Operation Mincemeat

// Information about the Operation Mincemeat.


// 

At the moment that the North Africa campaign had successfully ended, the next strategic target of the Allies was Sicily. Situated in the middle of the Mediterranean, the island served as an intermediate point between North Africa and the occupied Europe. However, the mountainous terrain favored the defenders of Sicily. The Allies had to keep absolutely secret the points for landing on the island. However, this was not enough, as the defenders of the island could predict these possible points for landing, reinforcing them in order to able to defeat any invading force. 

The solution to this problem was found by two British officers, Ewen Montagu and Sir Archibald Cholmondley. Cholmondley was the first to suggest the attachment to a boday of fake documents from the Allies, letting them fall into German hands. 

The trick was simple enough, being the difficult part to deceive the Germans. First, it was mandatory to prevent the Germans suspect from huge preparations for the invasion of Sicily in Operation Husky. Then it was necessary that the German secret services did not discover any flaws in the plan, which could lead to the strengthening of the defenses on the Sicily island. Despite all this, Montagu believed it would be harder to convince the Allied responsibles that the plan would work than to fool the Germans. 

It was a very complex plan. The first problem was how to how to deliver the body to the Germans. Initially, it was considered that the best way to do that would be to drop the body from a parachute partially destroyed. However, this would not be convincing since it was extremely rare that a crewmember of an airplane would be in possession of secret documents. Apart from this, there was also the problem with the autopsy that would reveal that the body was already dead long before reaching the enemy territory. On the other hand, the Germans would not find it strange that a body floating on the sea had died long before being rescued. Therefore, this solution would eliminate the problem of whether the body carrying top secret documents in enemy territory. 

Montagu's team decided that the body would be a Allied mailman killed when the plane crashed into the sea and later going ashore. The secret services used a submarine that could put the body the closest to the coast without being detected. Taking into account both the close relationship between the governments of Spain and Germany as well as the strong presence of German military intelligence (Abwehr) in Spain, the Spanish coast was a good solution. 

Then came the problem of finding a body that would serve the purpose, with age, appearance and cause of death to the appropriate outlined plan. The search for a body with the desired characteristics had to be done very careful, to provide minimal information about his future use of to the German secret services could not figure out the plan. Being about to give up, the team responsible for the operation has learned of a man with 34 years old who had died of pneumonia. In addition to the cause of death, this man's lungs were filled with fluid, reinforcing the idea that the man would have been adrift at sea for several days. Montagu consulted forensic pathologist Sir Bernard Spillsbury, that said the fluid that was found in the lungs of the dead was not much different from the fluid to be expected in the lungs of someone who remained floating on the sea for a while. Spillsbury also told him: You have nothing to fear from a Spanish post-mortem examination, to detect that this young man did not die after plane crashes at sea would be necessary to a pathologist with my experience, and there are none in Spain. 
 

 

Later, Montagu discreetly contacted the family of the deceased, gave them the assurance that the body would be used for a patriotic cause, and that would eventually receive a dignified burial, though under another name. The family consented to the condition that the true identity of the dead man would never be released. With all this, the Montagu's team came to the conclusion that it would be possible to carry out the operation. However, such an operation would need a name, having, as is typical macabre British humor, the name chosen Mincemeat. 

The next step would be to create a new identity for the body. Initially, it was thought to be an officer from the army, however, the bureaucratic procedure for dead identification was very complex and it was not leakproof. It was not possible to be a Navy mail, since there was great difficulty in finding a uniform. Thus, it was considered that the body belonged to the Royal Marines. However, there was another problem with the fact that the Royal Marines correspond, even in war time, to a very small group whose members were very close. With this, it was decided that the body was from a Captain (acting as Major) named William Martin, a name common among the soldiers of this unit. 

Having already a name and a title, the Montagu's team needed to work more on the identity of Major Martin, making him a real person. For this, a bride was associated with him, with photographs and love letters, all arranged by the secretaries of the Department of Montagu. With the Major would have a letter from his father, bills, keys, matches, coins, theater tickets and many other objects in the pockets of a normal man. The dates of theater tickets, bills and letters were carefully coordinated with the alleged departure from England. Finally, the team found a living person whose appearance was fairly similar to the dead. It was photographed in order to create a fake identity card. To strengthen the neglected side of the personality of Martin, the new identity card was marked as in place of the lost No. 09650. Interestingly, the original number was the actual number of identification of Montagu. 

While the operation was not carried out, the body was preserved in a cold room. Then began the phase of creating the false top secret documents to be carried in the trunk of Major Martin. The XX Committee decided that in order to convince the Germans that the Allied invasion would not occur on the island Sicily, the documents would have to say that the Allies would invade Sardinia first, then setting one of two starting points for the attack on Sicily. It was decided to also include plans for the landing of Allied troops in the Balkans and nearby Kalamata, Greece. 

