Knight’s Move The Hunt for Marshal Tito 1944

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2012-06-19
  • Publisher: Osprey Publishing
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On 25 May 1944 800 men of the 500th SS Parachute battalion descended on Drvar, a town behind enemy lines in north-western Bosnia; their aim was to kill or capture Tito, a major leader of the Yugoslavian partisan movement. The Abwehr had discovered his location there. SS Major Otto Skorzeny had even pinpointed his personal quarters to a cave on the ridge that overlooked the village, but because of inter-agency rivalry between the SS and Abwehr this information was not exploited. Nevertheless a plan was developed to land the battalion by glider and parachute in two waves, which would be relieved the next day by a ground assault. Tito knew an attack was imminent but dismissed the idea of an airborne assault. He set up an alternative nighttime location but on the evening before the attack decided to stay in Drvar to celebrate his birthday. At 0800 600 men landed by glider and parachute. The fiercest combat centred on the Communist Party HQ, which was demolished by satchel charges. Captain Rybka, the unit commanding officer, then redirected his forces on the ridge, correctly suspecting Tito was located there. Conscious of the prize that awaited them the German paratroopers were relentless but two companies of Tito's bodyguard battalion succeeded in repelling them. By the time the second wave landed and another attack could be mounted Tito had escaped through the woods. The paratroopers were forced to withdraw to a cemetery and endured successive attacks throughout the night, before relief arrived the following day. The attempt to eliminate Tito was a colossal failure. The elite battalion had been decimated with only 200 men fit for duty the next day. The Germans had failed to exploit HUMINT about Tito's precise location and adopted a plan that did not take into account intelligence limitations. Rybka's failure to redirect the second wave onto the ridge above the cave ended all hope of mission success.

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