In the summer of 1943, as the skies began to darken ominously over the fortunes of the Axis powers, Benito Mussolini was abruptly toppled from power and arrested by his own people. News of this bold coup de etat, which was engineered by the reigning King of Italy in conjunction with the army, sent shockwaves through Nazi Germany, where an outraged Hitler feared the loss of his strongest ally in Europe and bemoaned the fate of his fellow dictator and "friend." These events set the stage for a dramatic showdown between Hitler and the new, post-Mussolini Italian regime.
The six weeks following Mussolini's arrest were rife with Machiavellian intrigue, confusion, and high drama within the Rome-Berlin Axis. During this period, Germany and Italy remained allies in name while privately scheming to undermine one another. Hitler was determined to rescue Mussolini and restore him to his former glory before he could be handed over to the Allies and vaunted as World War II's most famous POW.
To accomplish this task, Hitler plucked from obscurity a virtually unknown S.S. captain named Otto Skorzeny and sent him to Rome to conduct a covert search effort for the missing Mussolini, who had disappeared without a trace and whose whereabouts were kept secret by the Italians. At the same time, in order to save their nation from the ravages of war, Italy's new leaders embarked upon a dangerous diplomatic game that kept both the Nazis and the Allied Powers guessing as to Italy's true agenda.
When the dust finally settled, it became clear that the unpredictable chain of events sparked by Mussolini's downfall had brought with it important consequences for the Nazis, the Italians, and the Allied war effort in Europe.