Fallschirmjäger is the German word for paratroopers. They played an important role during World War II, together with the Gebirgsjäger they were perceived as the elite infantry units of the German military. After World War II, they were reconstituted as parts of postwar armed forces of both West and East Germany as special ops troops. German Fallschirmjäger in World War II were the first paratroopers to be committed in large-scale airborne operations, they came to be known as the "green devils" by the Allied forces they fought against. The word Fallschirmjäger is from the German Fallschirm, "parachute", Jäger, literally'hunter,' which refers in this context to light infantry. In the 1930s Hermann Göring, after having observed Soviet airborne infantry maneuvers, became committed to the creation of Germany's airborne infantry, he ordered the formation of a specialist police unit in 1933, devoted to protecting Nazi party officials. The unit carried out conventional police duties for the next two years, but in 1935, Göring transformed it into Germany's first dedicated airborne regiment.
The unit was incorporated into the newly formed Luftwaffe that year and training commenced. Göring ordered that a group of volunteers be drawn for parachute training; these volunteers would form a cadre for a future Fallschirmtruppe. In January 1936, 600 men and officers formed an engineer company. Germany's parachute arm was inaugurated in 1936 with a call for recruits for a parachute training school; the school was open to Luftwaffe personnel, who were required to complete six jumps in order to receive the Luftwaffe parachutist's badge. During World War II, the German Air Force raised a variety of airborne light infantry units; the Luftwaffe built up a division-sized unit of three Fallschirmjäger regiments plus supporting arms and air assets, known as the 7th Flieger Division. Throughout World War II, the Fallschirmjäger overall commander was Kurt Student. Fallschirmjäger participated in the occupation of Norway and Denmark and in the battles of Belgium, the Netherlands and France in 1940, they took part in the Balkans Campaign, Battle of Crete, Italian Campaign, on both the Eastern Front and the Western Front would follow.
In the modern German Bundeswehr, Fallschirmjäger continue to form the core of special operations units. The division has several independent companies and battalions. All told, about 10,000 troops served in that division in 2010, most of them support or logistics personnel; the division has the following structure: Special Operations Division Headquarters and Signal Company former time Battalion Army Band 300 Airborne Brigade 1 Headquarters Company Parachute Regiment 26 1./ Staff Support Companie 2./ 3./ Parachute-Commando 4./ 5./ 6./ Parachute Companies 7./ Parachute Heavy Weapon 8./ Parachut-Support 9./ Parachute-Medical 10./Reserve Airborne Reconnaissance Company 260 Airborne Engineer Company 260 Parachute Regiment 31 1./ Staff Support Companie 2./ 3./ Parachute-Commando 4./ 5./ 6./ Parachute Companies 7./ Parachute Heavy Weapon 8./ Parachut-Support 9./ Parachute-Medical 10./Reserve Airborne Reconnaissance Company 310 Airborne Engineer Company 270 Special Forces Command The vast majority of division members are deployable by parachute, all of it is at least air mobile.
All vehicles and heavy equipment are transportable by helicopter, including special armoured Wiesel heavy weapon transport vehicles adopted for this purpose. In addition to the Special Operations Division, Germany is setting up an air mobile or air assault regiment. Former troops Airborne Air Defence Missile Battery 100 - given out to Air Force Long Range Reconnaissance Training Company 200 - Platoons in Airborne Reconnaissance Companies Airborne Brigade 26 and Airborne Brigade 31 - both now Airborne Brigade 1 Fallschirmjäger Battalion 261 Airborne Support Battalion 262 Fallschirmjäger Battalion 263 Airborne Brigade 31 Headquarters Company Fallschirmjäger Battalion 313 Fallschirmjäger Battalion 373 Airborne Support Battalion 272 40. Fallschirmjägerbataillon Willi Sänger was the only airborne infantry formation of the Nationale Volksarmee; the battalion and its airborne-commando school were based in Prora near Potsdam. The battalion was an airborne unit organized as an NVA light infantry battalion, but in reality it was considered a commando unit.
