|Gran Sasso raid|
|Part of World War II|
Mussolini with German commandos
Hotel Campo Imperatore, Italy
|Planned by||Harald Mors|
|Date||12 September 1943|
|Outcome||Benito Mussolini rescued|
|Casualties||2 Italians killed, 10 Germans wounded|
The Gran Sasso raid was the rescue of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini from the Gran Sasso d'Italia massif by German paratroopers and Waffen-SS commandos in September 1943, during World War II. The airborne operation was personally ordered by Adolf Hitler, approved by General Kurt Student, and planned and executed by Major Harald Mors.
On the night between 24 and 25 July 1943, a few weeks after the Allied invasion of Sicily and bombing of Rome, the Grand Council of Fascism voted a motion of no confidence against Mussolini. On the same day, the king replaced him with Marshal Pietro Badoglioand had him arrested.
Hitler's common procedure was to give similar orders to competing German military organizations. He ordered the Hauptsturmführer Otto Skorzeny to track Mussolini, and simultaneously ordered the paratroop General Kurt Student to execute the liberation.
Mussolini was being secluded around Tyrrhenian Sea islands by his captors – first to Ponza, then to La Maddalena, where Skorzeny's men were almost attempting an operation. Intercepting a coded Italian radio message, Skorzeny used the reconnaissance provided by the agents and informants (counterfeit notes with a face value of £100,000 forged under Operation Bernhard were used to help obtain information) of SS-Obersturmbannführer Herbert Kappler to determine that Mussolini was being imprisoned in Gran Sasso massif, a remote and defendable mountain plateau, on which was built a hotel linked with a cable car.
On 12 September 1943, Skorzeny and 16 SS troopers joined the Fallschirmjäger to rescue Mussolini in a high-risk glider mission. Ten DFS 230 gliders, each carrying nine soldiers and a pilot, towed by Henschel Hs 126 planes started between 13:05 and 13:10 from the Pratica di Mare Air Base near Rome.
The leader of the airborne operation, paratrooper-Oberleutnant Georg Freiherr von Berlepsch, entered the first glider, while Skorzeny and his SS troopers sat in the fourth and fifth glider. To gain height before crossing the close-by Alban Hills, the leading three glider-towing plane units flew an additional loop. All following units considered this manoeuvre unnecessary and preferred not to endanger the given time of arrival at the target. This led to the situation that Skorzeny's two units arrived first over the target.
Meanwhile, the valley station of the funicular railway leading to the Campo Imperatore was captured at 14:00 in a ground attack by two paratrooper companies led by Major Harald Mors, who was commander-in-chief of the whole raid. They also cut all telephone lines. At 14:05, the airborne commandos landed their ten DFS 230 gliders on the mountain near the hotel; one crashed, causing injuries.
The Fallschirmjäger and Skorzeny's special troopers overwhelmed Mussolini's captors—200 well-equipped Carabinieri guards—without a single shot being fired; this was also due to the fact that General Fernando Soleti of the Italian African Police, who flew in with Skorzeny, told them to stand down. Skorzeny attacked the radio operator and his equipment and stormed into the hotel, followed by his SS troopers and the paratroopers. Ten minutes after the beginning of the raid, Mussolini left the hotel, accompanied by the German soldiers. At 14:45, Major Mors accessed the Hotel via the funicular railway and introduced himself to Mussolini.
Subsequently, Mussolini was to be flown out by a Fieseler Fi 156 STOL plane that had arrived in the meanwhile. Although under the given circumstances the small plane was overloaded, Skorzeny insisted on accompanying Mussolini, thus endangering the success of the mission. After an extremely dangerous but successful take-off, they flew to Pratica di Mare. There they continued immediately, flying in a Heinkel He 111 to Vienna, where Mussolini stayed overnight at the Hotel Imperial. The next day he was flown to Munich and on September 14, he met Hitler at Führer Headquarters Wolf's Lair in near Rastenburg.
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The operation granted a rare late-war public relations opportunity to Hermann Göring, with German propaganda hailing the operation for months afterward. The landing at Campo Imperatore was in fact led by First Lieutenant von Berlepsch, commanded by Major Mors and under orders from General Student, all Fallschirmjäger officers; but Skorzeny stewarded the Italian leader right in front of the cameras.
After a pro-SS propaganda coup at the behest of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler and propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, Skorzeny and his special forces of the Waffen-SS were granted the majority of the credit for the operation. 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".
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Airborne forces are military units moved by aircraft and "dropped" into battle, typically by parachute, almost anywhere with little warning. Formations are limited only by the number and size of their aircraft; a huge force can appear "out of nowhere" behind enemy lines in minutes, an action known as vertical envelopment.
Otto Skorzeny was an Austrian-born SS-Obersturmbannführer in the Waffen-SS during World War II. During the war, he was involved in several operations, including the removal from power of Hungarian Regent Miklós Horthy and the Gran Sasso raid which rescued Benito Mussolini from captivity. Skorzeny led Operation Greif in which German soldiers infiltrated Allied lines by using their opponents' uniforms, equipment, language and customs. He was charged for that at the Dachau Military Tribunal with breaching the 1907 Hague Convention, but was acquitted after a former British SOE agent F. F. E. Yeo-Thomas testified that he and his operatives had worn German uniforms behind enemy lines.
