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
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,
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.
SABOTAGE NETWORK INVOLVED
To expedite the operation, which in the spring of 1944 was renamed
Verpflegungsaktion (supply action), all German Intelligence
Service sabotage groups 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. 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.)
LOCATION OF THE DEPOTS
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.
PLANNING AND LAYOUT
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: 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.|
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
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
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 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.
 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.
 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.