On mission, the companies of the battalion were to be split up into teams of six men. As a force with special capabilities, it remained under the direct command of the army high command; the reconnaissance company of the Felix Dzerzhinsky Guards Regiment, an elite motorized rifle regiment of the Ministry for State Security of the German Democratic Republic, was a parachute-trained unit. Ailsby, Christopher. Hitler's Sky Warriors: German Paratroopers in Action, 1939-1945. Staplehurst, UK: Spellmount Limited. ISBN 1-86227-109-7. Bell, Kelly. "Costly Capture Of Crete." World War II 14.1: 50. MasterFILE Complete. Web. 22 Oct. 2014
Gran Sasso d'Italia
Gran Sasso d'Italia (Italian: is an Apennine secondary mountain massif. Its highest peak, Corno Grande, is the highest mountain outside the Alps. Included in Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park, is a popular touristic attraction and ski resort, used several times as filming locations; the three main summits of the Gran Sasso are Corno Grande, which at 2,912 metres is the highest peak in the Apennines, nearby Corno Piccolo, Pizzo d'Intermesoli, separated from the other two peaks by Val Maone, a deep valley. Corno Grande and Corno Piccolo's ash coloration come from their dolomite composition; the peaks are snow-covered for much of the year though the snow cover appears to be less each decade. Corno Piccolo is referred to as, "The Sleeping Giant"; this is due to the appearance of a profile of a reclined face. This view of Corno Piccolo is evident when viewing the mountain from Pietracamela, a small town near Prati di Tivo, on the north side of the mountain. Corno Grande and Corno Piccolo with their rough vertical walls provide serious rock climbers with challenges..
Situated below the peak of the Corno Grande is the Calderone glacier, until 2009 the southernmost known glacier in Europe. Glaciologists now question whether the glacier will survive past 2020; the mid- to lower slopes of the Gran Sasso are grazed in spring and autumn by large flocks of sheep guarded by Maremmano-Abruzzese sheepdogs as well as herds of cattle and semi-wild horses. The pastures are covered with meadowland wildflowers; the park is the habitat for diverse wildlife from rare species such as the Apennine wolf, the Marsican bear and the Abruzzo chamois, a variety of chamois at the edge of extinction but now making a comeback in the park through a joint effort by WWF Italia and the park administration. Other species of wildlife include wild boar, grass snakes such as Orsini's viper, a wide variety of bird life including golden eagles, peregrine falcons, ortolan buntings, rock sparrows, crested larks, red-backed shrikes and downy pipits. At the northern base of Corno Piccolo is Prati di Tivo, a ski village.
To the east of Corno Grande and Corno Piccolo lies Campo Imperatore, a 27-kilometre-long and 8-kilometre-wide high plain or plateau at about 2,000 metres height. Campo Imperatore is home to Italy's oldest continuously operating commercial ski area; the area was involved in World War II events, but Gran Sasso is renowned as it was Benito Mussolini's prison until his freeing on September 1943 by Nazi commandos in the Gran Sasso raid. The plateau is the site of the Campo Imperatore station of the Rome Observatory, from which the Campo Imperatore Near-Earth Object Survey and other astronomical studies are carried out. At the southern edge of Campo Imperatore and within the bounds of the national park are three medieval hill towns once ruled by the Medicis; the name Gran Sasso means "Great Stone". In 2005, a 2,424-metre-high peak named "The Gendarme" was renamed "John Paul II Peak" on what would have been Pope John Paul II's 85th birthday, he had visited the Gran Sasso many times, saying it reminded him of the mountains of his native Poland.
In January 2017, an avalanche hit Rigopiano hotel, with 29 victims. In 1984, a 10-kilometre two-lane highway tunnel carrying the A24 motorway, the Traforo del Gran Sasso, was bored through the Gran Sasso Massif. In 1995, a second parallel tunnel was completed. Construction of the tunnel included an underground particle physics laboratory at Assergi, the Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso or Gran Sasso National Laboratory; the first large experiments there started in 1989. The laboratory is composed of three large underground chambers, sometimes referred to collectively as the third tunnel and lies beneath 1,400 metres of rock. Construction of the laboratory and second tunnel faced fierce opposition from Italian and international environmental groups including Pro Natura, LIPU and Club Alpino Italiano as well as the World Wildlife Federation and WWF Italia and Friends of the Earth. Environmentalists noted that the nuclear physics laboratory would lie on or near two major and active seismic faults, that construction of the tunnels would interfere with a major aquifer, that construction waste would degrade an environmentally sensitive and significant area.
