Operation Ginny

This was a US pair of special forces sabotage operations (‘Ginny I’ and ‘Ginny II’) by an operational group of the Office of Strategic Services in Italy (27 February/22 March 1944).

The missions’ objective was the destruction of railway tunnels on the German lines of communication to Generaloberst Heinrich-Gottfried von Vietinghoff-Scheel’s 10th Army and Generaloberst Eberhard von Mackensen’s 14th Army in central Italy.

The first mission was ‘Ginny I’ on 27/28 February with a 15-man OSS party of Italian Americans who boarded two PT-boats at Bastia in Corsica. The mission’s departure was delayed slightly by technical seasons, but the boats then headed to the north-east across the Ligurian Sea in the direction of Stazione de Framura. The boats reached the disembarkation point at 01.25 and the sabotage team paddled away to the north-east in rubber boats. Both the working and security parties landed at what they thought was the right spot and were properly dressed in US uniform without any civilian clothing. One of the men then noticed that a train he heard was to his north-east, and it became clear that the party had landed to the south of its objective.

At 02.45 the party’s leader reported that his team could not reach its target until 04.15 at the earliest, and asked for permission to stay and be picked on up the following night. The senior officer afloat refused permission as the undertaking had been planed on the basis of a collection at no later than 04.00 so that the PT-boats could get well offshore by daylight, and by 03.15 the party had re-embarked and the PT-boats was back in Bastia by 07.30.

‘Ginny II’ was based on the same task and planning, but the party had four changed personnel though still under the command of 1st Lieutenant Vincent Russo. A contingency plan was developed so that in the event that it could not achieve its mission in the specified time, the party would return to the PT-boats or, if the boats had departed, find a safe house and await collection on the following night. The two PT-boats reached the landing site at 22.45, only 300 yards (275 m) to the south-west of the designated place, and the OSS team departed to the north in three rubber boats to land to west of Stazione di Framura.

At about 23.45 the Americans spotted a column of German S-boote returning from a minelaying mission: one of the PT-boats took diversionary action and got into a firefight, while the other idled along the coast on one engine and tried to keep in contact with the shore party. By 04.00 the PT-boats had not heard from the OSS party and returned to Bastia.

On shore, Russo had realised that his party was once again in the wrong place, near the village of Carpineggio about mid-way between Bonassola and Stazione di Framura, after landing 2 miles (3.2 km) from its intended landing point and about 1 mile (1.6 km) from the target. Unable to contact the PT-boats, Russo and his men then defaulted to the contingency plan, with no demolition work undertaken until contact had been re-established with the PT-boats. After concealing their rubber boats, explosives and other equipment, the Americans moved inland and found an empty barn on the edge of Carpeneggio.

During the morning of 23 March Russo and one of his men went to find food and information at the nearest farm. Here the farmer sold them food and later in the day guided them on a reconnaissance which located the access to the target tunnel on the main railway linking Genoa and La Spezia.

During the evening of 23 March the two PT-boats departed to collect the UDS party, but again suffered technical problems that compelled each of them to turn back at different times. This the OSS party was forced to hide for another day. An Italian fisherman noticed the rubber boats just above the shore and mentioned the fact to the authorities at nearby Bonassola. Two Fascist Italian militiamen went with the fisherman to investigate, found the boats and explosives, alerted the local German command, formed a search party, and started a sweep of the area. All 15 US soldiers were captured after minor clashes with Italian Fascist and German soldiers, and were taken to the headquarters of Oberst Almers’s 135th Festungsbrigade in La Spezia for interrogation. All 15 men were then summarily executed on 26 March under Adolf Hitler’s ‘commando order’ of 1942 on the instruction of General Anton Dostler, commander of the LXXV Corps, who was tried, convicted and executed after the war for this war crime.