Mussolini is rescued in daring Fallschirmjäger raid

A view of the remote hotel on Gran Sasso where Mussolini was being detained by the new Badoglio regime, as seen by the German glider rescue force.

A view of the remote hotel on Gran Sasso where Mussolini was being detained by the new Badoglio regime, as seen by the German glider rescue force.

One of the gliders on the mountainside, illustrating the tight landing area.

One of the gliders on the mountainside, illustrating the tight landing area.

Fallschirmjäger leave their glider and make for the hotel.

Fallschirmjäger leave their glider and make for the hotel.

One of the Gliders that landed close to the Hotel Campo Imperatore.

One of the Gliders that landed close to the Hotel Campo Imperatore.

Para troopers with one of the gliders that landed on the mountainside.

Paratroopers with one of the gliders that landed on the mountainside.

One of the gliders that crashed during the landing.

One of the gliders that crashed during the landing.

Fallschirmjäger who were injured when their glider crashed.

Fallschirmjäger who were injured when their glider crashed.

Parachute troops with one of the light artillery pieces that they took with them.

Parachute troops with one of the light artillery pieces that they took with them.

Hitler had been incensed by capitulation of the ‘traitorous’ Italians and German forces swiftly took control of the country. The prospect of the Allies moving easily up the ‘soft underbelly of Europe’, as Churchill had once imagined, proved to be quite false. Mountainous Italy, with nearly all its rivers running across the path of the Allied advance northwards, was soon revealed to be almost perfect terrain for the slow defensive war that the Germans now chose to fight.

The political situation was more complicated, with the new Italian government eventually declaring war against Germany. Hitler wanted a pro German regime. The first step was restoring Mussolini to power. Hitler was very keen to rescue Mussolini, who he regarded as a personal friend, from imprisonment. The daring raid of the 12th September attracted world wide attention.

Hitler’s Propaganda Chief, Josef Goebbels welcomed the publicity. He was rather less sure that restoring Mussolini to power, even in a puppet regime, was a good idea:

Liberation in the Apennines was undertaken with gliders. One of these landed fifty feet in front of the hostelry in which the Duce was staying. Within a few minutes he was free. He was of course deeply touched at being rescued from captivity by German soldiers.

Our soldiers proceeded pretty brutally and thereby kept the Italian Carabinieri guards in check. A few hours later the Duce was in Vienna. Just before calling me the Fuehrer had had a telephone conversation with him.

He told me that the Duce was deeply shaken by developments. He informed the Fuehrer that he was tired and sick and would first of all like to have a long sleep. On Monday he wanted to visit his family in Munich. We shall soon see whether he is still capable of large-scale political activity. The Fuehrer thinks so. At any rate he will meet Mussolini at G.H.Q. on Tuesday.

However much I may be touched on the human side by the Duce’s liberation, I am nevertheless sceptical about its political advantages. With the Duce out of the way, we had a chance to wipe the slate clean in Italy.

Without any restraint, and basing our action on the grandiose treachery of the Badoglio regime, we could force a solution of all our problems regarding Italy.

See Joseph Goebbels: The Goebbels Diaries

Mussolini poses with SS-Hauptsturmführer Otto Skorzeny.

Mussolini poses with SS-Hauptsturmführer Otto Skorzeny.

Mussolini is escorted by the rescue party.

Mussolini is escorted by the rescue party.

The Fiesler Storch light aircraft that carried Mussolini and Skorzeny off the mountain, the landing strip was very short.

The Fiesler Storch light aircraft that carried Mussolini and Skorzeny off the mountain, the landing strip was very short.

German troops salute Mussolini on his departure from Gran Sasso.

German troops salute Mussolini on his departure from Gran Sasso.

Mussolini embarks in the Fiesler Storch, about to take off  from a perilously short landing strip.

Mussolini embarks in the Fiesler Storch, about to take off from a perilously short landing strip.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Vincenzo Di Michele September 13, 2016 at 2:48 pm

Actually it was the Italian government that was the real architect of the creation of the Social Republic.” This is the conclusion reached by Vincenzo Di Michele, in his latest book, “The Last Secret of Mussolini – From Campo Imperatore to the Italian Social Republic: a story to be rewritten” which rewrites the history of the release of the Duce by the Germans. “The suffering of the Italian people could have been ended much sooner and a bloody civil war avoided,” says Di Michele. A government in northern Italy (RSI) with someone else at the helm, would certainly not have had the same result as Mussolini’s. ”

Despite the fact that on 8 September 1943 Italy had announced an Armistice with the Allied forces, there was another channel, through which the Badoglio Government continued to cooperate with its old German friend. Amid blackmail, hostages, threats and subterfuge, the illustrious prisoner Mussolini was thus stolen away from the Allies and handed over to the Germans on September 12 in Campo Imperatore. In short, Di Michele contradicts conventional wisdom that has always depicted Operation Oak as an audacious undertaking by German paratroopers. Karl Radl (the adjutant of the one who has always mistakenly been considered to be the real brains behind “Operation Oak”, Captain Otto Skorzeny), in direct contradiction of the testimony of General Soleti, – penned in 1944 and recently coming to light – declared that everyone knew that Mussolini was being held prisoner in Campo Imperatore; even children knew about it. There was even a thirteen year old shepherd boy who stole some paraphernalia from the German gliders. “In the final analysis it boiled down to an agreement between the Italians and the Germans and it is history itself that has paid the highest price” stresses Di Michele.

Among the previously unheard and the new evidence, mention must be made of agent Nelio Pannuti, assigned to care for Mussolini at Gran Sasso who, in a written statement released directly to the author of the book, clearly stated that that incursion by the Germans “looked like a prearranged action, so much so that, once the Duce was freed, there was a friendly interchange between Italian and German soldiers in the hall of the hotel itself, with all weapons peacefully shouldered”.
“Not to speak of the government’s willingness to reshape history,” concludes Di Michele. The commander of the Carabinieri in Gran Sasso, Alberto Faiola, was even commended in his military record, when in fact not only did he not take any precautionary measures but he also failed in his duties – so much so that legal steps were taken to deny everything – inviting some of his friends in those days to the hotel in Campo Imperatore. ”

Di Michele had already addressed this thorny episode of Italian history in “Mussolini, Mock Prisoner of Gran Sasso,” published in 2012.

“The Last Secret of Mussolini – From Campo Imperatore to the Italian Social Republic: a story to be rewritten “

William clelland October 31, 2014 at 6:37 pm

Fri oct 30 at the dept of transportation 9am oshawa bond St I just spoke to Rudy who was a paratrooper who was In the rescue of Mussolini at gann Sassoon. Rudy was 93 almost blind, his wife 90 was being tested for her driving test. I had an interesting conversation with Rudy and I should mention 2014 the yea

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