Operation Knight's Move: German Airborne Raid Against Tito, 25 May 1944

Operation Knight's Move: German Airborne Raid Against Tito, 25 May 1944
Operation Knight's Move: German Airborne Raid Against Tito, 25 May 1944
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Studies in Battle. Marine Corps University Press. Tells the story of a unique military operation by the Germans to oust Balkan guerrilla chief Josip Broz, "Marshall Tito."

This, the first of a new Studies in Battle series from Marine Corps University Press, is a study of the German Army’s World War II airborne attempt to capture Yugoslavian leader Josip Broz “Marshal Tito.”

With Unternehmen Rösselsprung (Operation Knight’s Move), the late Yugoslav president’s career might have been ended by the Germans on his 52d birthday, 25 May 1944. On that date, Axis forces executed an airborne raid on the Yugoslav Partisan high command at Drvar, Bosnia, that almost succeeded in eliminating Tito. Today, it provides an example of using light infantry in low-intensity or special operations, with unforeseen consequences similar to those experienced by others against irregular opponents.

The Studies in Battle series from Marine Corps University Press presents cases for analysis from across the military spectrum that have relevance for current operations and professional military education, particularly for junior leaders. The books also tell a good story that can be read with interest by all.

About the Author

Charles D. “Chuck” Melson is the chief historian for the U.S. Marine Corps, with the Marine Corps University at Quantico, Virginia. He is married with two children. He has been a history lecturer, museum director, consultant, and military officer. His education includes degrees in liberal arts from St. John’s College, Annapolis, Maryland, and in history and fine arts from Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, California. He has previously written on this subject and other aspects of World War II in Yugoslavia for the Journal of Slavic Military Studies.


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Table of Contents

Table of Contents:

Operation Knight’s Move
Preface and Acknowledgments iii
Introduction 1
Knight’s Move 2
Origins of the Raid 11
The Plan 14
The Airborne Raid 16
Partisan Picture 25
Execution, X-Day 27
0700—Airborne assault wave reaches the objective 31
0930—Drvar occupied, main attempt to capture Tito 39
1000—Battle group moves to the southwest 44
1200—The second wave arrives 46
1800—Battalion withdraws to cemetery 47
2130—Cemetery position occupied 49
Execution, X-Day plus 1 50
0330—Enemy attacks repulsed 51
0600—Direct air support resumes 51
0700 to 1000—Link-up with ground forces 52
Analysis 54
Appendix: 500/600th SS–Parachute Battalion Chronology 63
Notes 65


This publication would be useful to the military's analysis community, civilian leaders, military commanders and staff officers at all levels, policymakers, members of government and defense agencies/contractors, and members of military-focused committees interested in historical military operations/logistics/outcomes.  This publication would also be useful to historians and students engaged with historical/political/military studies.

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Defense Dept., Navy, Marine Corps University Press
  • Melson, Charles D.
Key Phrases:
  • Studies in Battle Series
  • Knight's Move: German Airborne Raid Against Tito, 25 May 1944
  • Tito, Marshal
  • Germany
  • World War 2
  • Aviation History
  • Naval History
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