On the night of December 16, 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge, eight jeep teams made up of German soldiers fluent in English slipped through American lines.
Some carried vials of sulphuric acid to throw in the faces of American guards if they were stopped. Other groups cut communication wires and carried out minor acts of sabotage, such as changing road signs. One Nazi group managed to misdirect an entire group of infantry.
The greatest success of the operation, organized by Obersturmbannfuhrer Otto Skorzeny, was to provoke an overreaction from the Americans after four English-speaking Germans were captured and interrogated. Their commanding officer, Lieutenant Gunther Schultz, told American intelligence personnel that their secret orders were to capture and kidnap General Eisenhower and other high-ranking officers.
Eisenhower’s security was stepped up to such a degree that he felt like a prisoner.
General Omar Bradley’s jeep was sandwiched between another jeep with mounted machine guns and a Hellcat tank destroyer. All the plates with general’s stars were removed from his vehicles, and even the stars on his helmet were covered with cloth.
Roadblocks were set up on every route, greatly slowing traffic because guards had to interrogate soldiers to make sure they were not German. Questions included a baseball quiz, the name of FDR’s dog, the name of Betty Grable’s current husband, and Sinatra’s first name.
When Brigadier General Bruce Clark gave a wrong answer about the Chicago Cubs, he was promptly arrested because, according to the GI who questioned him, “Only a Kraut would make a mistake like that.”
Even General Bradley was stopped and detained briefly, despite naming the capital of Illinois correctly. The MP who detained him thought Bradley had given the wrong answer.
British personnel in the American Ninth Army rear area aroused deep suspicion during this paranoid time. Hollywood star David Niven, a Phantom reconnaissance officer in Rifle Brigade uniform, was challenged by one American sentry with the question: “Who won the World Series of 1940?”
“I haven’t the faintest idea,” replied the suave British actor with characteristic insouciance. “But I do know that I made a picture with Ginger Rogers in 1938.”
“Okay, beat it, Dave,” came the reply, “but watch your step, for Chrissake.”