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Otto Skorzeny and the Real Conduct of Unternehmen Eiche and Unternehmen Panzerfaust

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Technical Report

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Naval Postgraduate School Monterey

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Otto Skorzeny, an Austrian SS-member during World War II, is still today famous for his conduct of German special operations. His legacy continues to influence military theorists and historians because of the success of those operations. Among Skorzenys most recognizable missions, it was the spectacular liberation of Mussolini in 1943 that also launched his career in the conduct of German special operations. To answer the question about Skorzenys real role in German special operations, this thesis surveys Unternehmen Eiche, the German rescue operation for Mussolini and Unternehmen Panzerfaust, which targeted the Hungarian Regent Horthy to resign. Therefore, primary and secondary sources and memoirs of witnesses, who were part of these operations, are compared to Skorzenys memoirs, which were often used as primary sources in literature about German special operations during World War II. The results show that although Skorzeny had in both operations a primary supporting and significant strategic impact on several levels, discrepancies exist within the historical accounts. Furthermore, the impact of German propaganda and Otto Skorzenys autobiographical books have bolstered his fame even to the present day. Thus, if academia refer primarily to Skorzenys memoirs, they may draw an unrealistic picture of his role in the development of German WWII special operations. Moreover, other Skorzeny-conducted operations should be studied more in depth to further develop the thesis findings.

Subject Categories:

  • Humanities and History
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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