Saturday Scenes

Thu 6 May 2010

Operation Mincemeat

Filed under: #satscene —— Sylvia @ 10:12

On the 1st of May in 1943, a fisherman found a waterlogged corpse on a Spanish beach near Huelva. The corpse was dressed in British military attire and had a briefcase chained to his wrist. He was identified as Major William Martin of the British Royal Marines. The Spanish passed the body and the briefcase back to the British but first they gave German intelligence agents a chance to go through the paperwork. The briefcase included correspondence to the Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean detailing Operation Husky: plans for an Allied invasion of Europe via Sardinia, Corsica and Greece.

Mincemeat and the Imaginary Man

Upon learning of the letter, Adolph Hitler took decisive action based on the information it disclosed. On May 12, he sent out an order: “Measures regarding Sardinia and the Peloponnese take precedence over everything else.” He diverted significant defenses away from Sicily to the indicated points of hostile ingress, including an extra Waffen SS brigade, several Panzer divisions, patrol boats, minesweepers, and minelayers. But when the day of the attack came, all was relatively quiet on the beaches of Sardinia, Corsica, and Greece. The Germans had fallen for an elaborate deception designed to draw Nazi defenses away from the true Allied target: Sicily. Major Martin – the dead man the fisherman found on the beach – never existed.

The idea to plant false military documents on a dead man and let them fall into the hands of the Germans was conceived by Lt. Cmdr. Ewen Montagu at British naval intelligence. His was a variation of an earlier idea proposed by Flight Lt. Charles Cholmondeley of the counter-intelligence service MI5. Cholmondeley had suggested that a wireless radio could be placed on a dead soldier whose parachute was rigged to appear to have failed, which would provide the Allies with a channel to provide disinformation to the enemy. But his plan was deemed impractical, so Montagu’s death-at-sea ruse was implemented instead, and dubbed Operation Mincemeat.

The British had only insisted on the return of the body to further the hoax. It was successful: the Germans spent weeks anticipating an attack that never came. Meanwhile, the real Operation Husky conquered Sicily with ease, as the bulk of the German forces had been moved out.

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