The underground laboratory, which opened in 1989, with its low background radiation is used for experiments in particle and nuclear physics, including the study of neutrinos, high-energy cosmic rays, dark matter, nuclear decay, as well as geology, biology. The laboratory employs over 700 scientists from twenty different countries. Many credit the opposition created by the tunnel and laboratory construction with galvanizing the Italian environmental movement and leading to the creation of the Parco Nazionale del Gran Sasso in 1991. In recent years, the laboratory has itself begun promoting preservation of the Gran Sasso environment; the LNGS was the destination of the neutrinos involved in the faster-than-light neutrino anomaly publicly announced in September 2011. In the summer of 2014 the facility was instrumental in confirming previous theories about the sun's main source of energy when proton-to-proton fusion-produced neutrinos were detected and measured at the sun's core; the Gran Sasso is located in the Gran Sasso e Monti della Laga National Park
The German Cross was instituted by Adolf Hitler on 28 September 1941. It was awarded in two divisions: gold for repeated acts of achievement in combat; the German Cross in Gold ranked higher than the Iron Cross First Class but below the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, while the German Cross in Silver ranked higher than the War Merit Cross First Class with Swords but below the Knight's Cross of the War Merit Cross with Swords. The German Cross was issued in two versions: gold and silver, the former being an award for repeated acts of bravery or repeated outstanding achievements in combat, the latter being for multiple distinguished services in war efforts and was considered a continuation of the War Merit Cross with swords. Article three of the law governing the German Cross states that a prerequisite for the presentation of the German Cross in Gold or Silver is the ownership of the Iron Cross 1st Class or Clasp to the Iron Cross 1st Class, or the War Merit Cross 1st Class with Swords; the order consists of a star badge.
It was worn on the right-hand side of the tunic. If a recipient had been awarded both the silver and gold divisions, the gold division should be worn only. Only the gold version of the award was available in cloth form, made for easier wear on the combat uniform. Far more awards in gold were presented than in silver. Specimen copies of a special grade, the German Cross in Gold with Diamonds, was manufactured in 1942 but this grade was never instituted or bestowed. In 1957 alternative de-nazified replacement versions of the German Cross were authorized for wear by the Federal Republic of Germany; this replaced the swastika with a representation of the Iron Cross for the gold division, the War Merit Cross with Swords for the silver division. Wearing Nazi-era decorations was banned in Germany after the war, as was any display of the swastika; the 1957 replacement of the World War II decorations enabled recipients to wear the German Cross again but only in the new version of the insignia. Select recipients of both grades included: SS-Gruppenführer and Lieutenant General of the Police Odilo Globocnik GCiG 07.02.1945 & GCiS 20.01.1945, SS-Gruppenführer Bruno Streckenbach GCiG 15.12.1943 Major General Ernst Merk GCiG 11.02.1944 & GCiS 06.07.1942, SS-Standartenführer and Colonel of the Police Walther Rauff GCiG 07.02.1945 & GCiS 20.05.1943, General Felix Schwalbe GCiG 07.12.1944 & GCiS 30.10.1943, Lieutenant General Bodo Zimmermann GCiG 25.09.1944 & GCiS 15.02.1943.
SS-Hauptsturmführer Alfred-Ingemar Berndt GCiG 17 July 1943 SS-Sturmbannführer Wilhelm Mohnke GCiG 26 December 1941 SS-Obersturmbannführer Fritz Knoechlein GCiG 15 Nov 1942 Generalleutnant Walter Krupinski GCiG 27 Aug 1942 Select foreign recipients of the German Cross in Gold included: BelgiumStandartenführer Léon DegrelleCroatiaLieutenant Cvitan Galić 1st Lieutenant Mato DukovacEstoniaSenior Lieutenant Hando Ruus 30.12.1944FinlandGeneral Erik Heinrichs 17.08.1943 Lieutenant General Jarl Lundqvist 09.11.1943 Lieutenant General Karl Lennart Oesch 05.08.1944,ItalyVice Admiral Luigi Sansonetti 18.01.1942 Marshal Ettore Bastico 05.12.1942 Colonel General Rino Corso Fougier 18.01.1943LatviaUntersturmführer Kārlis Mūsiņš Standartenführer Vilis JanumsRomaniaGeneral Gheorghe Avramescu 25.10.1942 Major General Leonard Mociulschi 25.10.1942 Major General Ermil Gheorghiu 11.02.1943 Captain Nicolae Dabija 10.02.1944SpainMajor General Emilio Estéban Infantes y Martín 09.04.1943Some 26 non-German volunteers of the Waffen-SS from Belgium, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia and Norway received the German Cross in Gold.
