THE GRAN SASSO RAID / OPERATION EICHE
Hitler and the rest of the Nazi German establishment didn’t have a lot of useful friends up to and during World War Two. One of the few significant allies of the Third Reich was the Italian Fascist government of Benito Mussolini, a political movement that predated the Nazis and had assumed command of a kinda-sorta-industrialized nation back when Adolf and his pals were still shooting up beer halls.
Say what you want about Adolf Hitler (and you can say everything you want about Adolf Hitler because he was an absolutely horrible human being) he remembered his old friends. In late 1943, when the Italian Fascist government was falling apart and Mussolini was arrested on the order of the Italian king, Hitler personally ordered his most elite commando units to yank Benny out of his comfy prison in Campo Imperatore.
Ace Nazi commando Otto Skorzeny was personally selected to lead a group of Luftwaffe glider troops, landing silently on the Gran Sasso massif and capturing the deposed Fascist dictator without firing a shot. After securing the area, Skorzeny airlifted Mussolini out in a scrawny Fieseler Storch liaison plane, the only German aircraft capable of taking off from the rough and unimproved surface of the plateau.
Although the overloaded “Stork” almost crashed due to the extra weight of burly Otto and pudgy Benito, it successfully delivered the Fascist leader to German-occupied Northern Italy, giving the Nazis a much-needed propaganda boost and shoring up Germany’s southern front for years.