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Who participated in the Gran Sasso raid/Operation Eiche?

Who participated in the Gran Sasso raid/Operation Eiche?


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I am looking for a list of all soldiers who participated in the Gran Sasso raid/Operation Eiche.

The Wikipedia list only the 4 who received Knight's Cross, and the 9 with German Cross in Gold.

But who were the rest? Those who received the Iron Cross (EK I or EK II)? Or those who had fallen (if there were any)?

Perhaps there is a way to find out who were the members of Fallschirmjäger-Lehr-Bataillon of the 2. Fallschirmjägerdivision, 1/FJR 7; SS-Sonderverband z.b.V. Friedenthal in September 1943?


Six Top Secret Military Operations of the 20th Century

Secrecy is an important part of military operations. And while there are many missions we will never know about, here are six top secret missions from the last century.

Some of these played an important role in determining the outcome of key battles, while others were a bit more strange and experimental.

1 Operation Paperclip

Between 1945 and 1959, the US military ran a large-scale operation to recruit some of the top German scientists to work for them. It was carried out by the Joint Intelligence Objectives Agency.

Project Paperclip Team at Fort Bliss

Initially, it was known as Operation Overcast. The name referred to the camp in Bavaria where the scientists and their families were housed temporarily before their journey across the Atlantic. It was renamed Operation Paperclip because a paperclip was added to the notes of those the US wanted to recruit.

The program resulted in more than 1,600 recruits including scientists, technicians, and engineers. The motivation for the project was mostly a response to a successful Russian campaign which had already recruited more than 2,000 scientists with key skills.

V-2 rocket launching, Peenemünde, on the north-east Baltic German coast. (1943) Photo by Bundesarchiv, Bild 141-1880 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

The US was particularly keen to recruit rocket scientists to give them an advantage over the Soviet Union in the Space Race.

Fortunately for the US, they had acquired a document with the names of many of the top scientists working in Germany.

German scientists and engineers repatriated from Sukhumi in February 1958. (see Forced labor of Germans in the Soviet Union) Photo by Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-F005116-0001 / Steiner, Egon / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Because of its post-war control of the area, the US could effectively capture the scientists by ordering them to report to the camp in Bavaria with their families and a small number of possessions.

After a period of interrogation, if suitable, they were then taken to the US where they and their families were settled.

2 Project Acoustic Kitty

One of the slightly more surreal examples of covert operations was the attempt by the CIA to use cats to spy on the Kremlin and Embassies in the Soviet Union in 1960.

The procedure involved a veterinary surgeon putting a microphone into a cat’s ear canal and placing a radio transmitter at the base of its skull.

Obeze Cat Series

This was not the most successful operation, as cats are difficult to train and have a have a tendency to wander off. It was reported that the first mission ended abruptly when the cat went looking for food and was hit by a taxi – although that story has since been disputed.

Seven years and $20 million later, the CIA decided that the project wasn’t feasible.

3 Operation Mincemeat

Operation Mincemeat was a slightly macabre operation carried out by British Intelligence in the lead up to the invasion of Sicily in July 1943.

Rear Admiral John Godfrey, in whose name the Trout memo was circulated

They found the body of a tramp who had died from eating rat poison and dressed him up as a US officer providing not only fake ID but more importantly false papers.

These contained false information about a plan by the Allies to invade Sardinia and Greece. The documents also made out that an attack on Sicily would merely be a feint – a tactic to distract the enemy from the real target.

In reality, the reverse was the case.

Naval identity card of Major Martin

The body, dressed in a US Navy uniform, was left in the sea, close to the southern Spanish shores where it was discovered by fishermen. Although Spain was neutral, the papers were shown first to Germany before being passed back to the British.

As the Allies had hoped, Germany diverted forces to Greece and Sardinia, leaving Sicily unprotected, so it was easily recaptured by the Allies.

4 Project Iceworm

Another secret Cold War project was appropriately codenamed Project Iceworm. Launched in 1960, the US told the Danish government (who were then in control of Greenland) that they were researching into the possibility of working under the ice sheet which covered most of Greenland.

Portable nuclear power plant

The US called this project “Camp Century.”

However, this was a cover for the top secret and much more sensitive Project Iceworm. The real purpose of their underwater explorations was to create a network of sites for launching medium-range nuclear weapons.

Layout plan of Camp Century

The location was chosen because it was close enough to strike targets within the Soviet Union. However, unsteady ice conditions within the ice sheet resulted in the project being abandoned six years later.

5 Operation Eiche

Operation Eiche – German for “oak” – was also known as the Gran Sasso Raid as it took place out in the high mountains on the Italian Gran Sasso massif. This was an operation carried out in September 1943 to rescue the Italian dictator Mussolini.

Mussolini rescued by German commandos from his prison in the Hotel Campo Imperatore on 12 September 1943. Photo by Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-567-1503A-07, Gran Sasso, Mussolini mit deutschen Fallschirmjägern

Mussolini had been arrested a few months before following a vote of no confidence from the Italian Grand Council of Fascism.

A fleet of ten gliders, each carrying nine men, was sent out under a direct order form Hitler.

They flew to the Gran Sasso massif where Mussolini was being held in the Campo Imperatore Hotel the Apennine Mountains.

Campo Imperatore Hotel in 1943 Bundesarchiv, Bild 101I-567-1503A-05 / Toni Schneiders / CC-BY-SA 3.0

With the exception of one glider crashing, the operation went smoothly. The remaining paratroopers stormed the hotel and Mussolini was transported to Hitler’s headquarters in Rastenburg.

6 Project MKUltra

The now notorious project MKUltra might sound like something out of a dystopian futuristic novel, and it’s not surprising to find out that it has inspired films and books.

However, the real MKUltra was a secret experiment to research the potential for drugs and other techniques to be used for interrogation, to break down resistance and elicit confessions.

Sidney Gottlieb approved of an MKUltra sub-project on LSD in this June 9, 1953, letter.

It was organized by the CIA Office of Scientific Intelligence along with the Biological Warfare Labs and used live subjects, many of whom had not consented. They included prisoners and institutionalized mental health patients as well as student volunteers who did not realize what they were actually agreeing to.

Although it ran from 1953 – 1973, the level of activity declined after 1964.

Techniques used included giving the subjects drugs such as LSD in addition to psychological experiments with hypnosis, as well as isolation and sensory deprivation.

