Operation Against Nazi General in Crete

In 1943, the war was only a couple of years from meeting its end. A Nazi general in Crete became the target of the Special Operations Executive, as the Allies prepared to capture him. In something of a daring move, they decided the best place to carry out the operation would be outside of his own headquarters. While their operation would not necessarily be easy, they planned well for the capture of the Nazi general so that they could achieve success.

The men who were to carry out the operation were members of the Special Operations Executive, Force 133. Several of them stayed in the same house together (a large residence referred to as “Tara”) while they made their plans. There, they became more than colleagues. By the time they had orders to capture the Nazi general, they were fast friends. Occasionally, one would be called to the field, and they would all throw a party. Their goal was to never focus on the negative aspects of their job, as they could not afford to turn their fears into self-fulfilling prophecies. This philosophy accompanied them on their mission to capture Major General Heinrich Kreipe.

Naturally, not everyone who stayed at Tara was a part of the plan to take Kreipe captive. This plan included a buccaneer named Paddy Fermor and a Coldstream Guards officer named Billy Moss. Before they received the go-ahead to capture the Nazi general, a housemate named Xan Smiley helped them to map out their plans. On the trip, they were also accompanied by two Cretan guerilla fighters. They brought along a wide array of equipment, including guns, bombs, knives, and more. They even brought along suicide pills in case their plan went awry.

Upon arriving in Crete, they were met by more Cretan guerillas and another operative. It was actually months before they were able to move ahead with their plan. This was actually why they had to capture Kreipe in the first place. The original Nazi general they had targeted was Friedrich-Wilhelm Müller, but the so-called “Butcher of Crete” was no longer in position and they had to adjust their plan. By April of 1944, months after they had begun planning in late 1943, they were finally able to carry out their operation. Fermor and Moss disguised themselves and hailed Kreipe to stop his car. Then, nearly a dozen guerilla soldiers stormed the car. After months of careful planning and patient waiting, they were able to capture Kreipe in mere minutes, The Telegraph reports.

The hardest part was getting the Nazi general back to the rendezvous point. It took weeks, but the operatives and guerillas were able to avoid German patrols as they escorted Kreipe across Crete. They then got him back to Cairo as ordered, upon which Fermor was awarded with a Distinguished Service Order. Moss was awarded the Military Cross. Kreipe’s interrogation proved to be relatively inconsequential, but the capture of a Nazi general was still an international sensation. Those interested in learning more about the operation can check out the new book by author Rick Stroud, entitled Kidnap in Crete.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE