Archive | Articles RSS feed for this section

Gran Sasso Raid

Operation Eiche:
The Gran Sasso raid to Rescue Benito Mussolini

On July 24th, 1943, the Fascist Grand Council of Italy voted to remove Benito Mussolini as head of the Italian government and country.  The next day, Mussolini made his regular fortnight visit to Italian King Victor Emmanuel III, not expecting the vote to be taken seriously. He was stunned to hear he was indeed being removed, and after the king dismissed him, Mussolini was put under arrest and taken away.  

The Italians created a new cabinet and essentially switched from the Axis side to the Allied side, including declaring war on Germany on October 13th, 1943. The king and the cabinet left Rome and went south, leaving the northern section to the Germans where they had bunkered in to stop any Allied forces from moving through Italy from Africa, into Europe. 

Adolf Hitler was furious as this left his forces in Italy at a great disadvantage, and he needed to secure that country so that his forces in Africa would also be able to retake Italy and move into Europe to support other German campaigns. After meeting with several of his top-level commanders, Hitler chose Austrian-born Otto Skorzeny, a Waffen SS colonel, to help devise a plan for finding and rescuing Benito Mussolini so he could be put back in power. 

Mussolini was being moved around from place to place, to disguise his whereabouts so that he would not be rescued. But his latest location was uncovered through intercepted coded radio messages first, then through aerial reconnaissance photography of the terrain. Skorzeny got to work assembling the insurgent team and planning the rescue. 

Major Harald Mors, in charge of a team of German paratroopers, was brought in to design the best possible entry and exit for the team at Campo Imperatore, a ski resort hotel located on top of the Gran Sasso massif in the Apennine Mountains.  A massif refers to an isolated and compact group of mountains within a range and, in this case, had a wide enough top plateau to land glider planes. 

The assault group, led by First Lieutenant Georg Freiherr von Berlepsch under the orders of General Kurt Student, and commanded by Mors, consisted of 26 of Skorzeny’s SS troopers, Mors’ 82 paratroopers of the 2nd parachute division, Skorzeny, and General Fernando Soletti, head of the Italian Polizia. 

On September 12th, 1943, they flew into Campo Imperatore on 12 DFS 230 glider planes, making a surprise attack, and taking out two Italian guards who were trying to warn those inside. Soletti then informed the 200 Carabinieri (Italian police guards) inside to stand down or be charged with treason and executed, which they did without firing a shot. 

A Fieseler Fi-156 Storch observation plane, well-known for capabilities with short take offs and short landings in tight spaces, that had also landed at the site, then flew Mussolini and Skorzeny out, narrowly avoiding a crash on the hillside.  After reuniting with his family, Mussolini then met with Hitler and was installed as head of the new Italian Social Republic, a puppet figure at best, but necessary for Hitler to have some control over northern Italy.  The daring operation was considered by both Axis and Allied commands as one of the most effective rescues of WW II.

Hiroo Onoda, The Japanese Soldier who did not surrender until 1974

Hiroo Onoda
The Japanese soldier who continued the WW II fight until 1974

Hiroo Onoda (March 19, 1922 – January 16, 2014) was a Japanese intelligence officer, stationed on Lubang Island in the Philippines, starting in December of 1944. He was part of a larger group of reconnaissance soldiers, which when whittled down in skirmishes over time after Allied forces landed on the island on February 28, 1945, left Lieutenant Onoda in charge of three remaining team members: Private Yūichi Akatsu, Private First Class Kinshichi Kozuka, and Corporal Shōichi Shimada. The four-man team retreated into the mountains to begin covert guerilla operations against the Allies.

The team’s original orders had been that they should destroy both the island’s airstrip and the harbor pier, as well as destroy any enemy encampments where possible. Onoda was also ordered to never surrender or to commit suicide. Without any connections to the outside world, the four men were isolated from the world, their Japanese Command, and they continued living out their wartime orders without fail.

Living in the jungle environment of Lubang, they built bamboo huts for shelter, stole food and livestock from surrounding villagers, dealt with mosquitoes and the heat, even while conducting skirmishes with anyone they found that looked like the enemy. When the war did end, they did not believe it, even when they found flyers showing that Japan had surrendered. For them, this was more Western propaganda that they would not trust.

