Operation Greif: The History of the Infamous Waffen-SS Commando Operation during the Battle of the Bulge by Charles River Editors
English | July 24, 2022 | ISBN: N/A | ASIN: B0B7KGLD28 | 98 pages | EPUB | 1.86 Mb
After the successful amphibious invasion on D-Day in June 1944, the Allies began racing east toward Germany and liberating France along the way. The Allies had landed along a 50 mile stretch of French coast, and despite suffering 8,000 casualties on D-Day, over 100,000 still began the march across the western portion of the continent. By the end of August 1944, the German Army in France was shattered, with 200,000 killed or wounded and a further 200,000 captured. However, Adolf Hitler reacted to the news of invasion with glee, figuring it would give the Germans a chance to destroy the Allied armies that had water to their backs. As he put it, "The news couldn't be better. We have them where we can destroy them."
While that sounds delusional in retrospect, it was Hitler's belief that by splitting the Allied march across Europe in their drive toward Germany, he could cause the collapse of the enemy armies and cut off their supply lines. Part of Hitler's confidence came as a result of underestimating American resolve, but with the Soviets racing toward Berlin from the east, this final offensive would truly be the last gasp of the German war machine, and the month-long campaign was fought over a large area of the Ardennes Forest, through France, Belgium, and parts of Luxembourg. From an Allied point of view, the operations were commonly referred to as the Ardennes Offensive, while the German code phrase for the operation was Unternehmen Wacht am Rhein ("Operation Watch on the Rhine"), with the initial breakout going under the name of "Operation Mist." Today, Americans know it best as the Battle of the Bulge.
When the bulge did form, the Allies became understandably nervous, and Hitler hoped to capitalize on German momentum with a top-secret special operation that he named Operation Greif. This mission would utilize German soldiers, trained in sabotage techniques and disguised in American and British uniforms, and have them cross Allied lines to hold strategic targets for the German advance while destroying communication lines and ammunition depots. Most importantly, they would cause chaos and confusion by misdirecting the enemy, as Hitler explained in his orders: "I want you to command a group of American and British troops and get them across the Meuse and seize one of the bridges. Not, my dear Skorzeny, real Americans or British. I want you to create special units wearing American and British uniforms. They will travel in captured Allied tanks. Think of the confusion you could cause! I envisage a whole string of false orders which will upset communications and attack morale."
The Skorzeny he was addressing was none other than Otto Skorzeny, who had become famous by the late stages of the war because of his role in rescuing Benito Mussolini via the Gran Sasso raid. One thing that characterized Skorzeny was a continuing talent for self-aggrandizement and exaggeration of his role in events, which naturally worked on someone like Hitler. In the wake of the Gran Sasso raid, Hitler awarded Skorzeny the Knight's Cross (one of the highest German awards for valor) and promoted him to Sturmbannfьhrer (Major). Heinrich Himmler, who personally disliked and distrusted Skorzeny, seized the opportunity to raise the profile of the SS and to suggest that the success of the Gran Sasso raid was entirely due to the SS. As a result, it would be Skorzeny who led the Waffen-SS operation that Hitler envisioned for the Battle of the Bulge.
Ultimately, the operation and the battle itself would not be enough. After resisting the German attack, the Allied armies began advancing, and with that, the race to Berlin was truly on, with the Allied armies in Western Europe desperate to reach the German capital before Stalin's Soviets could arrive.
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