In 1944, undercover British operatives kidnapped German Gen. Heinrich Kreipe on Nazi-occupied Crete. This is the tale of that exploit.
Stroud (The Phantom Army of Alamein: How the Camouflage Unit and Operation Bertram Hoodwinked Rommel, 2012, etc.) begins with the German occupation of Crete in 1941, a paratroop invasion that caught the island’s British defenders off guard. After a few days of desperate resistance, the British withdrew, leaving Cretan partisans to oppose the occupation, which they did with fierce intensity. A few remaining agents from the Special Operations Executive, a branch of British military intelligence, sought ways to sabotage the Nazis. Two SOE officers, Maj. Patrick Leigh Fermor and Capt. Billy Moss, contrived the plot to kidnap the German commander in Crete. After parachute training, they were ready for their adventure. Bad weather jinxed the initial drop; Fermor arrived in Crete, but Moss was delayed. For several weeks, Fermor worked with the Cretan resistance fighters. When Moss finally arrived on the island, they set about executing the plan, with elaborate preparation and carefully arranged timing. They caught Kreipe coming home late from his office, stopped his car and took it over. The Cretans slit his driver’s throat while the British, disguised as German guards, drove through numerous checkpoints to the open country, where they abandoned the car and lit out on foot to a prearranged point where they could be evacuated by boat. But the mountainous country and German pursuit slowed them down, and Kreipe was unable to keep the pace. They finally got the general away, ending the daring, audacious raid. In a final chapter, Stroud steps back to ask whether the actual results justified the loss of lives and property when the Germans retaliated against Cretan civilians—a question Moss and Fermor never really grappled with.
A stirring adventure with an exotic setting and a thrilling cast.