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September 12, 1943 Gran Sasso raid / Operation Eiche


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Operation Eiche (German for 'Oak') was the daring rescue of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini by German special forces in World War II. It was planned by General Kurt Student.


Mussolini was being transported around Italy by his captors, whilst Otto Skorzeny, selected personally by Hitler to carry out the mission, was tracking him.


Intercepting a coded Italian radio message, Skorzeny used his own reconnaissance to determine that Mussolini was being imprisoned at Campo Imperatore Hotel, a ski resort at Campo Imperatore in Italy's Gran Sasso, high in the Apennine Mountains. On 12 September 1943, Skorzeny joined the team to rescue Mussolini in a high-risk glider mission. The commandos crashed their gliders into the nearby mountains, then overwhelmed Mussolini's captors without a single shot being fired. Skorzeny attacked the radio operator and his equipment, and formally greeted Mussolini with "Duce, the Führer has sent me to set you free!". Mussolini was then flown to Vienna (where he stayed overnight at the Hotel Imperial) and given a hero's welcome.


The operation on the ground at Campo Imperatore was in fact led by Lieutenant Count Otto von Berlepsch, planned by Major Harald Mors and under orders from General Kurt Student, all Fallschirmjäger (German Air Force Paratroop) officers; but Skorzeny stewarded the Italian leader first into Rome and eventually into Berlin, right in front of the cameras. After a pro-SS propaganda coup at the behest of SS Reichsfuhrer Heinrich Himmler and propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, Skorzeny was granted the majority of the credit for the operation.



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