Colonel Hans von Luck called it "Hitler's fried egg", in response to its gaudiness. Citations Bibliography
A battalion is a military unit. The use of the term "battalion" varies by branch of service. A battalion consists of 300 to 800 soldiers and is divided into a number of companies. A battalion is commanded by a lieutenant colonel. In some countries, the word "battalion" is associated with the infantry; the term was first used in Italian as battaglione no than the 16th century. It derived from the Italian word for battaglia; the first use of battalion in English was in the 1580s, the first use to mean "part of a regiment" is from 1708. A battalion is the smallest military unit capable of "limited independent operations", meaning it includes an executive, staff with a support and services unit; the battalion must have a source of re-supply to enable it to sustain operations for more than a few days. This is because a battalion's complement of ammunition, expendable weapons, rations, lubricants, replacement parts and medical supplies consists of only what the battalion's soldiers and the battalion's vehicles can carry.
In addition to sufficient personnel and equipment to conduct operations, as well as a limited administrative and logistics capability, the commander's staff coordinates and plans operations. A battalion's subordinate companies and their platoons are dependent upon the battalion headquarters for command, control and intelligence, the battalion's service and support structure; the battalion is part of a brigade, or group, depending on the branch of service. A battalion's companies are of one type, although there are exceptions such as combined arms battalions in the U. S. Army. A battalion includes a headquarters company and some sort of combat service support, combined in a combat support company; the term battalion is used in the British Army Infantry and some corps including the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, intelligence corps. It was used in the Royal Engineers, was used in the now defunct Royal Army Ordnance Corps and Royal Pioneer Corps. Other corps use the term "regiment" instead.
An infantry battalion is numbered ordinarily within its regiment. It has a headquarters company, support company, three rifle companies; each company is commanded by a major, the officer commanding, with a captain or senior lieutenant as second-in-command. The HQ company contains signals, catering, administration, training and medical elements; the support company contains anti-tank, machine gun, mortar and reconnaissance platoons. Mechanised units have an attached light aid detachment of the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers to perform field repairs on vehicles and equipment. A British battalion in theatre during World War II had around 845 men, whereas, as of 2012, a British battalion had around 650 soldiers. With successive rounds of cutbacks after the war, many infantry regiments were reduced to a single battalion. Important figures in a battalion headquarters include: Commanding officer Second-in-command Adjutant Quartermaster Quartermaster Medical officer Administrative officer Padre Operations officer Regimental sergeant major Regimental quartermaster sergeant Regimental quartermaster sergeant Battalions of other corps are given separate cardinal numbers within their corps.
A battle group consists of an infantry battalion or armoured regiment with sub-units detached from other military units acting under the command of the battalion commander. In the Canadian Forces, most battalions are reserve units of between 100–200 soldiers that include an operationally ready, field-deployable component of a half-company apiece; the nine regular force infantry battalions each contain three or four rifle companies and one or two support companies. Canadian battalions are commanded by lieutenant-colonels, though smaller reserve battalions may be commanded by majors; those regiments consisting of more than one battalion are: The Royal Canadian Regiment Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry Royal 22e Régiment The Royal Newfoundland Regiment Tactically, the Canadian battalion forms the core of the infantry battle group, which includes various supporting elements such as armour, combat engineers and combat service support. An infantry battle group will be commanded by the commander of the core infantry battalion around which it is formed and can range in size from 300 to 1,500 or more soldiers, depending on the nature of the mission assigned.
In the Royal Netherlands Army, a mechanised infantry battalion consists of one command- and medical company, three mechanised infantry companies, one support company
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, Italy. Campo Imperatore is a notable cinematographic natural set: the location has been used in more than twenty films, like The American, The Name of the Rose, Ladyhawke, Red Sonja, Il sole anche di notte, L'Armata ritorna. Campo Imperatore is a tectonic origin shaped by glaciers; the plateau, 27 km in length and an average of 8 km in width, lies adjacent to the Apennines' highest peak Corno Grande, Europe's southernmost glacier, the Calderone. The plateau's altitude ranges from 1,500 to 1,900 meters, it covers an expanse of 80 km². Campo Imperatore is home to one of Italy's oldest alpine ski resorts. Located on the plateau's western edge, the resort began commercial operation in the 1920s and continues to thrive as a ski resort to this day due to its proximity to Rome.
