Friday, June 4, 2010

Interesting random piece of History 2

Picture the time. It's Spring 1943. The Germans have been defeated in North Africa. The western Allies are under severe pressure from the Stalin to open a second front to relieve pressure on the Red Army. However the military leadership in London is convinced that a major cross channel invasion of western Europe will not be possible for at least another year. However action must be taken and it is decided, since the allies have come to dominate the Mediterranean that a lesser invasion of southern Europe would suffice for the time being. But where, Greece, the Balkans, Italy ? After much debate and division between the British and the Americans it was decided to invade Italy via Sicily in order to knock Hitler's ally out of the war. Thus began arguably the most clandestine operation of the war the aim of which was to convince the Germans that the allies were not intending to invade Italy, but somewhere else in the Mediterranean. This operation became known as Operation Mincemeat.

Operation Mincemeat was a plan hatched in London to deceive the Germans into thinking that the allied army massing in North Africa was about to invade Greece. An elaborate plan was created to do this. The body of a homeless man was taken from a London morgue. Naval intelligence then invented a persona. Major William Martin of the Royal Marines was 36 and from Cardiff Wales. The fictional Major Martin was place in a British Submarine which set sail for the Spanish coast. On the night of April the 19th the corpse of Major Martin was placed in a torpedo tube and when the vessel was about 2 miles from the town of Huelva near the southern Spanish border with Portugal, his body was shot out into the sea. The intention that the Pro German Spanish authorities would find the body once it washed up on shore.

Attached to Major Martin's body by a metal chain with a brief case. Inside the brief case were love letters and a photograph from Major Martin's fiancee Pam. Other documents in his possession were a solicitors letter and a letter from his bank manager demanding payment of an overdraft. Every effort was made to make Major Martin appear to be a real British serviceman who had likely lost his life in an air crash. Naval intelligence even placed his death on notice in the local newspapers (above) in case German intelligence would check up on him. However the most important aspect of the ruse concerned the confidential documents in the brief case which contained detailed plans for Operation Huskey, the fictional allied invasion of Greece. The Germans swallowed it whole and reinforcements were sent to Greece. On the 9th of July the allies invaded Sicily. For two weeks the Germans were reluctant to send large numbers of troops to Sicily believing that the real invasion of Greece was still coming. In September the allies invaded the Italian mainland, upon which Mussolini was overthrown and the Italians began to turn on the occupying Germans. Operation Mincemeat was one one of the greatest successes in the history of clandestine warfare.


Paul said...

Ted, an interesting one for your interest in ww2 have you read Guy Sajer's 'The Forgotten Soldier'? It's a classic although there is a debate as to its veracity. I read it again recently and hope to add a review to my site when I get the time.

Ted Leddy said...

Thanks for the recommendation Paul

I will look out for Sajer's book.