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Mincemeat and the Imaginary Man

Article #179 • Written by Alan Bellows

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.

Within days, the body was turned over to the British military, and he was buried with full military honors in Huelva. But the British Admiralty demanded the return of the documents, emphasizing discretion due to their sensitive nature. The government of Spain was compelled to respond because the country was technically a neutral party in the war, although they were sympathetic to the Nazi cause. The documents were indeed returned to the British military thirteen days later, but not before the German Abwehr agents teased open the sealed letters, photographed the entire contents of the briefcase, and resealed the envelopes to alleviate suspicion that the letter's contents had been discovered. The photographic evidence was then rushed to Berlin, where the images were carefully analyzed.

Wary of a ruse, German intelligence examined the officer's personal effects in great detail. His possessions included numerous benign items such as a photograph and love letters from his fiancée, a set of keys, recently used ticket stubs for a theater performance, a hotel bill, etc. A close inspection and investigation strongly suggested that these items were genuine, indicating that Major William Martin and the documents on his person were authentic. A second letter in the dead man's possession-- this one from the Chief of Combined Operations to the Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean-- contained text indicating that Major Martin was carrying a letter too sensitive to be sent through normal channels, hence the need for him to fly.

By all appearances, the Axis powers had stumbled upon extremely valuable intelligence, unbeknownst to the Allies; a letter which indicated exactly which beaches the Axis powers would need to reinforce in order to repel the Allied invaders. The document discussed key details of "Operation Husky," a secret Allied plan to invade Nazi Europe by way of Sardinia, Corsica, and Greece. It also described a plan to prepare a false attack upon Sicily-- the location where Germany expected the Allies to attack-- as a way of drawing German forces away from the true invasion site.

Upon learning of the letter, Adolph Hitler took decisive action based on the information it disclosed. On May 12, he sent out an order: "Measures regarding Sardinia and the Peloponnese take precedence over everything else." He diverted significant defenses away from Sicily to the indicated points of hostile ingress, including an extra Waffen SS brigade, several Panzer divisions, patrol boats, minesweepers, and minelayers. But when the day of the attack came, all was relatively quiet on the beaches of Sardinia, Corsica, and Greece. The Germans had fallen for an elaborate deception designed to draw Nazi defenses away from the true Allied target: Sicily. Major Martin-- the dead man the fisherman found on the beach-- never existed.

The idea to plant false military documents on a dead man and let them fall into the hands of the Germans was conceived by Lt. Cmdr. Ewen Montagu at British naval intelligence. His was a variation of an earlier idea proposed by Flight Lt. Charles Cholmondeley of the counter-intelligence service MI5. Cholmondeley had suggested that a wireless radio could be placed on a dead soldier whose parachute was rigged to appear to have failed, which would provide the Allies with a channel to provide disinformation to the enemy. But his plan was deemed impractical, so Montagu's death-at-sea ruse was implemented instead, and dubbed Operation Mincemeat.

Montagu's team quietly procured the body of a 34-year-old man who had recently died with pneumonia, whose lungs already contained fluid as a drowned man's would. The family of the deceased granted permission to use the body for this mission on the condition that the man's identity never be revealed. As the body waited in cold storage, the fictional life of Major William Martin was fabricated in great detail by the Twenty Committee (often referred to by the roman numeral XX or "double-cross"). The corpse was given identification, keys, personal letters, and other possessions. In order to explain why the man would be found chained to his briefcase, Montagu's team planted evidence suggesting that Major Martin was an absent-minded but responsible chap, including overdue bills and a replacement ID card. Such a man might chain himself to a briefcase full of sensitive documents in order to prevent its loss during the flight.

On 28 April 1943, Major Martin was placed aboard the submarine HMS Seraph in a special steel canister packed with dry ice. The crew set off for the coast of Spain, where it was likely that a citizen of the Axis-aligned country would locate the body and report it to authorities. After two days at sea, the submarine surfaced about a mile off the coast of Spain at 4:30 in the morning. Believing that the heavy canister contained top secret meteorological equipment, members of the crew carried it on deck, after which point everyone aside from the officers was ordered below deck. There in the dark, Lt. Norman L.A. (Bill) Jewell, the commander of Seraph, explained the mission and swore the men to secrecy. Major Martin's body was then removed from the canister onto the deck, where he was fitted with his life jacket and chained to his briefcase. The men read the 39th Psalm and committed the body to the sea, where the tide gradually drew it ashore.

Once the body was discovered, Britain's requests for the return of the briefcase helped complete the illusion that there was sensitive information contained therein. To further the hoax, Montagu arranged to have Major Martin's name included on the next British casualty list in The Times. When the documents were finally returned to the British two weeks later, microscopic examination revealed that the Germans had indeed opened and resealed the letters. Additionally, German transmissions decrypted by Ultra indicated that the Nazis were moving forces to defend Sardinia, Corsica, and Greece. This news prompted a brief cable to Winston Churchill to inform him of the success: "Mincemeat Swallowed Whole."

