orld War II is categorized as one of the most fruitful historical events in modern history or even throughout history. The numerous special missions, as well as operations that have taken place during the six years of war, are astonishing. Most of these operations from the Allied as well as the Axis side were planned to change the faith of the War, trying to turn the tide of War. In this article, I will briefly go through 5 events that not many are aware of.
Lost briefcases and classified information, disguised soldiers, dangerous air operations — these are the lesser-known stories of World War II when secret operations worthy of Ian Fleming’s novels were conceived on both sides of the front. As some historians mention, these are the underhand operations that made a difference but were never meant to be noticed at the time (during the war).
In April 1943, the body of a British officer was discovered in Spanish waters, along with a briefcase containing, at first sight, very important documents. Once it had reached the Germans, they contained secret information about an Allied invasion operation in Greece and Sardinia. The Nazis thought they had hit the gold mine with this piece of intelligence, but everything was, in fact, part of the secret plans of the Allies.
Operation Mincemeat was meant to fool the Germans that the inevitable Allied invasion of the Mediterranean targeted Greece and Sardinia, not Sicily. Tricked by the British, the Germans sent troops to Greece and were caught on the wrong foot in southern Italy, where Allied troops swarmed and conquered.
In 1943, the Germans organized Operation Eiche (“Oak”) to rescue Benito Mussolini. After the Allied invasion of Italy and the removal of the fascist dictator from power, Hitler ordered Otto Skorzeny, an expert in commando operations, to release Mussolini, who was detained at a ski resort in the Apennines, at all costs. Skorzeny staged an airstrike on September 12, 1943, and managed to free Mussolini, who then exclaimed,
“I knew my friend Adolf Hitler would not leave me to fate!”
Operation Gunnerside took place in occupied Norway. In February 1943, a group of Norwegian soldiers, exiled and trained in Britain, parachuted near the Norsk Hydro plant in Vemork, where heavy water was produced, a substance essential in the manufacture of the atomic bomb. The Germans had controlled the plant since 1940, and Allied leaders were worried that the source of heavy water would help the Nazis develop an atomic bomb before them.
The commando team entered the plant, placed explosives near the heavy water tanks, then detonated them. The damage delayed the Germans by only a few months, but this was not the last act of sabotage by the Norwegians. A year later, another group of agents detonated a ship with heavy water tanks that were to reach Germany.
Towards the war’s end, in December 1944, Adolf Hitler tasked Otto Skorzeny with a secret mission to disrupt Allied morale and lines of communication. Skorzeny formed a unit of good English-speaking German soldiers, dressed in the uniforms of American soldiers and equipped with forged documents sent behind Allied lines where they destroyed weapons depots, exchanged road signs, and destroyed telephone lines, everything right under the nose of the Allies. Even though these actions did not have a spectacular military result, they caused confusion and panic among American soldiers. As the picture shows, these so-called infiltrated German soldiers in American uniforms had been executed.
Operation Fortitude South
Before the invasion of Normandy, a crucial operation for the final victory, the Allies also devised an operation to fool the Germans. Led by the British, Operation Fortitude South was a ruse to make the Germans believe that the Allied invasion would take place at Pas de Calais, not in Normandy. The same sort of operation as mincemeat but with a different twist.
The operation involved the creation of phantom armies, the Allies used inflatable tanks, wooden aircraft, and fake weapons depots to trick German reconnaissance pilots into reporting that the Allies were preparing their forces for invasion through the English Channel. Even after June 6, 1944, the day of the invasion of Normandy, Operation Fortitude South continued with airstrikes in the Pas de Calais area to make the Germans believe that the invasion of Normandy was a simple attack designed to distract them from the great invasion.
The effects of these operations on the Allied victory of the war are very debatable. However, it is imperative to say that without these operations, the war would have been quite different. The smallest difference could have changed the tide of war, so every man, every weapon, and every bullet, as well as a piece of intelligence, counts.