Frank Church headed the Church Committee, an investigation into the practices of the US intelligence agencies.

The experiment was brought to the attention of the public in 1975 due to the action of the Churches Committee. It was later the subject of an official state inquiry.

Although some documents have since been declassified, many of the records and other documents were destroyed. It is unlikely that the full extent and details of the project will ever be known.


Historical figure Otto Skorzeny

Otto Skorzeny was a soldier of Nazi Germany, acquired great notoriety during the Second World War for having participated in the liberation of Mussolini from his imprisonment of the Gran Sasso of Italy (1943).

He was still a student at the Austrian Nazi party in 1930 and eight years later he was in favor of the annexation between Austria and the Third Reich. In this period he suffered a facial injury during a student duel and was disfigured. In 1939 he arrived in Berlin and first tried to enter the Luftwaffe. Being unfit for reasons of age, serving as a fighter pilot (a role to which he yearned), he abandoned his aeronautical ambitions and entered the Leibstandarte Adolf Hitler, passing the following year to the Das Reich division. After fighting in the Netherlands and then in France, in 1941 he was transferred to the Eastern Front, from which he was repatriated in December 1942.

After July 25, 1943, Skorzeny was sent to Italy by Himmler with the task of assisting General Kurt Student, to whom Hitler had entrusted the task of conducting the Operation Eiche (or to seek the place where Mussolini was held prisoner and to free him). Student paratroopers had to raid while the Skorzeny SS needed to retrieve information about the prisoner's whereabouts. According to a current of thought [Which? Source?], Skorzeny had no great merit in the liberation of Mussolini, since his deeds were depleted at the moment when the duce's prison on Gran Sasso was discovered. Officially, he took part in the operation (conducted on 12 September by paratroopers of the Fallschirmjäger-Lehrbataillon), as an observer. According to another view of the facts, however, Skorzeny had the merit of the success of the operation, since he had the idea to bring with him the Soleti police general who, being recognized by the carabinieri and soldiers who guarded the hotel on the Grand Sasso and telling them not to shoot, allowed the liberation of the leader who was then bloodless.

Skorzeny succeeded in introducing himself to Mussolini to announce that, by order of Hitler, the Germans had come to free him without facing any reaction from the Italians, totally bewildered by the presence of General Soleti, in view of the same Mussolini, looking out the window , he said: "Do not shoot, do not you see that everything is in order? There is an Italian general". It should also be mentioned that Karl Radl, the brilliant officer of the SS, played a leading role in the Eiche operation. In 1955, Radl published the book "Yo Rescate a Mussolini", where he specifically declared that he was the real creator of the inclusion of General Soleti in the German expedition to Campo Imperatore to free Mussolini.

However, Skorzeny took full advantage of the opportunity to self-promote: he insisted to the point of threats to get on the light Fieseler Storch (which in German means "stork"), which was to lead Mussolini to Pratica di Mare airport, and from there in Germany the Storch (reconnaissance aircraft designed for just two occupants) ran a huge risk taking off from a short descent burdened by the weight of the pilot, the corpulent Mussolini and the giant Skorzeny (2 meters high for about 100 kilos weight). In any case, the SS officer made sure to be present in all the photos taken by the dictator just released and, thanks to them, the propaganda of Goebbels catapulted him into a massive popular campaign, which made him the protagonist of the operation to damage of General Student, commander of the paratroopers. Promoted to the rank of SS-Sturmbannführer and decorated with the Knight's Cross, Skorzeny was given the command of Section S (Special Operations) of the Sicherheitsdienst.
In April 1944 he collaborated with Himmler on the planning of the operation, then bankrupt, conducted by the SS-Fallschirmjäger-Bataillon 500 for the capture of Tito. He was able to bring himself to light again following von Stauffenberg's failed attack on Hitler on July 20, 1944, when he organized a special unit of the SS that began repression in Berlin.

In October, with another coup, he kidnapped in Budapest the son of the Hungarian regent, Admiral Horthy, occupying the headquarters of the Hungarian government and preventing the latter from signing an armistice agreement with the Soviet forces. For this success, on October 22nd, in Rastenburg, SS-Obersturmbannführer was promoted and charged in the context of the Wacht am Rhein operation (the Ardennes Offensive), to occupy the bridges of Amay, Huy and Ardenne, on the Meuse (Operation Greif ), with a unit organized and directed by him, the Panzerbrigade 150, which included in its ranks even German soldiers in American uniform recruited in the ranks of the merchant navy, who could speak English with an accent and slang from Yankee.
He was captured in May 1945 by the Americans, but was later acquitted of all charges (1947) for war crimes. The trial of the allies based the accusation on him fundamentally on the illicit use in war of enemy uniforms during Operation Greif. The defense fought on the lawfulness of using the enemy's uniforms to approach the latter, as long as they throw off their uniforms when fighting begins.

In support of this, it was confirmed that the matter had been accomplished by the allies: in Hungary British officers were captured with German uniforms and were not shot, and the same thing had been done by the Americans in Aachen.

On the use of disguises and identity cards by the Americans witnessed the trial also an English officer, commander Forrest Yeo-Thomas, with a chivalric gesture rarely accomplished in the post-war period: an Englishman came to testify in favor of a German, an ex-enemy, which gave great vivacity to the trial and a remarkable tension throughout its development. Thomas affirmed that the British had used not only disguises but also distinctive enemies, enemy weapons, false documents, all for one purpose: to win the war and, textual words, to make out the other.

Skorzeny was thus acquitted and, although formally held back in Austria, easily fled to Spain, then ruled by the caudillo Francisco Franco, of whom Skorzeny was a supporter.
Skorzeny is supposed to have played an active part in organizing the escape of former SS soldiers from Germany within the so-called organization Die Spinne, the Spider, similar to goals of the Odessa organization, but obviously because of the secrecy of the organization itself they know only partial data.

According to some testimonies (including that of Adriano Monti, an accomplice of Junio ​​Valerio Borghese in the attempted coup), he was also one of the promoters of the Geleme organization, a branch of the German secret services during the war, later included among the flanking intelligence organizations of the CIA. Monti himself would have been named Giulio Andreotti as the political guarantor of the Borghese coup d'état.


Post by panzertruppe2001 » 29 Jan 2008, 04:49

Only my opinion but I guess both Heer officers were Brandenburgers, both Luftwaffe Leutnant Colonel Fallschirmjäger and the SS a Waffen SS veteran or an SD officer. About the SS man I think he was not a commando because Skorzeny did not knew him and in this days Skorzeny was organizing Friedenthal units so in this case he must knew him.