On 09 July 1943, Allied forces launched the real Operation Husky, and struck the southern tip of Sicily. They swiftly conquered the island, meeting very little resistance given that the bulk of the German forces had been moved away from the area. For the following two weeks the Germans continued to anticipate Husky landings in Sardinia and Greece that never came. By the time they realized that they had been duped, German forces had no chance to regroup effectively, and therefore retreated to Messina. Within a month, the entire island of Sicily was under Allied control.

"Glyndwr Michael served as Major William Martin, R.M."
"Glyndwr Michael served as Major William Martin, R.M."

Montagu's deception was executed adeptly, and it succeeded brilliantly. The action proved highly valuable in the Allies' cause, giving them control of a strategically important location and contributing indirectly to the fall of Mussolini. For his part in the operation, Montagu was awarded with the Military Order of the British Empire, and he later wrote a book about the operation, titled The Man Who Never Was.

In the intervening years there has been much investigation and speculation into the true identity of Major William Martin. Due to the findings of amateur historian Roger Morgan in 1996, the Man Who Never Was is now believed by many to be Glyndwr Michael, a Welsh vagrant who died after ingesting rat poison and subsequently suffering chemical pneumonia. The markings at his burial place have been updated to show Glyndwr's name on the tombstone, however not everyone is convinced that he really was Major Martin. There are some pieces to the story which don't quite seem to fit, such as the length of time between Glyndwr's death and the execution of Operation Mincemeat. Additionally, the HMS Seraph took a long detour before heading to the Spanish coast, causing some to suspect that it was retrieving a body from elsewhere, possibly one of the victims of an accident onboard the HMS Dasher.

Considering the deliberate efforts to protect the true identity of Major Martin at the time, and given the number of years that have passed since his death, it is quite possible that we'll never know his real name with any certainty. Whoever he was, his body certainly did an incalculable service for its country.

Article written by Alan Bellows, published on 09 May 2006. Alan is the founder/designer/head writer/managing editor of Damn Interesting.

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73 Comments
Prince
Posted 09 May 2006 at 02:34 am

three things.

1) how can you get pneumonia from rat poison?
2) what was/is Ultra?
3) If his name was never to be revealed, how exactly did Rodger Morgan come to the conclusion that Major Martin was Glyndwr Michael?


apology
Posted 09 May 2006 at 03:43 am

1) chemically induced pneumonia. usually caused by aspiration of lung tissue-irritating substances.

2) Ultra (sometimes capitalized ULTRA) was the name used by the British for intelligence resulting from decryption of German communications in World War II. The term eventually became the standard designation in both Britain and the United States for all intelligence from high-level cryptanalytic sources. The name arose because the code-breaking success was considered more important than the highest security classification available at the time (Most Secret) and so was regarded as being Ultra Secret.

3) I would suppose he based his conclusion on whatever military/administrative documents available or still in existence (death records and so on) or possibly testimonies of mlitary personel that participated in the operation. It's stated that it can't be said for sure that it was Glyndwr Michael, it's only one assumption.


Mark
Posted 09 May 2006 at 04:16 am

I love stories like that!

I think it's a good thing that they're not sure, after all the family did want his identity kept secret.


another viewpoint
Posted 09 May 2006 at 04:53 am

Here, here...bravo...touche'...Excellent story! Way to go DI!!!

I'm with Mark on the previous comment...the family wanted the name of their son kept a secret...let it ride.

Just goes to show...war is hell...no matter how deceitful you have to be. Here's one instance where it pays NOT to tell the truth. ...but it sounds like the chaps in MI5 missed their true calling...they could have been writers for TV/movie shows.


ballaerina
Posted 09 May 2006 at 05:12 am

That was damn interesting! I wonder if this is the only incidence where we've tried to pull something like this. I can imagine it could be effective in the future, granted that the opposing party had never heard of Operation Mincemeat.


RichVR
Posted 09 May 2006 at 05:35 am

ballaerina said: I wonder if this is the only incidence where we've tried to pull something like this.

No, it isn't. But if I told you about the rest, I'd have to kill you. ;-)


angevinej
Posted 09 May 2006 at 05:57 am

There is a great movie from 1956 called the "The Man Who Never Was" that tells this story, it is based on a 1954 book by the same name.


Chris
Posted 09 May 2006 at 06:08 am

Fascinating........and most interesting. A virtual "Mission Impossible" leading one to a perceived conclusion and in reality, is deceptive to encourage the needed reaction. I am sure there are other stories like this out there.


another viewpoint
Posted 09 May 2006 at 06:25 am

However, in the world today, is there any way to turn OFF the media broadcasters from telling the world what the military is up to at any one time? I have to believe that our enemies get some of their best info and "intelligence" from watching CNN nightly news...for your convenience, beamed directly to you anywhere in the world. Thank you very much.


