Operation Ginny Cover

Operation Ginny

The Most Significant Commando Raid of WWII

Vincent dePaul Lupiano

Lyons Press, Essex, Connecticut, 2022, 256 pages

Book Review published on: August 25, 2023

Vincent dePaul Lupiano’s newest book, Operation Ginny: The Most Significant Commando Raid of WWII, is a story about a commando raid on the Italian coast in March 1944. The significance of the operation, however, lies not with the raid. In fact, the raid was not successful and all fifteen American service members were captured and executed by the Germans. The significance of Operation Ginny lies in the legal precedence that was set during the trials of the German officers following the war. Lupiano argues that the victorious Americans wanted justice for the executed service members. The war crimes trial for the German officers involved in executing the fifteen Americans was the first trial in postwar Europe and the legal rulings and verdict had a significant impact on the subsequent trials at Nuremburg.

The majority of the book centers around the legality of following orders and determining how guilty commanding officers are who claim they were just following the orders of their superiors. In 1942, Adolf Hitler issued Commando Order #46, requiring the execution of anyone in a commando raid. Among the first Americans to fall victim were the Ginny commandos. Charged with blowing up a railroad tunnel, the first operation was called off due to the level of risk. However, the following month, having learned some lessons, the operation commences with disastrous results.

Through first-person testimony, the author attempts to bring some clarity to what happened to the fifteen men and why they made certain decisions. He then discusses the decision-making of the German officers, their concerns about following the commando order, and he tries to determine who was responsible. The author also brings in a synopsis of Vietnam’s My Lai massacre to show readers that even Americans can commit war crimes. Ultimately, the Ginny men are executed by the Germans, and the author argues the U.S. Army wanted justice following the war. As a result of the dissatisfaction with justice and accountability following World War I, the Americans determined that following orders was not going to be a legitimate defense. Thus, the German commanding officer of the 75th Army Corps, Lt. Gen. Anton Dostler, is found guilty and executed, setting a precedence for the Nuremberg trials that were just beginning. However, as the author notes, this decision was not universally supported, writing “Many US Army officers in the gallery gasped when they heard the sentence. To many, it meant that a general could lose his life for obeying an order when the result was determined to be a war crime” (p. 163).

The author also attempts to make a connection between two seemingly unrelated events—the Ginny Commando raid and the Via Rasella bombing and subsequent execution of over three hundred Italians in retribution. The author shows that both events are linked to German Field Marshal Albert Kesselring. The author concludes that Kesselring’s involvement in both events is complex but argues that Kesselring is guilty and his popularity among the Allies allowed him to hide his crimes and receive undeserved leniency. Lupiano provides evidence for readers to draw their own conclusions about the truth and how deep was Kesselring’s involvement.

Operation Ginny is more than just a story of a failed commando raid. This book is a narrative about the extent of following orders and where guilt truly lies. I recommend the book to those readers interested in military justice and war crimes.

Book Review written by: Robert J. Rielly, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas