Goofy plans are back yay!
I found this excellent book a month ago packed with exciting stories and events during WW2. In it I discovered Operation Greif which caused a lot of… Grief.
Hitler had the idea to send fake GI’s (Government Issue) disguised as Americans to get behind enemy lines at the Battle of the Bulge in 1944-1945 and seize the bridge on the Meuse River. It was given the name Operation Greif no doubt to ‘grasp’ the morale of the American army and provide support for Germany. Major Otto Skorzeny (nicknamed “Scarface”) had the honor in being the leader and trainer to the Germans assigned this mission in a group called Panzerbrigade 15. Training took about 5 weeks where several hundreds of German soldiers not only studied the English language but also the behavior of Americans. Some Germans were even slipped in amongst the American POWs to sharpen their skills. Then they were given US uniforms and vehicles to ride in disguise.
Operation Greif did have some success in causing confusion by giving out false directions to an American army regiment, turning road signs around and making Allied soldiers suspicious of their own comrades. A rumor was even started by captured fake GI’s that Eisenhower was to be assassinated by Major Skorzeny himself (which was a hoax). However, Operation Greif was causing quite a bit trouble among the Germans who were trying to put this forward in full swing.
Not even half of the Panzerbrigade 15 in training had mastered the English language let alone American slang well enough to be convincing save only a dozen. The Americans learned to spot a fake GI very quickly this way. Some of the clues would be when GI’s were seen riding four to a jeep instead of the usual two to a jeep, when GI’s began referring to themselves as a ‘company’ instead of a troop and calling gasoline/fuel as “petrol’. My favorite blunder was when one German military police officer captured what appeared to be an American who turned out to be a comrade in disguise.
So Operation Greif failed and didn’t succeed in getting to the Meuse River as was intended. Only a fraction of the Panzerbrigade 15 got through but even then didn’t make much of an impact. A quote from my newfound book on the topic:
“These men, Skorzeny later wrote, ‘could never dupe an American – not even a deaf one!’” Armchair Reader - World War 2: Extraordinary Facts and Stories pg. 426.