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"Operation Easter Egg" from Intelligence Bulletin

[Intelligence Bulletin Cover]   A report on German Abwehr sabotage depots buried in France and Western Europe during 1944-45, from the Intelligence Bulletin, March 1946.

[Editor's Note: The following article is wartime information on enemy tactics and equipment published for Allied soldiers. More accurate data on German tactics and equipment is available in postwar publications.]

German Plan For Sabotage Depots

Only the overwhelming speed of the Allied drive through France foiled a German plan for extensive behind-the-lines sabotage. This "Operation Easter Egg" again illustrates the necessity for even the rearmost troops of an advancing army to remain on the alert.

[OPERATION EASTER EGG, German Plan For Sabotage Depots]

In 1943 the imaginative German Intelligence Service concocted Operation Easter Egg (Ostereiaktion), an undertaking designed to establish small hidden depots of explosives and incendiaries in numerous caches strategically located in France, Holland, Belgium, and Western Germany.[1] The German Intelligence Service intended to utilize these depots to supply German agents and native traitors. The mission of these saboteurs was to disrupt Allied rear communications after a German Army withdrawal from an area, thus aiding the German forces to recapture the lost territory.

Execution of the plan began in the fall of 1943 and was probably continued until shortly before the end of the war in Europe. Although the scheme was ingeniously laid, Admiral Canaris (Chief of German Intelligence Service), the late Heinrich Himmler, and their colleagues did little clucking up their sleeves about Operation Easter Egg because it never successfully hatched. Painfully significant to these German officials should have been the coincidence that Easter Sunday, 1945, came on April 1, the traditional All-Fools Day.


To expedite the operation, which in the spring of 1944 was renamed Verpflegungsaktion (supply action), all German Intelligence Service sabotage groups[2] in the West were employed. Prior to September 1944, units were headquartered in Denmark, Holland, Flanders, and, specifically, in Paris, Lille, St. Cloud, Avignon, Bordeaux, and Le Mans. The unexpectedly swift American advance through France then forced the saboteurs to move their clandestine headquarters back to such places as Muelheim, Bad Orb, Baden-Baden, and Muenster.

Recognizing the value of native agents, the Germans recruited and hurriedly trained V-men from Danish and French traitor organizations. Regarding the caliber of these questionable mercenaries, captured German agents complained that only inferior Frenchmen offered their services, since members of these fascist and collaborationist groups were described as "not belonging to the best moral and intellectual circles." The German sabotage unit in Lille (Abwehr Trupp 428), for example, recruited most of its 20 to 80 French V-men from the fascist "Popular Party" and Francists. These men averaged 21 years in age and were dissatisfied members of the lower classes. Many later sought refuge in Germany.

[American officers are shown inspecting a sabotage box filled with supplies for German agents and V-men.]
American officers are shown inspecting a sabotage box filled with supplies for German agents and V-men. The Germans laid many of these depots in Western Europe, but their saboteurs had little opportunity to utilize the supplies. U.S. forces recovered most of the dumps.

All agents and soldiers of groups which participated in, or had any knowledge of, Operation Easter Egg were repeatedly pledged to secrecy. They were forced to sign special security pledges. This requirement extended from the front to the inner offices of Canaris and Himmler in Berlin. (When Allied bombing of Berlin assumed dangerous proportions, there was large-scale exodus of Abwehr offices to Zossen and Potsdam.)


The first series of depots was installed in Brittany and Normandy. At least 70 boxes of sabotage equipment were buried in Normandy, among them one near Le Havre. Usually the sites were selected near a road passable by automobile or truck. These sites were invariably marked by a conspicuous tree, bridge, house, or similar object whose permanence as an identifying reference point could be presumed.

Later, depots were established in southern France, and in the Departments Nord and Pas de Calais in northwest France. The extensiveness of the depot system is further emphasized by caches in the northeast, near Dizon, Besancon, and Bar-le-Duc. It is probable that depots were also hidden in other areas of France, Belgium, and Holland, and in Germany on the left bank of the Rhine. Toward the end of 1944, according to a captured German, there was talk of establishing depots near the Hundsrueck Hoehenstrasse superhighway. According to oral reports, depots were also situated at Fort Carnot near Lille.


German policy for establishment of these depots strongly prescribed utmost secrecy. Preliminary reconnaissance of the strategic area was undertaken to select exact depot sites. The location chosen was usually near target areas, such as railroad bridges and harbors, which offered not only handy proximity to these sabotage targets but also quick recognition and good natural camouflage possibilities.

[Contents of an Operation Easter Egg depot.]
Contents of an Operation Easter Egg depot: English parachute containers with explosives, time fuzes, time pencils, fog signals, grenade detonators, cordex, and Sten guns with ammunition.

[Incendiary flares were among the sabotage supplies buried by the Germans.]
Incendiary flares were among the sabotage supplies buried by the Germans.

Single trucks made their deliveries of 50 to 100 cases per trip over a period of 2 to 3 weeks. The cargo was buried in places which were earmarked for burying sites by advance reconnaissance. These truck deliveries were made cautiously. Headquarters warned operators of the importance of equipping depots without giving French civilians the slightest knowledge of them. Therefore, it was often necessary to find an excuse to permit digging in broad daylight without arousing suspicion.

