The Battle of the Bulge began on December 16, 1944, when two Panzer armies, comprising most of the German armored reserve, crashed into a lightly defended sector of the American lines in the Ardennes Forest. 

The overly ambitious plan by Adolf Hitler was to split the American and British armies in two and race to the port of Antwerp. Hitler’s generals knew the plan had zero chance of ever succeeding. While the Germans made big gains in the opening days, punching a “bulge” deep into the American lines, tremendous resistance at the Elsenborn Ridge in the north and Bastogne in the south slowed the advance to a crawl. 

One of the other ambitious parts of the German plan was “Operation Greif.” It is a German special operation designed to seize bridges over the Meuse River, destroy American ammunition and fuel dumps, and reroute Allied units by having German soldiers posing as American troops while wearing American uniforms.

Operation Greif was commanded by SS Obersturmbannführer (Lieutenant Colonel) Otto Skorzeny, who was already known as “the most dangerous man in Europe.” The actual accomplishments of Operation Greif were few. However, the panic that Skorzeny caused among the Allies on the Western Front was vast and continued for several months afterward. 

Skorzeny – The Ultimate Nazi Special Operator: 

Otto Skorzeny was born in Vienna in 1908. He lived in a lower-middle-class family in Austria, although his forebears originally came from Poland. While pursuing an engineering degree, Skorzeny developed a fearsome reputation in the dueling societies that gave him the characteristic scar on his cheek. He fought in at least 15 duels. 

In 1938, during the German unification with Austria, Skorzeny came across Nazi roughnecks trying to kill Austrian President Miklas. He stopped them, and soon word spread in Germany about the 6’4 Austrian who possessed the makings of a fighter that they could rely on. 

When war broke out in 1939, Skorzeny joined the Waffen SS and fought with distinction on the Eastern Front after the invasion of the Soviet Union. He was wounded in the head by shrapnel and sent to Berlin to recuperate and became a staff officer. 

While there, he worked on concepts to create a German unconventional commando unit. He led the training and was named the commander of the unit. In 1943, he led the daring commando raid in Italy at the Campo Imperatore Hotel, a ski resort at Campo Imperatore in Italy’s Gran Sasso massif, high in the Apennine Mountains. His mission was to rescue Benito Mussolini, who had been deposed and held prisoner.