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Mincemeat and the Imaginary Man

Early in the morning on the 1st of May 1943, a fisherman on a beach in Spain discovered a waterlogged corpse which had washed ashore during the night. The dead man was clothed in British military attire and a life preserver, and he had a briefcase chained to his lifeless body. Apparently a casualty of an airplane accident at sea, the body was transported to the local port, where its discovery was reported to the Nazi officials stationed in the city of Huelva.

From his personal effects, the man was identified as Major William Martin, a temporary captain and acting major in the British Royal Marines. Rather than allowing possible military intelligence to go unintercepted, the local agents for the Abwehr— the German intelligence organization— coaxed the briefcase open to examine its contents. Inside, along with the man’s personal effects, the Nazis discovered a personal correspondence between Lt. Gen. Sir Archibald Nye, vice chief of the Imperial General Staff, and General Sir Harold Alexander, the British commander in North Africa. This letter described key details of the Allies’ plans to invade Nazi-held territory. It seemed that luck was favoring Germany; but the discovery ultimately resulted in disaster for the Nazis.

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