One thing is clear Hitler summited two officers both for Heer, Waffen SS and Luftwaffe

Post by Helly Angel » 29 Jan 2008, 05:11

Post by panzertruppe2001 » 29 Jan 2008, 08:50

Of course not, but there were spies and may be Hitler did not necesarily need a commando operation, may be a secret operation something like Gleiwitz or Venlo incident where SD took action. In any case we are trying to discover who were the other officers.

Saludos desde Argentina (greetings from Argentina)

Post by Peter H » 29 Jan 2008, 11:49

Most likely the Luftwaffe officers were from KG 200.

II./KG 200 did have trained Fallschirmjägers in its ranks in 1944,elements participated in the Velcors operation,like Gran Sasso,landing by glider.

Whether this force was in existence in September 1943 I do not know.

Post by Helly Angel » 29 Jan 2008, 13:50

Yes, unfortunately Skorzeny didn´t wrote the names in "Secret missions" and "Lebe Gefährlich" (¡Vive Peligrosamente!), just the reference to the grades and branch, I imagine we never can know who were these gentlemen

Post by panzertruppe2001 » 29 Jan 2008, 14:19

Peter H wrote: Most likely the Luftwaffe officers were from KG 200.

II./KG 200 did have trained Fallschirmjägers in its ranks in 1944,elements participated in the Velcors operation,like Gran Sasso,landing by glider.

Whether this force was in existence in September 1943 I do not know.

KG 200 literally existed since February 1944 http://www.axishistory.com/index.php?id=2577 but before this date existed some special Luftwaffe units one of them was Kommando Rowehl. Equally your opinion is a good point, Peter

Skorzeny's team at Gran Sasso

Post by Bob Forczyk » 12 Oct 2008, 18:07

I'm trying to develop a complete list of the 16 SS men involved in the glider part of the raid at Gran Sasso on 12 September 1943. So far I have the following:

1. SS-Hauptsturmführer Otto Skorzeny
2. SS-Obersturmführer Ulrich Menzel
3. SS- Obersturmführer Karl Radl
4. SS-Untersturmführer Otto Schwerdt
5. SS-Untersturmführer Robert Warger
6. SS-Untersturmführer Andreas Friedrich
7. SS-Hauptscharführer Manns
8. SS-Oberscharführer Walther Gläsner
9. SS-Oberscharführer Paul Spitt*
10. SS Unterscharführer Hans Holzer
11. SS-Unterscharführer Bernhard Cieslewitz
12. SS Unterscharführer Robert Neitzel
13. SS-Rottenführer Herbert (?) Himmel
14. SS-Rottenführer Albert (?) Benz
15. Sfaeller or Gföller
16. Max Pföller

After checking at NARA, there were no SS records on Spitt, Sfaeller or Walter Dyck (who claimed to be on the raid). Also, at least 4 of Skorzeny's men may have gone with Major Mors on the ground operation at Assergi. Looking for any clarification on names/ranks, esp. Manns, Himmel, Benz and Gföller.

Hauptsturmfuhrer Ulrich Menzel

Post by waffen-IDF » 17 Nov 2008, 19:31

Capt. Kdr, SS-Werfer.Btl.501 at 1.45

Re: Skorzeny's team at Gran Sasso

Post by Bob Forczyk » 18 Nov 2008, 00:45

Re: Skorzeny's team at Gran Sasso

Post by Sid Guttridge » 18 Nov 2008, 14:26

Why only the SS men involved? It was primarily a paratroop operation that Skorzeny hijacked and endangered the success of by unnecessarily insisting on flying out with Mussolini.

It is also often forgotten that the operation took place hundreds of miles behind German lines and was rather less impressive than the contemporary seizure of the Italian Army HQ by paratroops, which is almost unknown.

Let's put the self-promoting Skorzeny in his proper perspective.

Re: Skorzeny's team at Gran Sasso

Post by Bob Forczyk » 18 Nov 2008, 14:53

Sid,
I'm not trying to hype Skorzeny (see my review of his book on Amazon, entitled "The Biggest Liar in Europe"). I'm currently writing a book on the Gran Sasso Raid and include a section on the Monterotondo assault three days prior. Also, Gran Sasso was precisely 105 km from Kesselring's HQs in Frascati, so it was not hundreds of miles behind enemy lines and the Italian Pinerolo Division in nearby L'Aquila actually just sat there until disarmed.

I'm trying to develop a comprehensive list of all the raiders, but since only 18 SS men were involved, that is a bit easier. I now have details on most of the enlisted men and officers, which indicates how inexperienced and untrained most of the SS men were for this type of operation. Skorzeny's own SS records, which I got from NARA, demonstrate that he had very little combat experience and his memoirs conceal the fact that he spent most of the war sitting around in Berlin on his behind. I do have a list of about 35 of the 70 fallschirmjager on the raid, but don't expect to get all the names.

Re: Skorzeny's team at Gran Sasso

Post by Sid Guttridge » 19 Nov 2008, 12:43

Sorry to be so touchy. When I was on other sites I had long discussions about the Skorzeny myth. As far as I can tell, Skorzeny was a political animal from his days in Austria in the early 1930s. In WWII he seems never to have been behind enemy lines himself. He was essentially an internal enforcer most of whose operations occurred within Axis-occupied Europe (Mussolini's rescue, the raid on Tito's HQ, the kidnapping of Horthy's son, etc.) For his operations in the Ardennes he had to take almost all his few fluent English speakers from amongst ex-Brandenburgers. When the Bomb Plotters took over the Ersatzheer HQ in Berlin Skoprzerny's unit was only about 20 miles north of Berlin, but still arrived too late to take part in their suppression. And so on. Skorzeny's achievements have been puffed up out of all recognition, mostly by himself, but abetted by under critical later authors who often accepted his line without apparently doing much other research.

On a point of information, I did not say that Gran Sasso was "hundreds of miles behind enemy lines". I actually wrote "the operation took place hundreds of miles behind German lines". The actual battlefront was then several hundred miles further south.

We seem to have similar approaches, so I wish you well in your attempt to write a detached history of this raid.