Operation Fustian was an airborne forces operation undertaken during the Allied invasion of Sicily in July 1943 in the Second World War. The operation was carried out by Brigadier Gerald Lathbury's 1st Parachute Brigade, part of the British 1st Airborne Division. Their objective was the Primosole Bridge across the Simeto River. The intention was for the brigade, with glider-borne forces in support, to land on both sides of the river. They would then capture the bridge and secure the surrounding area until relieved by the advance of British XIII Corps, which had landed on the south eastern coast three days previously. Because the bridge was the only crossing on the river and would give the British Eighth Army access to the Catania plain, its capture was expected to speed the advance and lead to the defeat of the Axis forces in Sicily.
The Henschel Hs 126 was a German two-seat reconnaissance and observation aircraft of World War II that was derived from the Henschel Hs 122. The pilot was seated in a protected cockpit under the parasol wing and the gunner in an open rear cockpit. The prototype aircraft frame was that of a Hs 122A fitted with a Junkers engine. The Hs 126 was well received for its good short takeoff and low-speed characteristics which were needed at the time. It was put into service for a few years, but was soon superseded by the general-purpose, STOL Fieseler Fi 156 Storch and the medium-range Focke-Wulf Fw 189 "flying eye".
Gran Sasso d'Italia (Italian: [ɡran ˈsasso diˈtaːlja] is a massif in the Apennine Mountains of Italy. Its highest peak, Corno Grande, is the highest mountain in the Apennines, and the second-highest mountain in Italy outside the Alps. The mountain lies within Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park.
Kurt Arthur Benno Student was a German general in the Luftwaffe during World War II. An early pioneer of airborne forces, Student was in overall command of developing a paratrooper force to be known as the Fallschirmjäger, and as the most senior member of the Fallschirmjäger, commanded it throughout the war. Student led the first major airborne attack in history, the Battle for The Hague in May 1940. He also commanded the Fallschirmjägers in its last major airborne operation, the invasion of Crete in May 1941. The operation was a success despite German losses, and led the Allies to hasten the training and development of their own airborne units.
Harald-Otto Mors was a Nazi German battalion commander with the Fallschirmjäger who planned and led the Gran Sasso raid to rescue Benito Mussolini following his arrest in September 1943. He received the German Cross in Gold on 26 September 1943.
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Campo Imperatore is a mountain grassland or alpine meadow formed by a high basin shaped plateau located above Gran Sasso massif, the largest plateau of Apennine ridge. Known as "Little Tibet", it is located in Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park, near L'Aquila, Abruzzo, Italy.
The U.S. airborne landings in Normandy were the first U.S. combat operations during Operation Overlord, the invasion of Normandy by the Western Allies on June 6, 1944, during World War II. Around 13,100 American paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions made night parachute drops early on D-Day, June 6, followed by 3,937 glider troops flown in by day. As the opening maneuver of Operation Neptune the two American airborne divisions were delivered to the continent in two parachute and six glider missions.
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SS-Jäger-Bataillon 502 was a special forces unit of Nazi Germany from 1943-1944.
Operation Achse, originally called Operation Alaric, was the codename for the German operation supported by Italian fascists to forcibly disarm the Italian armed forces after Italy's armistice with the Allies on 3 September 1943. The Germans disarmed over a million Italian troops within a matter of days, annihilating the Italian military and state.
Mussolini and I is a 1985 TV docu-drama, directed by Alberto Negrin, about the strained relationship between Italy's fascist dictator Benito Mussolini and his son-in-law and foreign minister, Count Galeazzo Ciano, based on Ciano's diaries. Made in English as an Italian-French-German-Swiss-Spanish-US co-production, with Bob Hoskins, Anthony Hopkins and Susan Sarandon in the leading roles, it first aired on Rai Uno on 15 April 1985 in a 130-minute version. On 8 September 1985, it premiered in the USA on HBO in an extended four-hour version.
Walter Koch was a commander of the Fallschirmjäger during World War II who died in mysterious circumstances after openly criticising Adolf Hitler. Koch, who was the recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross for his actions during the Battle of Fort Eben-Emael in May 1940, had publicly denounced the Führer's infamous Commando Order, which ordered that all captured enemy commandos were to be executed. Shortly afterwards the Oberstleutnant and commander of Fallschirmjäger-Regiment 5 died in Berlin from injuries allegedly resulting from a motor vehicle collision.
The Fallschirmjäger were the paratrooper branch of the German Luftwaffe before and during World War II. They were the first German paratroopers to be committed in large-scale airborne operations. Throughout World War II the Fallschirmjäger commander was Kurt Student.
Gerhard Mertins was a German paratrooper, arms trafficker, Nazi and associate of pedophile cult leader Paul Schäfer. In 1943, he participated in the Gran Sasso raid rescuing Benito Mussolini from prison.
The Hotel Campo Imperatore, also known as Albergo di Campo Imperatore, is a hotel on top of Campo Imperatore at 2,130 metres (6,990 ft) altitude on the slopes of Monte Portella, in the massif of Gran Sasso d'Italia, within the municipality of L'Aquila.