Serrai (or Seres) to Salonika and is 30 miles inland. The railroad goes around the hills about 55 miles inland and passes between them and Lake Dorian in another constricted space.

A landing on the west side of the Gulf of Salonika is pinched between sea and mountains. At the north end of the mountains is the Vistritza River, a possible defensive line for the enemy, and if this is crossed there is a 30-mile line of swamps and affluents of the Vardar which would be a good defensive position.

Salonika was the Allied base from 1916 to 1918. It was seized without opposition then and there was no opposition when the Germans took it in 1940. Kavalla's location would seem to make it suitable for a landing, for there are beaches in the vicinity and the island of Thasos protects the roadstead so that the bay could be used at any time. There are extensive swamps about 6 miles inland, obstructing the width of a valley leading to Drama, 20 miles inland, where the west-and-east railroad runs. Kavalla has no facilities for a base but would be useful in connection with an attack on Salonika.

The Merich valley is a wide avenue of approach around the east end of the Rodopi Mountains. There is a small port at Merich Bay and a road and railroad leading to the interior. The Rodopi Mts. are unusually rough. East of the Vardar valley there is not a single road crossing into Bulgaria and but few trails. These were blocked, prior to 1940, by the Metaxas Line, which is a series of small permanent forts constructed by the Greeks. The Germans succeeded in overcoming two sets of these defenses, but were able to move only small forces through the two passes. Their success came from their main force, which turned the Rodopi Mountains by moving south in the Vardar valley.

For an invasion from the sea this maneuver must be reversed, by advancing up the Vardar and/or up the Merich valley. The Vardar valley is narrow, with numerous positions suitable for blocking it. The Merich valley is broad, however, and goes around the Rodopi Mts., affording a wide way right into the heart of Bulgaria. It has been a favorable route of invasion since most ancient times.

Close to the sea the Merich is swampy, thereby reducing the space available for landing. On the west side are two hill positions within 15 miles of the coast, suitable for defensive positions against an invasion from the south. The east side of the valley is open but is on Turkish soil. If Turkey remains neutral an advance up the west side is practicable, and once the hill positions are taken we would have fairly level country suitable for armored forces.

The valley extends north from the sea 75 miles to Adrianople, on the Turkish side. Here the valley makes a right-angle turn to run westward by a wide gap between the Rodopi Mts. in Bulgaria and the Istranca Dagi in Turkey, which are parallel to the Black Sea. The valley continues westward over 150 miles almost to Sofia. In the Bay of Merich is the small port of Alexandroupolos (or Dede Agach), which has no facilities suitable for a base. A temporary base would have to be organized in case of invasion, and might well be on an island such as Lemnos.

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