Operation Mincemeat

major martin

Operation Mincemeat was a successful British deception plan during World War II. As part of Operation Barclay, a plan to cover the intended invasion of Italy from North Africa, Mincemeat helped to convince the German high command that the Allies planned to invade Greece and Sardinia in 1943 instead of Sicily, the actual objective.

This was accomplished by persuading the Germans that they had, by accident, intercepted ‘top secret’ documents giving details of Allied war plans. The documents were attached to a corpse deliberately left to wash up on a beach in Punta Umbría in Spain.

In 1996 Roger Morgan, an amateur historian, uncovered evidence that corpse was Glyndwr Michael, a Welsh alcoholic vagrant, allegedly from Aberbargoed, whose name is mentioned on the War Memorial of that village and who died of ingesting rat poison. He had died on 28 January 1943 at St Pancras Hospital, but the corpse was kept refrigerated in the morgue until the mission was ready. Once at sea the body was preserved by placing it in a sealed canister containing dry ice, which prevented oxygen from causing decomposition.

The body was fitted with a life jacket and a briefcase containing the phony war plans, and cast overboard from the British submarine, Seraph. Only hours later the it was found by Spanish fishermen. Three days later, the British Naval Attaché in Spain reported the body’s discovery and it was was buried in Huelva, Spain with full military honors, and listed among the British casualties as Major Martin in The Times.

To further the ruse, the Admiralty sent several messages to the Naval Attaché about the papers which Major Martin had been carrying. The Attaché was urgently directed to locate the papers, and if they were in Spanish hands to recover them at all costs, but also to avoid alerting the Spanish to their importance. Within days the transcript of the plans had been discovered by Nazi intelligence operatives in Spain and radioed back to Berlin.

Adolf Hitler was so convinced of the veracity of the bogus documents that he disagreed with Benito Mussolini that Sicily would be the most likely invasion point, insisting that any incursion against the island should be regarded as a feint. German defensive efforts were substantially redirected: reinforcements were sent to Greece, Sardinia and Corsica instead of Sicily. The renowned general Erwin Rommel was sent to Greece to assume overall command.

On July 9, the Allies invaded Sicily in Operation Husky. The Germans remained convinced for two more weeks that the main attacks would be in Sardinia and Greece, and kept forces out of action there till it was too late. The success of Operation Mincemeat also had the effect of causing the Germans to disregard later genuine document finds.

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