The resort's hotel became dictator Benito Mussolini's prison in August 1943 with his fall from power until he was freed by German commandos in September 1943. On the eastern side of the plateau is a 4 km cross country ski trail, maintained by the nearby town of Castel del Monte. On the southeastern side of Campo Imperatore are medieval hill towns once ruled by the Medicis, Castel Del Monte and Santo Stefano di Sessanio as well as the ruin of one of Europe's highest fortresses, Rocca Calascio. In spring and fall, shepherds from these neighboring hill towns maintain herds of sheep, "semi-wild" horses, cattle in the plateau; the pastures are covered with meadowland wild flowers. Campo Imperatore is home to the Alpine Botanical Garden of Campo Imperatore. Founded in 1952, the garden is devoted to cultivation and study of some 300 species indigenous mountainous plants, including rare and endangered plant species, among them Vaccinium gaultherioides, Yellow Gentiana, Edelweiss of the Apennines, Adonis distorta, all plants that have adapted to Campo Imperatore's environment.
Campo Imperatore is the habitat for the Apennine wolf, Apennine wildcat and the Abruzzo chamois. Nearly extinct, the latter is making a comeback through a joint effort by WWF Italia and the administration of the Gran Sasso National Park. Other species of wildlife include wild boar, grass snakes, a wide variety of bird life including golden eagles and peregrine falcons. Located on the high plateau, taking advantage of the elevation and absence of man-made light, is the Campo Imperatore Near-Earth Object Survey, an observatory branch of Rome Observatory. Campo Felice Gran Sasso raid Alpine Botanical Garden of Campo Imperatore Gran Sasso Tourism Center Campo Imperatore Ski Center Campo Imperatore Observatory A photo gallery made by a UNESCO photographer
Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini was an Italian politician and journalist, the leader of the National Fascist Party. He ruled Italy as Prime Minister from 1922 to 1943. Known as Il Duce, Mussolini was the founder of Italian Fascism. In 1912, Mussolini had been a leading member of the National Directorate of the Italian Socialist Party, but was expelled from the PSI for advocating military intervention in World War I, in opposition to the party's stance on neutrality. Mussolini served in the Royal Italian Army during the war until he was wounded and discharged in 1917. Mussolini denounced the PSI, his views now centering on nationalism instead of socialism and founded the fascist movement which came to oppose egalitarianism and class conflict, instead advocating "revolutionary nationalism" transcending class lines. Following the March on Rome in October 1922, Mussolini became the youngest Prime Minister in Italian history until the appointment of Matteo Renzi in February 2014. After removing all political opposition through his secret police and outlawing labor strikes and his followers consolidated their power through a series of laws that transformed the nation into a one-party dictatorship.
Within five years, Mussolini had established dictatorial authority by both legal and extraordinary means and aspired to create a totalitarian state. In 1929, Mussolini signed the Lateran Treaty with the Vatican, ending decades of struggle between the Italian state and the Papacy, recognized the independence of Vatican City. After the Abyssinia Crisis of 1935–1936, Mussolini invaded Ethiopia in the Second Italo–Ethiopian War; the invasion was condemned by the Western powers and was answered with economic sanctions against Italy. Relations between Germany and Italy improved due to Hitler's support of the invasion. In 1936, Mussolini surrendered Austria to the German sphere of influence, signed the treaty of cooperation with Germany and proclaimed the creation of a Rome–Berlin Axis. From 1936 through 1939, Mussolini provided huge amounts of military support to Franco's forces in the Spanish Civil War; this active intervention further distanced Italy from Britain. Mussolini had sought to delay a major war in Europe, but Germany invaded Poland on 1 September 1939, resulting in declarations of war by France and the UK and the start of World War II.
On 10 June 1940—with the Fall of France imminent—Italy entered the war on the side of Germany, though Mussolini was aware that Italy did not have the military capacity and resources to carry out a long war with the British Empire. He believed that after the imminent French armistice, Italy could gain territorial concessions from France, he could concentrate his forces on a major offensive in North Africa, where British and Commonwealth forces were outnumbered by Italian forces. However, the British government refused to accept proposals for a peace that would involve accepting Axis victories in Eastern and Western Europe. In October 1940, Mussolini sent Italian forces into Greece; the invasion failed and the following Greek counter-offensive pushed the Italians back to occupied Albania. The Greek debacle and simultaneous defeats against the British in North Africa reduced Italy to dependence on Germany. Beginning in June 1941, Mussolini sent Italian forces to participate in the invasion of the Soviet Union, Italy declared war on the United States in December.