Re: Skorzeny's team at Gran Sasso

Post by Bob Forczyk » 19 Nov 2008, 14:26

Re: Skorzeny's team at Gran Sasso

Post by Bernd R » 19 Nov 2008, 17:22

you surely know the most of the story and the material contained in the below two links. Maybe it's useful to have them here with regard to the one or the other detail and to cover the bigger picture for all readers as well. I've quoted the "award list" too - it seems that only Skorzeny himself was decorated with an award for the operation (?) which is a spotlight on the rating of the importance and contribution of Skorzeny's men and the FJ by higher authorities (and it supports the remarks by Sid).


Skorzeny: The Mythical Nazi Commando (Part 1)

The rescue seventy years ago of the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini from captivity in a hotel lodge situated high on the Apennine Mountains by a contingent of German Special Forces is a feat of military enterprise which is still lauded to this day.

Just as the later mission accomplishments of the British Special Air Services (SAS) Regiment in storming and ending the siege of the London embassy of Iran in 1979 and the liberation of hostages three years earlier by Israel’s Sayeret Matkal at Uganda’s Entebbe Airport, the German raid at the Campo Imperatore at Gran Sasso astounded the world eliciting praise for its precision planning and the deftness of its execution.

Indeed, in commending the audacity of the enemy while speaking before the House of Commons, Prime Minister Winston Churchill remarked on the mission as having been “one of great daring.” His nemesis Adolf Hitler telephoned one particular soldier who had participated in the raid and informed him that “you have performed a military feat which will become part of history.”

The soldier to whom Hitler spoke was a fellow Austrian and member of the Waffen-SS named Otto Skorzeny.

While the soldiers who partook in the aforementioned British and Israeli missions remained anonymous until a great many years had passed by save for the posthumous heroic status granted to the fallen Yonatan Netanyahu, Skorzeny was conferred with instant fame.

His name, to the exclusion of others, is the one to which the achievement of the Gran Sasso Raid is inextricably linked, in terms of both its conception and execution.

His reputation as a bold tactician and an expert in the special mission which was capable of changing the currents of war grew to the extent that as the war drew to a close, he was considered by the allied forces to be the “most dangerous man in Europe.”

To his biographers, he was “Commando Extraordinary” the Fuehrer’s favorite commando who transcended the craft of ‘mere’ soldering by displaying an adeptness at fomenting psychological warfare against huge armies.

And even in the post-war years his fame and infamy expanded. He was interviewed by major Western news outlets to whom he disclosed that his services were in demand from all manner of intelligence and military organizations.

The Commando With the Rescued Mussolini Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0

He was, it was alleged, at the helm of a vast secret network which smuggled thousands of war criminals out of allied occupied Europe to Spain and South America.

While to some analysts, in the decades which followed his passing, he was nothing less than the ‘father’ of modern terrorism.

That he was composed of an exceptional mindset and imbued with a rare level of determination cannot be denied. As a soldier, Skorzeny was resolute in his belief that he had no choice other than to fight for the Third Reich until the endseig the illusory ‘final victory’ promised by his Fuehrer.

And because of this commitment, and the results that he apparently produced, he was called upon to execute a range of missions which would have taxed the most exceptional of soldiers.

Beginning with the event which created his celebrity and what could be termed the ‘Skorzeny legend’, he developed an aura as a rare specimen of warrior.

His admirers, many of whom were soldiers and commandos who fought in the armies opposing Nazi Germany, attested to his talents intimating him to have been an almost supernaturally gifted practitioner of a highly specialized form of warfare.

Yet, amid the broad truths in the depictions of certain acts of bravery and of resourcefulness while acting at the center of key missions and engagements during the Second World War, lurking in the background was a significant element of state-sponsored propaganda, of myth-making and an incessant tendency toward self-promotion.

And while there is much truth to the old adage of history being written by the victors of war, there is nonetheless a not unfounded allegation that in this case, the reverse applies.

There is much to ponder about the irony of the widely accepted history of Skorzeny a soldier of a vanquished army, succeeding in creating the conditions in which others would write a hugely favorable account of a life and career that may conceivably have ended on the gallows.

Born into a relatively prosperous Viennese middle-class family in 1908 as the Hapsburg-era was drawing to a close, the personality of Otto Skorzeny in his youth and early adulthood was marked by boldness and directness.

As was the family tradition, he joined a dueling fraternity, Schlagende Verbindungen, and in 1928 earned the coveted Schmisse or ‘Scars of Honour’ while a student at the Vienna Technical College.

“My knowledge of pain, learned with the saber, taught me not to be afraid,” he would later say. “And just as in dueling when you must concentrate on your enemy’s cheek, so, too, in war. You cannot waste time on feinting and sidestepping. You must decide on your target and go in.”

These words summed up his sense of tenacity and a taste for adventure. His affiliation to a fencing society was, in fact, an inextricable part of the passed down values of the Skorzeny family which would irreparable shape his belief system and, indeed, his destiny. This was a strong immersion in German ultra-nationalist sentiment.

Thus it was that in 1931 Skorzeny joined the Austrian Nazi party which advocated anschuluss with Germany an objective which came to fruition in 1938. His involvement with Austrian National Socialism provided the basis for his meeting with Ernst Kaltenbrunner, future head of the SS-Reichssicherheitshauptamt or Reich Central Security Office (RSHA), who would later become something of a benefactor.

Skorzeny in a cell during the Nuremberg trials.

Skorzeny formed an engineering firm soon after graduating in that field and he worked as a civil engineer until the outbreak of war in 1939. His effort of volunteering for the Luftwaffe was rejected at 31 years of age and possessing a burly 6-foot 4-Inch-frame, he was adjudged to be too old and too tall for the aircrew training program.

So, Skorzeny joined the Waffen-SS as an officer-Cadet. He took a short training course to become a technical officer but remained a non-commissioned officer.

His background as an engineer was utilized as a maintenance officer and in this posting went into battle in a number of theaters of war: the Netherlands, France and the Balkans.

It was in the Balkans in April of 1941 that Skorzeny became a commissioned officer after his regiment played a key part in putting down a revolt by Yugoslav military officers who had overthrown the government of Prince-Regent Paul for its closeness to the Nazi state.

Two months later he participated in Operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of the Soviet Union, as part of the 2 nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich. Skorzeny was injured during the early winter of 1941 while still serving in the Soviet Union requiring a period of convalescence.

