Operation Mincemeat - How a Dead Secret Agent Made the Invasion of Sicily Possible




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Allied intelligence strategists during World War II began to plan the invasion of Europe toward the end of the North Africa campaign.  The first strategic initiative of this next big phase of the way was to neutralize the German defenses in the island of Sicily.  This was no small task because the island was difficult to approach the Germans were well entrenched on the island so it was well defended by land, sea and air.


The best strategy to be able to invade Sicily without incurring terrible loses was to divert the German defenses by convincing them that the Allies were going to invade Greece or the Balkans which would cause a movement of troops and military defenses and open a window of opportunity to win in Sicily.  The plan that was devised made use of a secret agent who had a particular attribute that made him a perfect method for creating that distraction.  That attribute was that this particular secret agent was dead before he got his assignment. 

The ingenious plan was devised by two English intelligence agents, Sir Archibald Cholmondley and Ewen Montagu.  The plan was as elegantly simple as it was peculiar.  They proposed to dress and outfit a dead body so it would be discovered by German intelligence and they would become convinced from the paperwork on the body that an invasion was eminent in a location that was false.  If the plan worked, The German High Command would rush armed support to the false front and leave Sicily open for attack.


The subterfuge was entitled “Operation Mincemeat” and meticulous detail was made to locate a suitable dead body who would serve to deliver the message and to create an identity for the false Allied officer that would fool the Germans.  Tremendous care was put into the uniform and paperwork that the ruse would be carrying when he was found so he was a completely believable casualty of war and that the paperwork found on him would be considered authentic.

The body that was used never was learned by historians but we know that proper permission was gained from the family.  The false identification of Captain William Martin was given to the corpse and Cholmondley and Montagu left no detail out even creating an elaborate personal life for the dead secret agent including a fiancé along with pictures and letters.  On April 19, 1943, the body was released into the waters from a submarine off the coast of Spain.  To support the story being delivered by the corpse, a false announcement of the lost of Captain Martin were published and World War II intelligence agencies even staged a mock funeral.

Because Allied secret service had cracked the German Enigma code, they were able to monitor Axis communications with great precision.  They learned that the trick had worked perfectly.  On May 12, 1943, German High Command engineered a massive move of arms, aircraft and military firepower from Sicily to Greece and Sardinia where the dead secret agent had told them the next invasion would occur. 
On July 9th, the invasion of Sicily occurred and the Allies swarmed onto the island with relatively little resistance.  While fighting did go on for several weeks, the operation was a total success. Thousands of lives were saved and the Allies enjoyed a tremendous victory because a dead secret agent who never was a secret agent changed the course of the battle in favor of the Allies.





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