In 1949, Akatsu left the other three men, spent six months alone, then walked out of the jungle, and surrendered to Filipino forces. Shimada was shot and killed in 1954 by a search party looking for them. Kozuka was shot and killed in 1972 by local police during a guerrilla burning raid on some farmers’ rice stocks. Onoda was then alone for another two years before a Japanese eccentric young explorer, Norio Suzuki, found him in the jungle. Suzuki could not convince Onoda that the war was over, so he took back pictures of himself and Onoda, including the information that Onoda would only surrender to his superior officer, Major Yoshimi Taniguchi.

After Major Taniguchi was found and notified of Onoda’s situation, he flew to Lubang in March of 1974, and officially accepted Onoda’s surrender that ended Onoda’s time of duty as a combatant with the Japanese army. He had spent most of his life still fighting in a war that ended some 29 years before. For the Japanese people, he was considered a hero because of his principles in refusing to give up on his orders, following them faithfully until the very end.

Assassination of Reinhard Heydrich

Operation Anthropoid: The Assassination of Reinhard Heydrich

In the beginning of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power as President and Chancellor of Germany, the Nazi government annexed Austria, the country of Hitler’s birth. After gaining the consent of Britain and France, Germany took over the Sudetenland, which was formed of both the northern and western sections of Bohemia, and northern Moravia by the Sudeten mountains. This area had become part of the Czechoslovakian expansion during the terms of the Treaty of Saint-Germain, set at the end of World War I in 1918-1919. Shortly afterwards, in March 1939, without anyone’s permission, Hitler took over Czechoslovakia with its 3,000,000+ German majority population.

In September 1941, Reinhard Heydrich, head of the Gestapo, who had, on Hitler’s orders, already created a plan for executing Jews, called the “Final Solution,” was appointed Deputy Reich Protector of Bohemia and Moravia (Czechoslovakia). He set up his offices in Prague and was often seeing going to one place or another in his open top green Mercedes with very little security, confident that no one would ever be brave or stupid enough to attack him.

One of Heydrich’s first steps in office was to create a Jewish ghetto or concentration camp at Theresienstadt, something he had already done in many other places across German occupied Europe. The camp was meant to be a transition point to a death camp, such as Treblinka or Auschwitz, although thousands of Jews died at Theresienstadt, while thousands of others were just left in place.

In this light of Heydrich’s arrogance, his connection with the Final Solution and death camps, and for doggedly rounding up as many resistance fighters he could find, a plot was hatched between Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE) and seven Czech soldiers in exile in England, to assassinate Heydrich in Prague. They would have to parachute into the countryside, close to Prague, then work their way in, contact their friends for a place to stay, and then decide which of three location options would work the best for the assassination.

The designated assassins were Jan Kubis, Jozef Gabcik, and Josef Valcik, with the rest who parachuted in, to act as backups or reconnaissance. When the three found out that Heydrich was travelling out of town to a meeting on May 27th, 1942, they ambushed Heydrich on a street in Prague as Heydrich was beginning his journey by car without any security. First, Gabcik ran out in front with his Sten submachine gun and tried to fire into the car, but it jammed. The car stopped and Heydrich stepped out and drew his pistol to shoot at Gabcik. Kubis, off to the side, stepped out quickly and threw a bomb close to the car, which exploded, while Kubis fled.

Everyone got away, and Heydrich was injured by flying metal parts from the car and a passing tram, even though he tried to chase Kubis, but had to turn back towards the car, where he fell and passed out. Heydrich died eight days later, from reported “septicaemia” caused by embedded metal slivers and possible seat cover materials.

Hitler was furious and ordered a blood-bath search of any place where they might be found, including door-to-door searches in Prague. It was a terrible time in Prague, as many who were suspected of harboring the assassins, were taken away, tortured, and most often, killed. Two nearby towns, Lidice and Lezaky, were totally wiped off the face of the Earth, and its citizens either murdered on the spot, or hauled away because they were erroneously suspected of helping the assassins.

The three assassins, along with the remaining teams, hid for nearly three weeks in one place or another, until they finally ended up in a church’s crypt, but were betrayed under torture by a member of a family, looking after one of the extended team members who had been injured. All but one of the family members, would be rounded up and murdered shortly afterwards.

Once the Germans knew where the team was, the Karel Boromejsky Church, they surrounded the church, and then stormed inside, starting a gun battle that ended down in the crypt after several hours. When almost all in the team were dead by gunfire, the last survivors took their own lives.

While thousands of innocent Czechs lost their lives during this time, it is also said that many more lives were saved because Heydrich was killed before he could do more damage to the Czechoslovakians. It also gave the Czechs hope and pride in their country for finally standing up to the murderous Germans, and it also altered the course of the war, and history itself. This event was recently the subject of the 2016 movie, “Anthropoid.”