German Flamethrower teams in Soviet Territory in 1941. Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0

It was at this point in time that he began reading about different forms of unconventional warfare with the use of commandos and he did not hesitate to share his views with his superiors on ways of putting them into action.

On recovering, Skorzeny was not re-deployed to his previous role and instead, at the behest of Kaltenbrunner, was earmarked by Walter Schellenberg, head of the Sicherheitsdienst (SD) or foreign intelligence service of the SS, to direct a number of specially designated schools to be involved in imparting agents with skills in the areas of espionage and sabotage.

Skorzeny was subsequently appointed as the commander of a newly created unit which eventually came to be known as the SS Combat Unit Centre which was based at Freidenthal Castle in Orienberg.

His first major mission codenamed ‘Operation Francois’, a plan which involved parachuting agents into Iran to encourage acts of sabotage on allied supplies headed for the Soviet Union via railway was deemed a failure.

The agents were turned over to the British by dissidents from among the Qashqai mountain tribe when they ran out of the gold they had been using to pay for the services of the rebels.

Then came Unternehmen Eiche, in English, ‘Operation Oak’, the successful rescue of Benito Mussolini. In July of 1943, the Duce had been arrested on the orders of King Vittorio Emmanuelle and placed under arrest after a meeting of the Grand Council of Fascism had issued a vote of no confidence in his leadership.

The German defeat at the Battle of Stalingrad in February 1943 and the allied invasion of southern Italy spelled an impending doom for war-weary Italy.

But as the Italian government worked feverishly in secret to break its alliance with the Nazi state, German armies, as a protective measure, proceeded to disarm the Italian army and to occupy those parts of the peninsula which had not yet been conquered by invading Allied armies.

The Germans were also keen to rescue Mussolini from his captors in order to prevent the soon-to-defect Italians from handing him over to the allies who they presumed would put him on trial.

The Italians, in turn, were aware that attempts would be made to snatch the prisoner and he was held at locations which would not be readily accessible starting with the islands of Ponza and La Maddalena on the Tyrrhenian Sea.

Operation Eiche could, of course, only be put in motion after the necessary intelligence was obtained, and Skorzeny was involved in the task of finding out where Mussolini was being held.

In August, Skorzeny escaped death after being shot down near Sardinia when reconnoitering in a Heinkel He 111 bomber. The plane was able to crash-land into the sea and he and the crew swam to a nearby island where they were picked up by an Italian naval vessel.

When Mussolini was again located, this time at the Hotel Imperatore on Gran Sasso, a plan of action was effected. But contrary to popular belief, this was not devised by Skorzeny.

While Skorzeny did carry out preliminary surveillance of the area, Herbert Kappler, the SS figure in Rome who would later be involved in the notorious massacre in the Ardeatine Caves, had earlier provided the location and its topological features.

Furthermore, the actual operation plan was devised by Major Harald Mors, the commander of a paratrooper training battalion of the Luftwaffe, which was supervised and approved by General Kurt Student.

In an interview conducted by the producers of an Austrian-made documentary on Skorzeny which was released in 2010, Mors claimed that there had never been any discussion regarding Skorzeny’s participation in their deliberations and that only after the plans for the operation had been completed did Student inform him that Skorzeny had asked him to be part of the operation since he had “spent weeks searching for the man and he wants to know if he is really there.”

According to Mors, Skorzeny was on the trip without possessing any formal command authority, making him in effect a mere passenger. It was clear that a man like Skorzeny would not be content to remain as a passenger and neither did the SS which as had been the case with other major military and civilian organizations in the Nazi state remained highly competitive with each other.

At various points in the history of the Third Reich, the SS had vied for some aspect of power and influence with the interior ministry, the foreign office, the Abwehr and the Luftwaffe, the key participants in this operation.

A contemporary document has Heinrich Himmler, ever keen to get the upper hand in his rivalry with Luftwaffe chief Herman Goering, stating that he expected “SS-Hauptsturmfuehrer Skorzeny to exert himself to the utmost.”

Situated at six thousand feet high and accessible only by cable car, Gran Sasso possessed a terrain which was not favorable to landing aircraft. And with a force of around 200 armed carabinieris guarding the deposed leader, carrying out a rescue attempt would be an exceedingly onerous undertaking.

Nonetheless, the plan of attack called for 12 DFS-230 cargo gliders to land on a clear patch of land on the steep mountain ranges after which the fallschirmjager (paratroopers) would race up a set of steep hills and onto the lodge.

As events transpired, the gliders, one of which crashed, did not reach their destination in the pre-planned formation which meant that the one which carried Skorzeny and his crew landed first on the plateau next to the hotel.

Skorzeny seized the opportunity presented by the moment and reached the lodge first catching an astonished sentry unawares. Storming in, he encountered a radio operator at work in front of his set.

As related in his memoirs, Skorzeny kicked the operator’s stool out from under him and he fell to the ground. A well-aimed blow from the butt of his sub-machine gun obliterated the equipment which Skorzeny claimed the operator was about to use to send to an Italian general warning him about the approach of the gliders.

After a few minutes search, he eventually found the Duce, announcing, “Duce, the Fuhrer has given me orders to free you!” to which Mussolini responded, “I knew that my friend Adolf Hitler would not forsake me”.

Not a shot had been fired.

So swiftly had Skorzeny acted, that the fallschirmjager who were acting strictly according to orders arrived at the lodge’s entrance as Skorzeny was leaving with Mussolini.

It was soon after this that the conduct of Skorzeny, who was in constant radio contact with his superiors at SS headquarters, began to play up the propaganda value so earnestly desired by Himmler and not least by himself.

As film cameras rolled and photo cameras clicked, he did not leave the side of the Duce, and going against plan, clambered onto the light Fieseler Fi-156 Storch airplane which had been designated to ferry Mussolini back to Rome.

After a potentially precarious flight caused by the weight of an unexpected passenger, Skorzeny accompanied the deposed Italian leader on the journey to Vienna and then Berlin. For his efforts, he was promoted to SS-Major and awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross.

Although Luftwaffe personnel such as General Student, awarded the Knight’s Cross, as well as Major Mors and First Lieutenant Baron George Freiherr von Berlepsch, the designated leader of the ground operation, both awarded the German Cross in Gold, received commendations, the propaganda machinery of Joseph Goebbels employed at the urging of Himmler, ensured that

the SS usurped much of the praise for the mission, and, assuredly, the legend of Otto Skorzeny was born.

