Hitler's Raid to Save Mussolini: The Most Infamous Commando Operation of World War II
Greg Annussek

It has to be said right away that the focus of this book is not on the actual raid to rescue Benito Mussolini, ten chapters go by before he even arrives at Gran Sasso and only one chapter describes the raid itself, instead the focus is on the events leading up to it.

Most of the book follows the Italian attempts to keep Mussolini captive and hidden from the Germans without letting them know he in fact was a prisoner and the German attempts to locate and finally free him. At the same time it covers the confusion that reigned in the uneasy relationship between the two nations during the time between his capture and the announcement of the armistice with between Italy and the Allies and how different people within the leadership tried to handle the situation.

The book has some forty pages with footnotes providing primarily either sources for the quotes and events described or some brief information on conflicting descriptions of the events given in other sources.

The final chapter is in some ways the most interesting one so it is a shame that it is only three pages long, this where the author briefly touches on how different Otto Skorzeny and his Waffen-SS soldiers later described the events compared to how the Luftwaffe paratroopers (who made up the bulk of the force) described it, each side unsurprisingly claiming the most of the credit for the operation.

On the whole it is an interesting and well written book, but there are some errors in it, for example on page 31 where the Luftwaffe Hermann Göring unit is referred to as the "SS-Panzerdivision Hermann Goering".
At times the author makes in my opinion pointless remarks about for example Waffen-SS, referring to them as "Himmler's ultra-loyal legions" or as "fanatically loyal" to give two examples, such remarks only detracts from the overall impression of the book.

I wonder why the author (or at least the person who came up with the title), feel that the Gran Sasso operation was the "most infamous commando operation of World War II", for example the activities of Skorzeny in the Ardennes seems like a better choice for that distinction.

If you are looking for a book on the events following Mussolini’s arrest on the order of the King especially the German attempts to locate him and decide how to handle the new relationship between the countries up to and including the liberation of Mussolini from Gran Sasso, this one is a good place to start, but don't expect it to be a book length coverage of the rescue going into great detail on the operation and the different ways it has been described by the participants since that time.

(Reviewed by Marcus Wendel)
Thanks to the publisher for the review copy.

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