The Holocaust During World War II


When looking back at how the holocaust could have even happened, it is important to note that antisemitism had already been in place in Europe, even before World War I. With the losses that Germany and Austria incurred at the end of WW I, Jews and Communists, particularly those in Russia, were signaled out for persecution as having been the cause for any financial and political losses, even though there was little to no tangible evidence for such thinking.

It was this general viewpoint about the Jews that Adolf Hitler promoted and expanded upon, as he moved into power in the 1930s. He planned to build a pure, super race of humans, to be known as “Aryans” and to make room for this new race, any “inferior” races would need to be removed or exterminated. This included the Jews, Gypsies, and homosexuals, to name a few. In 1934, after President Paul von Hindenburg’s death, Hitler declared himself Germany’s “Fuhrer” and began instituting his plans of removing and exterminating the Jews and other “undesirables.”

The Death Camps

The first concentration camp to open was Dachau, close to Munich, in March of 1933, and the first residents were Communists and the Socialist Democrats, although that would change quickly to add in Jews as well. Between 1933 and 1939, the beginning of World War II, the German Jews began losing their jobs, their businesses, and became targets for terrible abuse, including the burning down of their synagogues. Thousands of Jews left Germany in the early days, but for those Jews who stayed, it would not be long before they were rounded up and sent to one of several camps, either in Germany or Poland.

The Germans also developed the “Euthanasia Program” in 1939, designed to end some 70,000 mentally ill or disabled Germans by gassing them to death. After a huge uproar from German religious leaders, the program was publicly shelved, although privately, it continued to exist on a much smaller scale.

As Germany expanded its reach during World War II through Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Luxembourg, and France, the need for implementing a “final solution” to the Jewish problem was given to Reinhard Heydrich, Chief of Security of the Schutzstaffel (SS), the most feared organization in Germany. By 1941, Auschwitz had been built in Poland and would become the prime location for implementation of the final solution using gas chambers.

Meanwhile, pogroms were conducted against Jews across Europe, killing 10,000+ Jews in Jassy, Romania, and 3,800 Jews in Kovno, Lithuania. As Germany began Operation Barbarossa into Russia in 1941, 23,000 Jews were killed at Kamenets-Podolsk, Ukraine, and 33,771 Jews were slaughtered at Babi Yar, close to Kiev. A further 35,000 Jews from Odessa were shot in early October of 1941.

Reports of the atrocities being committed by the Germans at the death camps began to filter through to the Allied governments around 1942 who, at first, did not believe or understand the size of what was being done, and who were more focused on winning the war. The events of what happened to the Jews (and others) who were systematically exterminated over the four years, from 1941 to 1945, were only brought to full view upon the liberation of the concentration camps, and those death camps that were uncovered at the end of the war. Even as Allied Forces were closing in on Germany and Berlin, German and Polish death camps were being emptied out, with inmates marched for miles under guard, away from the front lines. Between 250,000 to 375,000 prisoners died on these marches , never getting to experience freedom at the last.


The Jewish Populations of Europe at the Beginning of WW II

























3.35 million


3 million



List of Concentration Camps/Deaths

D = Death Camp / C = Concentration Camp

Auschwitz-Birkenau (D) gas chambers using Zyklon B gas 2 million exterminated, including 1,500,000 Jews
Belzec (D) closed 12/1942 600,000 exterminated
Bergen Belsen (C) Between 36,400 and 37,600 died. 13,000 died after liberation as well.
Buchenwald (C) 34,375 prisoners died out of 238,980
Chelmno (D) gas vans Between 152,000 to 180,000. Suspected of 340,000
Dachau (C) 31,951 died out of 206,206 prisoners
Flossenbürg (C) 30,000 died
Gross Rosen (C) 40,000 died out of 125,000 inmates
Majdanek (D) 360,000 exterminated
Mauthausen (C) 34,000 gassed at Hartheim Castle
Neuengamme (C) 40,000 estimated as dying, out of 106,000 total inmates
Ravensbruck (C) 50,000 women died, some in medical experiments.
Sachsenhausen (C) Between 30,000 to 50,000 deaths
Sobibor (D) 250,000 exterminated
Stutthof (C) 25,000 estimated deaths, occurring mainly during camp evacuations
Theresienstadt (C) 33,000 died
Treblinka (D) 870,000 exterminated
Vught (C) 749 died out of 31,000
Click Here For Your FREE WWII Special Report