It was a legend which in different circumstances would not have materialised because Skorzeny had risked the entire mission by embarking for the hotel with very little support when he should have waited for more troops.

Skorzeny in Budapest, 1944 – Bundesarchiv – CC BY-SA 3.0

Also, the accommodation of two war correspondents and photographers which he had insisted upon reduced the number of troops who would have been needed in the event of a serious fire-fight breaking out with the Italian guards.

Further, his boarding of the light plane which spirited Mussolini away may have led to calamity given the minimal amount of take off space available on the rugged mountain terrain.

Skorzeny’s next major mission occurred just over a year later in Hungary. The background to ‘Untermehmen Panzerfaust’ was the Prince Regent Admiral Miklos Horthy’s attempt to negotiate a surrender to the Soviet Union a development which would seriously weaken Germany’s already precarious situation on the Eastern Front.

The initiative here had been with the Soviets since the turning-of-the-tide victory in Stalingrad in early 1943 as well as the failed German attempt to stem the tide by engaging the Red Army in the great tank battle of the Kursk.

The defection of Hungary from the Nazi camp, coming after that of Romania, would have cut off the estimated million German troops still fighting in the Balkan Peninsula.

German policemen commanded by an SS-police chief in Budapest, Obergruppenfuehrer Otto Winklemann, were tasked with kidnapping Horthy’s son, who was allegedly influencing his father’s attitudes to the Soviets, and holding him hostage with the objective of forcing Horthy’s resignation.

As Skorzeny looked on from a car parked on a road, Winklemann’s men infiltrated an office building in which the younger Horthy was present, physically apprehended him and rolled him up in a carpet before depositing him in a truck and then transporting him to Vienna.

When the admiral’s resignation was still not forthcoming, Skorzeny proceeded to Castle Hill, the seat of the Hungarian government, with a convoy of German troops as a number of Tiger II tanks and other troops surrounded the heavily fortified hill. Recognizing that resistance would be futile, Horthy ordered his troops to surrender.

Horthy’s subsequent resignation paved the way for the installation of Ferenc Szalasi as the dictator at the helm of a pro-Nazi government. The success of the mission led to Skorzeny’s promotion to Obersturmbannfuhrer.

Although many renditions of this operation focus on Skorzeny as the key figure in this operation, even his memoirs cannot turn it into the concerto solo which he made out of the Gran Sasso mission.

Skorzeny’s limited role, despite a ‘letter of authority’ he claimed had been given him by Hitler, was played out in the context of a coup which had been planned and executed by a group of German military and civilian officials including Police General von dem Bach-Zelewski, Winkleman, Edmund Veesenmayer and Freiherr Adrian von Folkersam.

Skorzeny’s last major engagement of the war was that of his controversial participation in the Battle of the Bulge. Lasting from December 16 1944 to January 25 1945, this was Hitler’s last gasp offensive in the Western theatre. It was an attempt to smash the allies on the front where they were spread out thinly.

Using the fog of weather and the Ardennes forest as cover, the idea was to capture key bridges in Belgium from where the Germans could race to the sea while replenishing their resources from captured allied fuel depots and weaponry.

Skorzeny’s role during the Ardennes Offensive was to command the 150 th SS Panzer Brigade. The brigade was divided into three combat groups each of which was attached to three Panzer divisions who would head towards the three Maas bridges at Angier, Amee and Huy.

An independent batch of commandos, ‘Enheit Stielau’, were tasked with miscellaneous objectives including blowing up those US Army supply dumps which would not be useful to the Germans and to remove any demolition charges attached to the bridges they wanted to cross.

Others would reconnoitre both banks of the Maas in order to sow as much confusion as was possible. This would be achieved, for instance, by reversing road sign posts and re-directing American troops via fake orders.

The plan for what was known as ‘Untermehmen Greif’ would form the basis of the most serious charge to be laid before him at the allied trials that were instituted after the war.

And while one aspect of his role was built up as an exemplar of the usage of psychological warfare as a mechanism for effectively paralysing a formidable enemy, albeit temporarily, an alternate and compelling view posits Skorzeny as an incompetent commander bereft of the basic skills required of a military officer.

Former colleagues were scathing of the route which he had taken into the German military. Wilhelm Walther, a member of the Brandenberg Special Forces Unit who for a time served as his chief of staff, claimed that Skorzeny was not of “officer material” and that he never viewed him as a genuine officer.

It was, of course, a common feature for officers of the Wehrmacht and longer established parts of the German armed forces to complain about the lack of professionalism in the training of Nazi created organisations such as the Sturmabteilung (SA), which Hitler had decimated during the ‘Night of the Long Knives’ and the Schutzstaffel (SS) which had begun as Hitler’s bodyguard but which had developed several arms including its combat wing, the Waffen-SS.

But criticism of Skorzeny’s military background came from the ranks of former SS colleagues. Karl Gabriel accused Skorzeny of lacking even “primitive and strategic tactical thinking” because he had not attained his commissioned status by undergoing a rigorous course at an officer training school.

The plan behind ‘Untermehmen Greif’ was for Skorzeny’s men who entered the battlefield wearing German parachute overalls, was to discard these once the American lines were pierced, and proceed to the bridges dressed in American service uniforms. The idea would be to secure the bridges and also to disrupt American activity by sowing confusion behind enemy lines.

Unfortunately for the Germans, the Panzers did not succeed in breaking through and while batches of Skorzeny’s men penetrated American lines in jeeps and wearing American uniforms, twenty-three were captured of which eighteen were summarily executed by firing squad.

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer and lecturer in law who is based in England.


Post by kobold » 10 Sep 2004, 02:21

Post by David Thompson » 11 Sep 2004, 07:53

Several off-topic, churlish and bizarre posts from ITAIM were removed by this moderator, along with a righteous response from Helly Angel.

ITAIM -- Take your clown act somewhere else. We don't need it here.

Post by Helly Angel » 11 Sep 2004, 08:09

Post by Searchlight » 15 Sep 2004, 11:23

I am so impressed. How on earth did you dig up these photo's? Are they the actual troops taking part in the rescue?

Post by varjag » 15 Sep 2004, 13:43

Post by Roderick » 19 Sep 2004, 16:57

Nice job, Sr. Helly Angel! Really a very nice job! Bravo!

How much do we owe you for this?

