‘Scarface’ – The Elite Nazi Commando Who Hitler Sent To Rescue Mussolini

3. Operation Panzerfaust

German tanks on the streets of Budapest, 1944

German tank on the street in Budapest, 1944. Photo Credit.

It was obvious that the war wasn’t going to last much longer in 1944. The Kingdom of Hungary – under the regent, Miklos Horthy – was ready to sign a secret separate peace treaty with the Soviets, as they advanced through Ukraine and Romania.

Germany couldn’t afford the surrender of its southern ally, for they needed Hungary to hold the Red Army as much as they could. Otto Skorzeny was assigned to use blackmail and extortion to persuade the Hungarian regent to step down from power and enable the Pro-Fascist Arrow Cross Party to keep Hungary at war. The plan was to kidnap the regent’s son, Miklos Horthy Jr. who was a politician himself and who was an important supporter of his father.

The action was in full effect on 15th of October in 1944. The regent’s son was to meet the Yugoslav middlemen in the negotiations, but was instead captured by a commando unit and flown to Vienna and transported to the Mauthausen concentration camp.

The action was swift with no casualties and handled in a rather criminal manner. Some of the Hitler’s old-fashioned generals often opposed to Skorzeny’s methods for they have been in direct violations of every rule of war, but his popularity only grew, as he was Adolf Hitler’s favorite and most trusted soldier. Miklos Horthy Sr. was blackmailed after the event, and he agreed to resign and let the country be occupied peacefully by German forces who installed a pro-German the puppet regime.

4. Operation Griffen

Knocked-out Panther tank disguised as an M10 Tank Destroyer

Knocked-out Panther tank disguised as an M10 Tank Destroyer. Photo Credit.

Operation Griffen was a ‘false flag’ mission under the command of Otto Skorzeny. It occurred during the Battle of Bulge in the winter of 1944, and its primary objective was to cause confusion and chaos among the Allied troops and capture the bridges over the river Meuse.

The mission employed the use of captured Allied vehicles and uniforms and was conducted by the English speaking members of the Einheit Stileu brigade, who were assembled through a series of tests that tested their English language skills and knowledge of  American slang and dialect.

Skorzeny lacked authentic American vehicles and equipment to conduct a large-scale operation that Hitler had unrealistically ordered. He had to improvise, so he camouflaged some German Panther tanks to look like American M10 Tank Destroyers. He also used German armored cars, which were adjusted to look more like their Allied counterparts.

The mission was set out in three directives: demolition teams were to destroy the bridges when captured, alongside sabotaging the enemy’s fuel and ammunition depots. Reconnaissance patrols would go ahead of the main squads and pass on false orders to the units they met. They would also reverse road signs and remove minefield warnings.

Lead commando units would work closely with the attacking units to disrupt the US chain of command by destroying field telephone wires and radio stations, and issuing false orders. They never managed to secure and hold the Meuse bridges, but they did cause temporary havoc among the Allied ranks, and Skorzeny succeeded in applying his tactics. Rumors spread that the commandos were trying to kidnap Eisenhower in Paris and that one of the Germans presented himself as Field Marshall Montgomery.

This action led to a series of mishaps, one of them being the maltreatment of Montgomery by the American soldiers who shot the tires of his car suspecting he was an impostor. Eisenhower was forced to spend Christmas under high-security alert. After the dust had settled, the American General put out a “Wanted” poster with Skorzeny’s face on it, just like in a Western movie. Once the Allies acknowledged that there were moles in their ranks they eliminated the German commandos, who withdrew soon after.

5. Battle for Oder River

Soviet artillery bombarding German positions during the battle.

Soviet artillery bombarding German positions during the battle. Photo Credit.

In January 1945, the Soviets were advancing through Poland. Their scouts were already on the natural border with Germany, the Oder river. Otto Skorzeny was sent there to organize a defense force and hold the bridgehead at Schwedt. The commando had to improvise and gather all the troops he could muster, for the high command hadn’t given him enough men for a realistic defense.

The core around which he assembled his troops was an elite paratrooper unit. He called out for Hamburg dockyard workers, pilots who had no planes and an SS battalion of Germans from Romania. He also borrowed an anti-tank unit from his fellow SS officer and managed to employ the cadets of the Friedenthal Sniper School.

Skorzeny held the bridge for 30 days, outnumbered 15 to 1. He managed to achieve that with careful positioning of his sniper teams who covered the approach route and completely immobilized the Soviet infantry. Undoubtedly, this operation disrupted the Red Army’s timetable, buying Germany weeks to improve its defenses.