Some supply boxes used were the wooden cases dropped by British planes as part of the big metal containers of supplies for British agents. The contents of the German containers were plastic explosive, a few incendiaries, fuzes, detonators, hand grenades, and miscellaneous equipment (see photos). The Germans buried these boxes in the manner prescribed above. In the fall of 1943, an order was issued requiring every container to be buried deep enough to be covered by a layer of soil 2 1/2 inches deep. In the summer of 1944, the Germans apparently ran out of British boxes and started using crates of French manufacture, which were of less sturdy construction.

Photographs, sketches, and descriptions of the depots were incorporated at unit headquarters into depot folders in triplicate. These folders also contained data giving routes to the site, and were distributed as follows: to the Abwehr Kommando (battalion or group) charged with execution of the specific depot; to the Leitstelle II West (regional headquarters at Paris, later moved to Bad Ems and Bad Orb); and to the Abwehr II in Berlin. Presumably most of these folders were destroyed before Germany's surrender. The Germans planned to use the folders in training V-personnel (and possibly Werewolves) so that they could locate the depot sites without much difficulty.


A typical unit prominently active in Operation Easter Egg was the company (Abwehr Trupp 248) which occupied a lot at 110 Rue de Lille in April 1944. A study of this trupp's personnel and activities provides a cross-sectional picture of Operation Easter Egg. The unit operated a training camp in the Chateau Blanc near Lille, on the road to Arras. Here, amidst the misleadingly serene greenery and trees of Chateau Blanc's surrounding parks, both Danish and French V-men received military training. The course included expert instruction in the handling of explosives and indoctrination in infantry duties. The V-men trainees wore German Army uniforms.

Trupp 248 made supply trips to establish depots. The unit functioned under Kommando 213, which was headquartered at Muenster, Westphalia, in the rooms of a seized convent. The group was concerned not with agent operations but with disguised reconnaissance and sabotage at the front.

At the end of June, 1944, Trupp 248 had 20 to 30 V-men. In August the unit was transferred to a Paris suburb, but while it was en route to its new station, the German retreat was in full swing. American troops captured Paris on August 25. Trupp 248 established headquarters east of Reims, and while here it also engaged in counterintelligence activity. This was performed by French V-personnel who, in civilian attire, proceeded to Reims and other neighboring towns under the pretext of trying to make contact with patriotic groups.

[The strongly constructed box shown above was one of 30 filled with supplies and found buried in one area in France.]
The strongly constructed box shown above was one of 30 filled with supplies and found buried in one area in France.

The V-men acted as agents provocateurs. Returning to headquarters, they would don their German uniforms, obtain security police reinforcements, and arrest the "enemies of the Reich." Soon, however, the advancing American troops nipped this activity, and the trupp retired across the German border to its new station at Muelheim on the Mosel.

Leader of Trupp 248 was a jingoistic Captain X, whose civilian occupation had been insurance statistician. I n his early thirties and divorced, he had been a senior colonel in the Nazi Storm Troops. In 1944 he transferred from the infantry to Intelligence, his first assignment being the Abwehr school in Kamenz. He led the company from June 1944 until February 1945 and was awarded the Iron Cross Class I.

After the retreat, when German Intelligence underwent reorganization culminating in Himmler's ascension to full control, Trupp 248 was transferred in November 1944 from Heuhlheim to Schalkenbach. At this time the company failed when ordered to find out the name of the mayor of Aachen, and in an effort to restore his reputation Captain X planned to blow up the Luxembourg transmitter. The action was devised as a military operation with German soldiers in German uniforms. The idea was accepted by regional headquarters, and a group of soldiers was given special infantry and engineer training. At the last moment the action was canceled by higher army headquarters. Later, it was learned that the action probably would have exposed the Ardennes counteroffensive. Among other missions of Trupp 248 was the passing through the lines of French V-men into Luxembourg and the Eifel during the winter of 1944, but most of these saboteurs disappeared. Only one or two of them returned from Luxembourg, with no major results reported.


Weak point of Operation Easter Egg was that not enough V-personnel were available who were familiar with the use of the sabotage materials. Although a great number of depots were outfitted, the German Intelligence Service was handicapped by inefficient field personnel and organic friction. As the war situation deteriorated, so did the Abwehr. The rapidity of the Allied thrusts on the continent complicated training and operational activities of the units engaged in Operation Easter Egg, so that, ultimately, the undertaking failed to accomplish more than the burying of now-forgotten sabotage dumps somewhere beneath the soil of northern France.

[1] Evidence of these sabotage depots is still being literally unearthed in Europe; Allied troops also found many containers of supplies by the Germans in Italy, but this article is concerned chiefly with Operation Easter Egg in the West. For detailed description of sabotage kits and equipment see Tactical and Technical Trends, No. 56. March 1945, and No. 53, December 1944.

[2] German Intelligence Service (Abwehr Dienst) was composed of three main operational sections: Abwehr I, espionage and collection of operational intelligence; Abwehr II, subversion and sabotage; and Abwehr III, counterespionage and security. Abwehr II West participated in Operation Easter Egg.

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