I'll pay you twelve cans of frozen beers. (BRAHMA, Obviously):D

Post by Helly Angel » 19 Sep 2004, 18:02

Yeah Mr Roderick. I accept your accurate pay metods is very very interesting.

BRAHMA is very popular in Venezuela man! and the publicity of the cangrejo (I can´t remember in english) is very very famous here!

Wochenschau footage Skorzeny

Post by Christoph Awender » 22 Aug 2005, 23:48

Does somebody know if the Wochenschau footage about the liberation of the Duce was authentic or staged afterwards?

Post by Klar zum Gefecht ! » 23 Aug 2005, 07:42

An old issue of "after the battle magazine" might be of some help to you.(issue n°22 "The rescue of Mussolini"). It gives plenty of details about the operation at gran sasso. I read it a few months ago and I own it, but I haven't got it by me right now, so I can answer your question only briefly:

Unlike the pictures that were taken, the Wochenschau movie footage was not real, it was staged and shot a few days (two as I recall it ) after the actual liberation of "il Duce". By that time, Skorzeny and his men had already gone so the german soldiers appearing in it are only Fallschirmjäger and no SS-men at all. They all came on site via the road & the cable car cabin, and not via glider. The gliders that were filmed were left overs from the real operation. General Kurt Student even attended the shooting.

I guess it seems logical that such a movie could not have been shot "live" during the real operation. First of all because the outcome was so uncertain, second because it would have been impossible to carry a camera in the -already overloaded with men & weapons- gliders. Therefore, even he had been there during the real operation, the cameraman would have had to come with the second team, the one that secured the cable car access, and he would have missed the action of the main team anyway.


On This Day, 1943, Daring Raid By Nazi Commandos Rescues Mussolini

By September of 1943, World War II was not going well for Nazi Germany. The Russians had routed the German attack at Kursk and had the strategic initiative. The German Afrika Korps had been pushed across and out of North Africa. German cities were routinely being bombed by American bombers during the day and British bombers at night. The British and Americans had landed in Sicily, which forced Italy out of the war, and the new Italian government had former dictator Benito Mussolini arrested. And the Allies had invaded the mainland of Italy and had a toehold on a beachhead.

Hitler wanted his ally Mussolini saved and tasked Hauptsturmführer (SS captain), Otto Skorzeny, to lead a raid to free him. Hitler called Skorzeny to Berlin to personally give him the mission.

“I have a mission of the highest importance for you. . . . Mussolini must be rescued, and speedily. . . .”

The Luftwaffe’s paratroop commander General Kurt Student was tasked with supplying the majority of the men for the operation.

The result, Operation Eiche (Operation Oak), was one of the most daring raids in Special Operations history. And afterward, Skorzeny became known as the “Most Dangerous Man in Europe.”

Background to the Operation:

The Italians had moved Mussolini around during his captivity. He was first held in Ponza, then at La Maddalena, both small islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Skorzeny was using all available intelligence means to find out where the Italians moved Il Duce to. They were to learn that Mussolini was moved on August 26 to the Campo Imperatore Hotel, a ski resort at Campo Imperatore in Italy’s Gran Sasso massif, high in the Apennine Mountains.

Read Next: Operation Valkyrie: the failed plot to assassinate Hitler

Mussolini, complaining of stomach pains was kept in luxury accommodations and treated more like a guest than a captive. The Italians emptied the hotel of guests. He was being guarded by 200 carabinieri.

Skorzeny decided on a daring glider rescue as the surrounding mountains were too steep for a paratrooper assault. Gazing at aerial photographs, Skorzeny decided to land the gliders in what appeared to be a flat area behind the hotel.

The assault force would consist of 12 DFS 230 gliders with German airborne troops and 16 of Skorzeny’s SS Jagdverbande 502 (Hunting Group 502), Nazi Germany’s elite special operations unit.

The Raid Operation is Launched:

The Germans were to launch the raid at 0700 on September 12 but the gliders arrived late and the take off was delayed until 1300 hrs. Two of the gliders crashed on take off leaving the raid force with just ten.

Then, to his horror, Skorzeny learned that the field behind the hotel was not level but a steeply rising slope, strewn with boulders. While the German paratroop commander Maj. Hans Mors ordered an abort, Skorzeny countermanded it and ordered the gliders to attempt to land on the small clearing in front of the hotel.

One glider crashed, resulting in injuries to the commandos inside. Skorzeny’s pilot skillfully landed just 30 feet from the entrance of the hotel. Mors and the paratroopers were to cover the roads and block any forces attempting to enter the area. Skorzeny had with him Carabiniere Gen. Ferdinando Soleti who, speaking Italian urged the Italians who heavily outnumbered the Germans, not to shoot.

It worked perfectly. Three minutes after alighting from the glider in front of the hotel, Skorzeny was standing in front of Mussolini. “Il Duce, the Führer has sent me to free you.” Mussolini hugged him and said, “I knew my friend Adolf Hitler would not leave me in the lurch.” In the entire amazing sequence, not one shot had been fired.

Because the road to Rome was considered too dangerous and the paratroopers too lightly armed to protect him, it was planned on having a Fieseler Storch a short-takeoff and landing aircraft (STOL) to land at the hotel and whisk Mussolini to Rome.

Read Next: The Eighth Air Force, “The Mighty Eighth” Was Born on This Day 1942

The Storch was designed to only carry three personnel. But Skorzeny insisted on flying with Mussolini and the heavily overloaded plane plummeted down the mountain before the pilot was able to pull it up and gain altitude. Once they arrived in Rome, Mussolini and Skorzeny boarded a He-111 bomber which flew to Vienna before flying on to Berlin. Mussolini would join Hitler at his Wolf’s Lair HQs two days later.

While in Vienna, Skorzeny received a call from Hitler personally to give him the news. Elated, Hitler promoted the SS man to Major and awarded him the Knights’ Cross. “Today, you have carried out a mission that will go down in history.”

Mussolini would only be spared for a short time. Hitler put in charge of the Fascist held area in Northern Italy where he shot many of the people who deposed him. But in January 1945, while attempting to sneak into Switzerland while dressed as a German soldier, he was captured along with his mistress Clara Petacci by Italian partisans. They were shot and hung in the city square in Milan by their bootheels.

Skorzeny would survive the war and worked as a military advisor to the Egyptian Army as well as being recruited by the Israeli Mossad to get information on former Nazis working on rockets for Egypt that would be targeted against Israel. He died of cancer in 1975 and after cremation, had his ashes interred in his family’s plot in Austria.

