September 12th, 1943FRANCE: Paris: Ernst Jünger notes in his diary, "...a large number of people are receiving model coffins through the post." [From the resistance]
GERMANY: Rastenburg: German Gauleiters are appointed for South Tyrol and Venetia, and Speer takes over control of the Italian arms industry.
U.S.S.R.: Stary Kermenchik, in the Donets basin, is liberated by Russian units.
Hand-picked paratroopers crash-landed by glider on an Italian mountainside today and snatched Mussolini to freedom. In a brilliant operation involving a hair-raising take-off down a rocky slope in a tiny aircraft, Il Duce was delivered safely to an airfield at Pratica di Mare. Tonight he was flown to Vienna en route to Hitler's headquarters in East Prussia.
Hitler's order for the rescue of the former dictator was given to SS-SturmbannFührer Otto Skorzeny. He first had to locate Mussolini, whom the Italians had moved about since his arrest and fall of the 25th of July, to avoid a rescue attempt. Mussolini had been held under guard in a seaside boarding house and later in a villa on a Sardinian island. News of Italy's surrender, including the condition that he would be handed over to the Allies, was kept from him.
Two weeks ago il Duce was moved to the Albergo di Campo Imperatore hotel, 7,000 feet up the Gran Sasso mountain in the Apennines, where he was guarded by carabinieri. The hotel is about 93 miles east-northeast of Rome at an altitude of 6,652 feet. The Italian Military Intelligence (SIM) attempting to hide the former leader from the German Intelligence agents. The only access was by cable car. An intercepted radio message gave Skorzeny the answer to his quest. But how was he to reach the hotel, normally only accessible by cable car? During a reconnaissance flight, Skorzeny saw a small lawn just behind the hotel and this was the spot on which he decided to land. A paratroop drop was out because of the altitude leaving only gliders to get the German troops into the hotel. At Practica di Mare Aerodrome Skorzeny, his Luftwaffe paratroopers from Fallsirmjager-Lehr-Battalion under the command of Major Mors and fifty SS men belonging to Skorzeny's unit, prepared for the operation which included occupying the railway terminal to prevent reinforcement by Italian troops. The raiding force were equipped with amongst other things explosives, laughing gas and forged British bank notes. The twelve DFS 230C-1 gliders, capable of carrying eight fully equipped soldiers, begin lifting off at 1230 hours local and shortly after, four of the twelve dropped out on the way for various reasons with the lead two disappearing. The "small lawn" Skorzeny had seen on his flight was in fact a small piece of very steep ground with a sheer drop at the end meaning that the gliders would have to crash land near the hotel. All gliders landed but one crash landed and injured all on board; Skorzeny's glider stopped short only a few yards from the hotel doors. He raced up to the hotel doors and kicked them in and preceded to put an Italian radio operator and his radio out of action. He made contact with Mussolini and declared "Duce, I have come to rescue you!" In four minutes the Italian dictator was outside the hotel and boarding a Fiesler Fi 156 Storch light aircraft ready to fly back to the aerodrome. Although the Fi 156 had only two seats, Skorzeny insisted that he wanted to fly back to base with Mussolini. This made the plane overloaded and 12 men held the plane on his place as the pilot ran up the engine. Finally he raised his arm and the men let go of the plane, the plane speeded ahead, almost hitting a large rock, and finally disappeared over the edge. The plane landed in Rome and Mussolini and Skorzeny were flown to Vienna. The propaganda value of this mission was immense and Skorzeny and his SS men were featured in most of the media broadcasts. The truth is that the entire Gran Sasso mission was planned by Luftwaffe General Student and the Fallschirmjäger Lehr Battalion under the command of Major Mors. Only two gliders contained Skorzeny and his men from the Jagdverbande with the rest from the Fallschirmjäger Lehr Battalion. Skorzeny was responsible for Mussolini's safety and his delivery to Hitler but the mission itself was in overall command of the paratroops. Not surprisingly, they were somewhat annoyed when Skorzeny and the SS received all the kudos. Gen. Student even had the Luftwaffe make a film showing the paratroops version of events. (Jack McKillop)
The US Twelfth Air Force's XII Bomber Command sends B-17s to bomb the Mignano road defiles, the Benevento road bridge, and the Frosinone airfield; medium bombers hit Ariano (and trucks and road nearby), Isernia, and Castelnuovo and Formia road junctions; US and RAF aircraft of the Northwest African Tactical Air Force attack motor transport movement, roads, and bridges in the Potenza-Auletta areas, maintain cover over the US Fifth Army in the Salerno invasion area (where the enemy launches a fierce effort to reduce the beachhead), and during the night of 12/13 September fly intruder missions over 6 airfields between Rome and Pizzo, finding little activity.
British Eighth Army forces on the toe of Italy capture Crotone and push north, and on the Taranto front occupy territory up to north of Castelaneta. Fighting at Salerno is marked by the effective use of the Hermann Göring Panzer Division. (Jack McKillop)
In the Salerno beachhead, the Germans begin their first major counterattack late in the day which drives the British out of Battipaglia once more. The British unit in the Molina Pass is under heavy pressure from the Hermann Goering Panzer Division.
Capri: The Allies take the island without firing a single shot.
MEDITERRANEAN SEA: US Ninth Air Force B-24s hit Kalathos and Maritsa airfields on Rhodes. (Jack McKillop)
The German submarine U-617 runs aground under British aerial attack by RAF Hudsons of No 48 and No 233 Squadrons and FAA Swordfish Mk IIs of No 833 and No. 886 Squadrons, all four based at Gibraltar, in the Mediterranean near Melilla, in position 35.38N, 03.27W. The wreck was destroyed by gunfire from the RN corvette HMS Hyacinth and the RAN minesweeper HMAS Woollongong. All 49 crewmen on the U-boat survive. (Jack McKillop)
INDIA: USAAF Air Transport Command establishes a new air route to China via the Himalayas, known as the "Hump". (Ron Babuka)
CHINA: 8 US Fourteenth Air Force P-38s bomb shipping in the Hong Kong area, 4 hit Yangtze River traffic at Chiuchiang, and 4 P-40s strafe barracks and destroy a locomotive west of Shihhweiyao. (Jack McKillop)
NEW GUINEA: US Fifth Air Force B-17s and B-24s pound Lae as the Japanese begin a withdrawal in the face of the Australian 9 and 7 Divisions moving in from east and west; the Australian 5 Division occupies Salamaua and surrounding area; the first Allied airplane lands at Salamaua airfield; and B-25s strafe between Saidor and Langemak Bay. B-25s hit barges near Cape Gloucester on New Britain Island, and A-20s bomb a radio station on Gasmata Island off the coast of New Britain Island. (Jack McKillop)
U.S.A.: Destroyer minelayer USS
Lindsey laid down.
Destroyer USS Cassin Young launched.
Destroyer escort USS Hemminger launched.
Submarine USS Perch launched.
Destroyer escorts USS Bates and Loy commissioned. (Dave Shirlaw)
Top of Page