10 Operations of the Office of Strategic Services during World War Two

Posted on

Operation Ginny

Operation Ginny was an attempt by the OSS to destroy railroad tunnels in Italy during the Italian Campaign against the Germans in 1944. A fifteen man OSS team of Italian-American soldiers was landed by PT boat on the night of February 27/28, 1944. After landing, by using rubber boats to paddle ashore from the larger PT boats, the team leader realized that his team was out of position. In order to accomplish the mission far more time than had been allotted before the team was to be picked up was required. The team requested to be allowed to remain ashore overnight, but was denied and the PT boats were sent in to pick them up.

On March 22 they tried again, and once ashore the team leader again realized that they had landed in the wrong location. After disembarking the team, the US PT boats detected German E-boat activity and one engaged the Germans, after which the American boats, having heard nothing from the OSS team ashore, returned to base. The following evening the American boats returned, to find German patrols on the water near the designated rendezvous point. Under orders not to engage, and having again heard nothing from the team ashore, the American boats again withdrew.

The team ashore had by then made contact with Italian civilians, who had provided them with food and with directions to their target. The soldiers hid in a barn during the daylight hours of March 23, waiting until darkness to return to the shore where they had hidden their rubber boats and explosives. It was not to be. An Italian fisherman discovered the boats and notified the Italian authorities, which in the area were Fascist Party officials, who notified the German military. After discovering the hidden explosives with the boats, German troops and Italian police began a sweep of the area. The OSS team was discovered in the barn, and after a brief firefight, surrendered to the Germans.

The Germans took their prisoners, and the Italian farmer in whose barn they were found, to La Spezia, where they were interrogated by German army officers and Gestapo agents. After learning from one of the team that they were a commando group sent to demolish a railroad tunnel the information was sent to Army headquarters in the area, commanded by Field Marshal Albert Kesselring. Kesselring was informed that the prisoners were in full American uniform and were carrying correct identification when they surrendered. Kesselring ordered their execution by firing squad, to be carried out the next day.

Several German officers protested the execution, and one was charged with insubordination for refusing to sign the order as it made its way through the chain of command. When the order reached the unit holding the prisoners their commander too protested, by telephone to headquarters, but to no avail. On March 26 the fifteen Americans were executed by firing squad and buried in a common unmarked grave, which was camouflaged to prevent it from being discovered by Italian partisans. The general who issued the execution order under the direction of Kesselring, Anton Dostler, was convicted of war crimes and executed after the war. Kesselring was not.

Prev3 of 10Next

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *