Operation Autonomous, by James O'Fee

Recently I wrote of Richard Wurmbrand's experiences in wartime Romania. I determined then to follow that up by describing Operation Autonomous.

Operation Autonomous: With S.O.E. in Wartime Roumania, Ivor Porter, Chatto and Windus, 1989
shortlisted for the Time-Life/Pen Award for non-fiction

Ivor Porter (born 1913) is an Englishman who became a Lecturer in English in Bucharest before the Second War War. Porter left Romania in 1940, by which time the country had joined the Axis powers.

Porter became an agent of the Special Operations Executive, SOE, whose task was to "set Europe alight" in Churchill's words. In 1943, Porter was parachuted back into Romania, as one of a three-man SOE team whose mission was to overthrow the pro-German government of Marshal Antonescu - the mission whose code-name was 'Operation Autonomous'.

Iuliu Maniu
The team were captured by the Romanian authorities almost immediately. Yet even from prison, they were able to maintain links notably with the politician Iuliu Maniu (1873-1953), who is the real hero of Porter's book.

By this time Axis forces had met with disaster in Russia and elsewhere. In August 1944 the King of Romania engineered a pro-Allied coup which replaced Antonescu.

It had been predicted that Germany could not continue to wage war for more than nine months without Romania, their only source of crude oil. In the event, the German surrender came almost exactly nine months after the Romanian coup. Viewers of the German film, 'Downfall' (shown recently on British television), will appreciate that, even in the last days in his bunker, Hitler was obsessed with regaining Romanian oil.

After the War, Porter entered the Foreign Ofice and went on to become an ambassador. In his retirement he wrote Operation Autonomous and a book on King Michael of Romania.

Another SOE agent was Patrick Leigh Fermor, on whom I have written much on the Impala Publications blog (for example, here). Paddy's field of operations was of course Crete. Before the War, Paddy lived in Romania for a year and became fluent in the Romanian language. Porter mentions Paddy once in Operation Autonomous. Paddy was in hospital in Haifa where Porter visited him. Porter recalls swapping Romanian words with the erudite Paddy by his hospital bedside.

Synopsis of 'Operation Autonomous'
Shortly before the outbreak of World War II, Ivor Porter took a job in Romania teaching English and became so involved in the political events of the capital, Bucharest, that he was to feature later in Olivia Manning's "The Balkan Trilogy". Porter left the country in 1940 when Romania became a satellite of the Axis powers, but returned three years later as part of an SOE plot to overthrow the pro-German government of Marshal Antonescu. Operation Autonomous and the subsequent coup not only hastened the end of the European war by six months, but were to have a profound effect on the post-war settlement of Eastern Europe. Combining the author's own adventures and experiences with detailed military and diplomatic history, this book examines an often neglected but crucial military operation of the war.

from: http://www.impalapublications.com/blog/index.php?/archives/2316-Operation-Autonomous,-by-James-OFee.html

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