Book Review: Freeing Mussolini: Dismantling the Skorzeny Myth in the Gran Sasso Raid


by Óscar González Lopez

Barnsley, Eng.: Pen & Sword / Philadelphia: Casemate, 2018. Pp. 106. Illus., map, tables, appends., biblio. $34.95. ISBN: 1526719975

Rescuing a Dictator and Creating a Myth

Spanish historian Gonzalez Lopez, who has written extensively in the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War, gives us a very well illustrated, quite detailed account of the liberation of Mussolini in late 1943 from a mountain top resort in eastern Italy, a translation of the originally Spanish edition.

Gonzalez Lopez’s purpose is to explain not only how the daring raid was carried out, but also how, although the mission was planned and executed by “ordinary” Luftwaffe airborne troops – fallschirmjäger – the self-promoting SS man Otto Skorzeny invited himself along, put the mission in danger of failure, and managed to hog the credit.

Gonzalez Lopez covers the origins of the operation, Hitler’s desire to rescue his fellow-dictator, if only as a way of keeping Italy in the war on his side and perhaps out of friendship. There is a lot of interesting detail on intelligence, planning, personnel, and equipment, this last including the problem of using gliders at high altitude. Gonzalez Lopez then explains how Skorzeny horned his way into the mission, and why the officers in actual command tolerated his intrusion. Gonzalez Lopez then goes into a fairly detailed discussion of how the operation was carried out, minute-by-minute at times, and its consequences, not only the restoration of Mussolini to power, at least in German-occupied Italy, but also the start of Skorzeny’s subsequent career as Hitler’s favorite special operator..

In addition to his valuable debunking of the Skorzeny myth, Gonzalez Lopez has also given us an interesting and often insightful look at one of the most important special operations of the Second World War.

Freeing Mussolini is an important read for anyone interested in special operations or for Italy and the Second World War.


Note: Freeing Mussolini is also available in several e-editions


StrategyPage reviews are shared with The New York Military Affairs Symposium


Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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