In 1943, Italy suffered one disaster after another: by February the Red Army had destroyed the Italian Army in Russia. As a consequence, early on 25 July, the Grand Council of Fascism passed a motion of no confidence for Mussolini. After the king agreed the armistice with the allies, on 12 September 1943 Mussolini was rescued from captivity in the Gran Sasso raid by German paratroopers and Waffen-SS commandos led by Major Otto-Harald Mors. Adolf Hitler, after meeting with the rescued former dictator put Mussolini in charge of a puppet regime in northern Italy, the Italian Social Republic, informally known as the Salò Republic. In late April 1945, in the wake of near total defeat and his mistress Clara Petacci attempted to flee to Switzerland, but both were captured by Italian communist partisans and summarily executed by firing squad on 28 April 1945 near Lake Como, his body was taken to Milan, where it was hung upside down at a service station to publicly confirm his demise. Mussolini was born on 29 July 1883 in Dovia di Predappio, a small town in the province of Forlì in Romagna.
During the Fascist era, Predappio was dubbed "Duce's town" and Forlì was called "Duce's city", with pilgrims going to Predappio and Forlì to see the birthplace of Mussolini. Benito Mussolini's father, Alessandro Mussolini, was a blacksmith and a socialist, while his mother, was a devout Catholic schoolteacher. Owing to his father's political leanings, Mussolini was named Benito after liberal Mexican president Benito Juárez, while his middle names Andrea and Amilcare were from Italian socialists Andrea Costa and Amilcare Cipriani. Benito was the eldest of his parents' three children, his siblings Arnaldo and Edvige fol
Gran Sasso raid
The Gran Sasso raid or Operation Eiche was the rescue of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini by German paratroopers led by Major Otto-Harald Mors and Waffen-SS commandos in September 1943, during World War II. The airborne operation was ordered by Adolf Hitler and executed by Major Harald Mors, approved by General Kurt Student. On the night between 24 and 25 July 1943, a few weeks after the Allied invasion of Sicily and bombing of Rome, the Italian Grand Council of Fascism voted a motion of no confidence against Mussolini. On the same day, the king had him arrested. Hitler's common procedure was to give similar orders to competing organisations within the German military. So he ordered the Hauptsturmführer Otto Skorzeny to track Mussolini, ordered the paratroop General Kurt Student to execute the liberation. Mussolini was being transported around Italy by his captors. Intercepting a coded Italian radio message, Skorzeny used the reconnaissance provided by the agents and informants of SS-Obersturmbannführer Herbert Kappler to determine that Mussolini was being imprisoned at Campo Imperatore Hotel, a ski resort at Campo Imperatore in Italy's Gran Sasso massif, high in the Apennine Mountains.
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 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. 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, commander-in-chief of the whole raid, they cut all telephone lines. At 14:05 the airborne commandos landed their ten DFS 230 gliders on the mountain near the hotel.
The Fallschirmjäger and Skorzeny's special troopers overwhelmed Mussolini's captors without a single shot being fired. Skorzeny attacked the radio operator and his equipment and stormed into the hotel, being 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 meanwhile. Although under the given circumstances the small plane was overloaded, Skorzeny insisted to accompany Mussolini, thus endangering the success of the mission. After an dangerous but successful lift-off, they flew to Pratica di Mare. There they continued 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.
Mussolini was made leader of the Italian Social Republic. 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. After a pro-SS propaganda coup at the behest of Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler and propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels 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. Winston Churchill himself described the mission as "one of great daring"; as it turned out, this was one of the last of Hitler's spectacular gambles to bear fruit. According to Michele Vicenzo's researches, based on interviews and supposed contradictions between eyewitnesses and on other documents, the Gran Sasso raid is considered as possible result of a secret agreement between Badoglio's Italian government and the German government.
Gerhard Mertins was among the paratroopers. Operation Achse Fallschirmjäger SS-Jagdverband Mitte Brandenburgers Waffen-SS foreign volunteers and conscripts