Despite the Nazis being one of the more evil empires of the modern world and while we detest everything they stood for, this is a great example of a classically executed special operation. The commandos had a plan that in the opening moments of the operation was scrapped due to developments and complications on the ground. The commander used his quick decision making and boldness and still flawlessly executed his mission. And by him bringing a local commander of the troops guarding the hostage, he was able to free the hostage without having to fire a shot.

It makes a good study for prospective Special Operations candidates to learn about the ability to think quickly and clearly, improvise and adapt your forces when facing a fluid situation and under a great amount of stress.


Talk:Gran Sasso raid

"studied by Major Harald Mors" should this be "supported by Major. "?

Should this be named Operation Eiche or Operation Oak, as per more common English usage and/or per standardization with the gazillions of other articles named as Operation such-and-such? LordAmeth 20:16, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

Something in this article that is not clear (at least to me):

The Storch involved in rescuing Mussolini bore the radio code letters, or Stammkennzeichen, of "SJ + LL" in motion picture coverage, for propaganda purposes, of the daring rescue.

Does this mean that the plane had the call letters "SJ + LL", and therefore this code became an iconic commemoration of the raid? Or do these call letters have some special significance such that they were selected and used specifically for the raid? The quoted sentence seems to imply the latter, and does not make clear which is actually the case. Richard Myers (talk) 20:11, 25 January 2010 (UTC)

The entire article is in need of a major rewrite. In its present form it is pretty much simply a short version of Skorzeny's own account. And while that may make for excellent propaganda, it has very little to do with what actually took place in September 1943.

First of all it was not a Skorzeny operation. It was planned by General Student and Major Harald Mors. Both of whom ridiculed Skorzeny's account after the war, calling it "a fairytale". Skorzeny pretty much hijacked the whole operation to an extent where he even endangered it. Not only did he commandeer a glider of Fallschirmjäger for his own purposes, he also insisted on being on the small plane that rushed Mussolini off. Only the presence of a very skilled pilot prevented a disaster due to overweight during takeoff.

Secondly Gran Sasso was located in the German controlled part of Italy. Ever wondered how the gliderborne Fallschirmjäger got home? Easy, they walked down the mountain, mounted the trucks waiting for them and drove home through friendly territory. Even without the commando raid any Italian guards loyal to the Badoglio government (and there were probably none) would have had to surrender eventually since they were literally surrounded. So calling this a "daring" raid is a bit of a stretch.

Thirdly, no shot was fired, because an Italian general, Soletti, kidnapped by the commandos in Rome simply persuaded the Italian guards to lay down their arms, which probably wasn't hard considering their options.

And last, but not least, the account of what was said about "my friend Adolf" is entirely Skorzeny's. According to other sources Mussolini was less than thrilled at the time. After the raid he asked Skorzeny for permission to travel to his home at Rocca delle Caminate, but that was denied him. The Germans likely feared that he would flee Italy and seek refuge in Portugal or Spain.

Much of what we like to think we know about the Gran Sasso raid is based on one single source Skorzeny's autobiography. Unfortunately that is an extremely unreliable source which seldom corresponds with the accounts of others present at the time. As such the Skorzeny myth is one of the last, surviving pieces of Nazi propaganda that keeps being retold today even here in this article on Wikipedia. — Preceding unsigned comment added by SlushSlush (talk • contribs) 15:12, 5 January 2011 (UTC)

I agree - Skorzeny's role was to grab the glory on behalf of Kaltenbrunner and the SS, much to the chagrin of Student's paratroopers.----Streona (talk) 02:43, 18 March 2011 (UTC)

sgreed with everything except Portugal shouldn't be considered because Salazar would never allow Musulini to refugee. He was also a dictator but he was against his ideas and it could cause many problems. imo he would flee to spain asap. He was friend of Franco. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 85.246.28.222 (talk) 18:20, 24 June 2012 (UTC)

"Ever wondered how the gliderborne Fallschirmjäger got home?" Yes, for years, and I was very disappointed that not even this article said anything about it when I finally thought to look it up when I had a moment free. It's impossible to tell if they were expected to fight their way out, surrender en masse, fight to the last bullet, or what. This is extremely important and relevant information, and it's sad that 8 years later the article still doesn't appear to be much changed.

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The article says nothing about what happened to the commandos and glider pilots after Mussolini and Skorzeny were flown out. Constant Pedant (talk) 21:47, 7 November 2019 (UTC)


The operation granted a rare late-war public relations opportunity to Hermann Göring, with German propaganda hailing the operation for months afterward. (The Axis otherwise having little about which to boast in the fall of 1943.) Mussolini was made leader of the Italian Social Republic (a German puppet state consisting of the German-occupied portion of Italy). Otto Skorzeny gained a large amount of success from this mission he received a promotion to Sturmbannführer, the award of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and fame that led to his "most dangerous man in Europe" image. Winston Churchill himself described the mission as "one of great daring". As it turned out, however, this was one of the last of Hitler's spectacular gambles to bear fruit.


Aftermath [ edit | edit source ]

Mussolini leaving the Hotel

Berlin celebration of the troops under the command of Skorzeny that rescued Mussolini.

The operation granted a rare late-war public relations opportunity to Hermann Göring. Mussolini was made leader of the Italian Social Republic (a German puppet state consisting of the German-occupied portion of Italy). Otto Skorzeny gained a large amount of success from this mission he received a promotion to Sturmbannführer, the award of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and fame that led to his "most dangerous man in Europe" image. Winston Churchill himself described the mission as "one of great daring."


NAKARAJAN

Gerhard Mertins














was among the paratroopers who participated in the raid.[1]

On the night between 24 and 25 July 1943, a few weeks after the Allied invasion of Sicily and bombing of Rome, the Italian Grand Council of Fascism voted a motion of no confidence (Ordine del Giorno Grandi) against Mussolini. On the same day, the king replaced him with Marshal Pietro Badoglio[2] and had him arrested.[3]


Campo Imperatore Hotel in 1943

Mussolini was being transported around Italy by his captors (first to Ponza, then to La Maddalena, both small islands in the Tyrrhenian sea), while Hauptsturmführer (SS captain) Otto Skorzeny—selected personally by Hitler and Ernst Kaltenbrunner to carry out the mission—was tracking him.


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