Plans for the alleged invasion were reported in a personal letter from a senior officer to another high Allied official. Montagu decided that the letter should be written by General Sir Achibald Nye, deputy chief of staff of the Imperial General Staff, to General Sir Harold Alexander, the British commander in North Africa under the command of General Dwight D.Eisenhower. In the letter, Nye explained the reason of the Eisenhower request for the operation of  coverage centered on the Greek islands have been denied. This hedging operation had been planned to be launched from Egypt by Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson, the commander in the Middle East. 

The letter would be used for two purposes. One was to suggest that the two operations would be launched in the Mediterranean (one on East and one on West). It also served to identify the operation of Sicily as a real cover operation in the West. This meant that Sardinia was the target to the West and mainland Greece and the Balkans were the target in the East. 

In order to support the letter from Nye, Major Martin also had a second letter from Lord Louis Mountbatten, Chief of Combined Operations, to Admiral Cunningham, Commander Chief of Naval Operations in the Mediterranean. The letter stated the purpose of the visit of Major Martin in the role of an expert in amphibious operations borrowed from Mountbatten to the planning of operations in the Mediterranean. To present Martin, Mountbatten mentions that Martin had succeeded in attacking Dieppe, despite the failure of the officers in charge of ground operations. This would be the first time that British forces admitted that the attack on Dieppe was anything but a success. Mountbatten's letter also contained an additional comment on the fact that the sardines are being rationed in England, corresponding to a word game for the Sardinia islandSuch wordplay was a bait which, according to Montagu, the Germans would not resist not to bite. 

Major Martin left England for the last time April 19, 1943, in a brass container with dry ice on board of the submarine HMS Seraph commanded by Lieutenant Commander (later Admiral) NA Jewell. Days after the departure, an RAF aircraft attacked the Seraph by mistake doing making operation to end in almost in a disaster. Just before dawn on April 30, the submarine emerged when he was about a mile from the Spanish coast near Huelva. After the submarine crew brough bringing to the deck the container with Major Martin, Jewel orders them to return to the interior of the submarine, leaving only the senior officers on deck. Until then, Jewel is the only one that knew what was inside the container. Soon the officer explained the purpose of the operation, and after that they prepared the body to be released. They put a lifejacket on the body and put the bag with the documents attached to the body, prayed a Service Corps Burials prayer and threw the body into the water. Even the submarine movement helped the body to move towards the coast. A few hours later, a fishing boat rescued the body carrying it to the port. The agent of the Abwehr from that area did the rest. 

After some diplomatic and bureaucratic delays, the Spanish government finally deliver the mail, apparently unopened, to the embassy of England. Once the documents arrived in London were examined microscopically and has shown that the roles had been handled and, presumably, photocopied. In relation to the body, the Spillsbury predictions were confirmed about the post-mortem tests carried out in Spain. When it was certain that the documents were being analyzed by the German secret services, that was communicated to the Prime Minister Winston Churchill that the minced meat was all eaten. Major Martin was buried a few days later in Huelva with full military honors and surrounded by flowers sent by his supposed fiancee and family. The June 4 edition of The Times reported the death of Martin on the casualty list. The Abwehr had in mind all these aspects. 

The German intelligence considered the documents as authentic. On the May 12, 1943, documents arrived finally at the hands of Adolf Hitler, which delivered the order to give priority to operations in Sardinia and the Peloponnese (Greece) and to strengthen the defenses in Corsica and Sardinia. In addition, Hitler sent an extra Waffen SS brigade to Sardinia, Field Marshal Erwin Rommel to Athens, a Panzer division coming from France and two from Russia to Greece, which worsened the situation on these fronts in particular Russian front. Simultaneously, the Germans were preparing for the clash at Kursk. 

When the Allies invaded Sicily they met with Italian and German troops almost completely unprepared. The Allies landed on the south coast of Sicily, and the defenses of the island were more present on the north coast facing the island of Sardinia. A large part of Italian divisions was crushed immediately. The Germans, under the command of Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, began a determined resistance, but eventually pulled out to Messina. On August 17, 1943 Sicily was taken by the Seventh Army under General George Patton and the Eighth Army Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, proving that Operation Mincemeat was a resounding success. 

After several decades of operation, the speculation about the true identity of the man who never was began. The British historian Roger Morgan, after 16 years of research, published a book which claims that man's body that was used for Operation Mincemeat corresponded to Glyndwr Michael, a bum, son of illiterate parents of the Welsh mining town and not had done nothing positive throughout his life. However, speculation has not stopped, coming to say that this man had committed suicide with rat poison or had died with a liver disease. It was speculated also that the body found in Huelva cemetery as William Martin actually corresponds to a sailor who died after the British submarine HMS Dasher which was being attacked by mistake by friendly forces on 27 March 1973, indicating that the supposed body of the Major Martin to have been sent England.