Regional unit of Chania
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Maleme is best known as a landing site for German paratroopers invading Crete in 1941, at the start of the Battle of Crete (Operation Mercury) during World War II. The paratroopers captured the airstrip that was located just outside the town; once captured, this airstrip allowed the Germans to airlift in the reinforcements needed to capture the rest of the island. Many of the paratroopers lost their lives in the attack and are buried in the German war cemetery located on a hill above Maleme.
There is an Royal Air Force (RAF) Memorial to the airmen of 30 and 33 Squadrons who died during the battle. The memorial is located outside Maleme and overlooks the Iron Bridge across the Tavronitis River.