||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (September 2012)|
|Part of World War II|
Mussolini rescued by German commandos from his prison in Campo Imperatore on 12 September 1943.
|Location||Campo Imperatore, Italy
|Planned by||Harald Mors|
|Date||September 12, 1943|
|Executed by||Fallschirmjäger-Lehr-Bataillon of the 2. Fallschirmjägerdivision, 1/FJR 7; SS-Sonderverband z.b.V. Friedenthal|
|Outcome||Rescue of Benito Mussolini|
The Gran Sasso raid refers to Operation Eiche (German for 'Oak'), the rescue of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini by German paratroopers led by Major Otto-Harald Mors and Waffen-SS commandos in September 1943, during World War II. The airborne operation was personally ordered by Adolf Hitler, planned by Major Harald Mors and approved by General Kurt Student.
On 25 July 1943, a few weeks after the Allied invasion of Sicily and bombing of Rome, the Italian Grand Council of Fascism voted to depose Mussolini and replaced him with Marshal Pietro Badoglio. Mussolini was subsequently arrested on King Victor Emmanuel's orders.
After his arrest, Mussolini was transported around Italy by his captors. Intercepting a coded Italian radio message, Otto Skorzeny used his own reconnaissance to determine that Mussolini was being imprisoned at Campo Imperatore Hotel, a ski resort at Campo Imperatore, an alpine meadow at the Gran Sasso massif, high in the Apennine Mountains. On 12 September 1943, Skorzeny joined the team—led by Major Harald Mors—to rescue Mussolini in a high-risk glider mission. The liberation of Mussolini from detention at the Gran Sasso was probably the result of a tacit agreement between the Badoglio Government and the German forces. 
The operation on the ground at Campo Imperatore was led by Lieutenant Count Otto von Berlepsch, planned by Major Harald Mors and under orders from General Kurt Student, all Fallschirmjäger (German Air Force Paratroopers) officers. According to Otto Skorzeny's Memoir, he commanded this mission and was on the ground while rescuing Mussolini.
The commandos crashed their nine DFS 230 gliders into the nearby mountains, then overwhelmed Mussolini's guards without a single shot being fired. The carabinieri guarding Mussolini were ordered to not put up any resistance by an Italian general, Fernando Soleti, that the Germans had brought along on the raid. Skorzeny attacked the radio operator and his equipment, and formally greeted Mussolini with "Duce, the Führer has sent me to set you free!" to which Mussolini replied "I knew that my friend would not forsake me!" Mussolini was first flown from Campo Imperatore in a Luftwaffe Fieseler Fi 156C-3/Trop Storch STOL liaison aircraft, Werknummer (serial number) 1268, initially flown in by Captain Walter Gerlach, then taking off with Mussolini and Skorzeny (even though the weight of an extra passenger almost caused the tiny plane to crash) to the military airport of Pratica di Mare (near Rome) then embarked in an Heinkel He 111 on to Vienna, where Mussolini stayed overnight at the Hotel Imperial and was given a hero's welcome. The Storch involved in rescuing Mussolini bore the radio code letters, or Stammkennzeichen, of "SJ + LL" in motion picture coverage of the rescue.
The operation granted a rare late-war public relations opportunity to Hermann Göring. Mussolini was made leader of the Italian Social Republic (a German puppet state consisting of the German-occupied portion of Italy). Otto Skorzeny gained a large amount of success from this mission; he received a promotion to Sturmbannführer, the award of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and fame that led to his "most dangerous man in Europe" image.
Nazi propaganda hailed the operation for months, the Axis otherwise having little about which to boast in the fall of 1943. As it turned out, it was the last of Hitler's spectacular gambles to bear fruit.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Gran Sasso raid|
- Gonzalez Lopez, Oscar. Fallschirmjager at the Gran Sasso: The Liberation of Mussolini by the German Parachutist on the 12th September 1943.
- Patricelli, Marco (2001). Mondadori, ed. Liberate il Duce. Le Scie (in Italian). ISBN 88-04-48860-3.
- Forczyk, Robert (2010); Rescuing Mussolini – Gran Sasso 1943, Osprey Raid Series #9; Osprey Publishing; ISBN 978-1-84603-462-6
- Whittam, John (2005). Fascist Italy. Manchester University Press. ISBN 0-7190-4004-3.
- Annussek, Greg (2005). Hitler's Raid to Save Mussolini. Da Capo Press. ISBN 978-0-306-81396-2.
- Vincenzo Di Michele, Mussolini finto prigioniero al Gran Sasso edito nel 2011, per la casa editrice Curiosando Editore
- Williamson, D. G., The age of the dictators: a study of the European dictatorships, 1918-53 ISBN 978-0-582-50580-3, p. 440, url 
- "stamm Sx+xx". Luftwaffe Experten Message Board. Retrieved October 22, 2011. "SJ+LL — Fieseler — Fi156C-3/Trop — W.Nr.1268 — W.Nr.1268 — used on the liberation of Mussolini; source B0001 has this wrong as SU+LL"
- "The LEMB Stammkennzeichen Database Project -"S" Codes (stkz-Sx+xx)". LEMB. March 31, 2011. Retrieved November 26, 2012.