Operation Greif 1944
Operation Greif was conducted by units of the German Army to disrupt American command, control, and communication during the winter offensive which came to be known as the Battle of the Bulge. Eventually nearly 2,500 German troops were outfitted with American or British military equipment and uniforms, tasked with infiltrating American lines and operating behind them, conducting both overt and covert operations against the Americans.
It was hoped that their operations would both disrupt American military activities and severely damage morale. In the event, 44 German soldiers were sent behind American lines, conducting sabotage, espionage, and covert attacks on American communications as the German attack began.
Commanded by Otto Skorzeny, the Germans were highly successful in creating confusion, and in some cases outright panic, behind the Allied lines. Even after being captured by GIs, some of the Germans were successful in creating rumors which grew to attain such credence that they disrupted the personal plans of senior American officers. Dwight Eisenhower was forced into secure seclusion for Christmas of 1944 by rumors created by the Germans that a plan was underfoot to kidnap the allied commander.
This plan was given additional support due to the belief that it was headed by Skorzeny, who had previously successfully rescued Mussolini in a daring and well known raid. British Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery was temporarily held by US soldiers after he failed to properly identity himself, an act which enraged the haughty Montgomery and reportedly vastly amused Eisenhower.
German troops who destroyed communication facilities, bridges, and ammunition dumps performed these acts while wearing American uniforms, a violation of the rules of warfare, and when caught were tried as spies and saboteurs by military tribunals. Sixteen were shot as spies. The actual field commander for Operation Greif, Gunther Schulz, was executed by firing squad in June 1945 and Skorzeny was tried as a war criminal at Dachau for the crime of ordering his troops to fight while wearing American uniforms, as well as other crimes. He was acquitted. Operation Greif was only successful in the early phases of the Battle of the Bulge, the Americans were quickly aware of saboteurs and spies in their midst and once onto them, efficiently managed to root them out.