Sunday, September 29, 2013

Major Skorzeny- The Para trooper who rescued Mussolini

What is bravery? It is an act of attempting to do the impossible. One such episode has caught my imagination. The man who carried out this act was a German Para Major named Skorzeny. He was specially selected by Hitler for this act. A man of infinite courage and a dare devil, he was asked by Hitler to rescue Mussolini the Italian dictator from a mountain ski resort in Central Italy. The Italians who made Mussolini retire were aware that an attempt would be made to rescue Il Duce and so were shifting his residence every 2 months. However German Intelligence was able to pinpoint that Mussolini was held at the ski resort in Central Italy. Major Skorzeny assured Hitler; he would rescue Mussolini and get him back to lead the Axis powers. In real terms Hitler was well aware that the Italians were just waiting to make peace with with the Allies and would also hand over his best friend to them.

Thus in September 1943 Skorzeny made a daring plan to free Mussolini. It must be noted that the ski resort was only accessible by cable car and there was no road. So a decision was taken to land Gliders on the resort. The Major himself led the assault as the Gliders were airborne. It was a risky operation to land a glider on the small ground of the resort, but the German Para troopers did just that. Only one paratrooper lost his life in the landing. A master stroke was to take a senior Italian police official who on emerging from the glider shouted in Italian 'don’t fire... don't fire '.This sowed confusion in the hearts of the guards who were quickly over powered and Mussolini was freed without firing a shot.

Mussolini and his girl friend Clara were then whisked away by a small German light plane to Germany. It was feat without parallel in terms of audacity and bravery. Somehow this feat is not given much importance and Hollywood which has been making all sorts of war movies has conspicuously ignored this romantic saga of bravery. Maybe, because they would not like to propagate an episode of bravery from the Nazi era. But then Hollywood has never been known to be objective. But why rely on Hollywood, why can't some other producer translate this act of bravery on celluloid ?

What about the famed major? He was arrested after the war, but he escaped to Spain, where General Franco gave him refuge. He died in 1975.