Knight’s Move – The Hunt for Marshal Tito, 1944
In 1944 the Soviets were starting to take the offensive. The Wehrmacht was still in Byelorussia and the Ukraine, but after Kursk the Russians had taken back almost half of the territory the Germans had won in 1941-42. The Americans and British had invaded Italy, making things even more difficult for the Axis side.
Another pain in the Germans’ side was the continuing partisan activity in Yugoslavia. And someone at Headquarters decided that the way to neutralize this particular threat was to remove its leader, Josip Broz, known as Marshal Tito.
This book is about the special operation, undertaken by the 500th SS Parachute Batallion, which descended on Drvar in northwestern Bosnia, using glider-borne soldiers and paratroops. While much of the book covers the actual landings and subsequent combat, I have to say that as an aircraft modeler, I was intrigued with the use of the DFS 230 gliders, which were towed by Henschel 126s. Never heard of THAT use for the Henschels!
The book moves smoothly through Initial Strategy, The Plan, The Raid, and The Aftermath, with an Analysis and Conclusion. Although there’s a lot on the landing and subsequent combat, there’s also a rich lode of little mistakes made on both sides which made the operation a near success. One of these is that Tito had been convinced that he shouldn’t live in Drvar, and that he should stay in the next village, about 3 miles away. The Germans didn’t know this, and should have missed Tito completely. But the planners of the raid, either through luck or skill, chose to do it on May 25, Tito’s birthday. Because of the planned celebration, Tito stayed that night in his HQ instead of going “home”. And the raid almost got him.
Recommended. This is a well-written book, with super research. There are photographs in there which make me marvel. The Germans probably sent a photographer to record the details of the triumph, but there are also photos from the Partisan side which have been kept. There are a couple of really good maps which aid understanding of what happened and why the Germans didn’t quite pull off their triumph.
There wasn’t much follow-up on this operation, as 12 days later was D-Day in Normandy. And on June 22nd the Soviets kicked off Operation Bagration, also known as “The Destruction of Army Group Center”, which pretty much drove the Germans out of Russia. So the OKW had bigger fish to deal with than Tito.
Thanks to Osprey Publishing for the review copy, IPMS/USA for sending it to me, and to Steve Collins for letting me look at Bosnia again, as it was an area of interest for me when I worked Intel.