Dave
Posted 09 May 2006 at 06:59 am

Then, again, given the accuracy of some of the reporting from some of the major media (whether due to false information being supplied, or sloppy reporting), one wonders whether our enemies wouldn't do better by flipping a coin.

Dave


cmanda
Posted 09 May 2006 at 08:45 am

Wow, very neat. I love hearing stories about government plots during wartime. Most of them fail, but it is cool to read one that worked.


Jono
Posted 09 May 2006 at 09:56 am

ballaerina said: "That was damn interesting! I wonder if this is the only incidence where we've tried to pull something like this. I can imagine it could be effective in the future, granted that the opposing party had never heard of Operation Mincemeat."

This happened with the invasion of Europe, too. The Allies "lost" a lot of "documents" that told of their plans to invade France at Pas-de-Calais (across the Channel from Dover) instead of in Normandy. This duped Field Marshal Rommel into fortifying defenses at Pas-de-Calais, not Normandy. It's all in Stephen Ambose's book "D-Day." I forget the name of the operation, but it would also make for a good article.


Christ
Posted 09 May 2006 at 10:17 am

Prince said: "three things.


1) how can you get pneumonia from rat poison?
2) what was/is Ultra?
3) If his name was never to be revealed, how exactly did Rodger Morgan come to the conclusion that Major Martin was Glyndwr Michael?"

1. Maybe, like, the rat started scratching and biteing the inside of his lungses and they bled and he drowned in his own lung-blood. That's pneumonia, right? 2. Konami used to make some games under the ULTRA brand name. They be doing that because back in the day Nintendo limited developers to selling five games a year as a quality control thing. So, some companies had some other companies to acompany them so they could be making, like, 10 mo'-effin' games a mo'-effin' year, dog! Nintendo was trying to be limiting them fools because of how bad that ET game for the 2600 was. Some games that wuz being published under that ULTRA be: Metal Gear, Pirates!, and Star Trek or Die 3. They where lovers.


alias
Posted 09 May 2006 at 11:04 am

I'm surprised the Germans fell for the trick, it seemed pretty obvious to me what was going on from the beginning of the article, the chaining of the breifcase to Major Martins body is the give away, even though they gave an explanation as to why it was chained on (absent minded but responsible). That was the biggest hint that this was a setup because that would be the only way to plant the briefcase in the germans hands if the body was to float over water, and yet the germans beleived it. It seems an obvious trick.


kysportsfan
Posted 09 May 2006 at 11:28 am

This story is very interesting. However, after a period of several years after the War, why wouldn't the family want everyone to know the true identification of this "soldier"? It looks like there would be some type of formal military recognition for the role this man played in helping the Allies win the War. I understand the family's right to privacy, but what if this was the single event that won the War in the European theatre? Wouldn't this man and his family's heritage be forever remembered in the history books?


szac
Posted 09 May 2006 at 11:35 am

I had just listened to a great podcast about this here: Matt's Today in History Podcast (Operation Mincemeat) so it was nice to have some photos to go along with it. Thanks!


S Mirza
Posted 09 May 2006 at 12:28 pm

alias said: "I'm surprised the Germans fell for the trick, it seemed pretty obvious to me what was going on from the beginning of the article, the chaining of the breifcase to Major Martins body is the give away, even though they gave an explanation as to why it was chained on (absent minded but responsible). That was the biggest hint that this was a setup because that would be the only way to plant the briefcase in the germans hands if the body was to float over water, and yet the germans beleived it. It seems an obvious trick."

If you had a chance to end the war early for your side, would you do it? The excitement caused by something so useful would have made them blind to the most obvious facts. Almost everyone has a story of how they miss obvious things.


bryon
Posted 09 May 2006 at 12:51 pm

It's hard to believe that Hitler fell for this. If this was the plot for a movie, it would be laughable. Was there that much honor between leaders that one would expect the other NOT to read "sensitive" documents they happened upon? You would think that Hitler would have expected the British to assume he read the documents and that the secrets therein would have been breeched. Therefore, he should have assumed the British would have changed the secret plans.


Radish
Posted 09 May 2006 at 01:48 pm

I can imagine it could be effective in the future, granted that the opposing party had never heard of Operation Mincemeat.

A simalar operation was launched to conseal the location of the d-day landings called operation fortitude the plan included the creation of phantom armies complete with names and insignias as well as inflatable tanks jeeps and ships that could be assembled or dematled easily from the air the dummy equipment looked real and the germans were fooled into moving a bout an entire tank divsion and many regimentsup north to pas de calais.


Filoviridae
Posted 09 May 2006 at 02:55 pm

kysportsfan said: "This story is very interesting. However, after a period of several years after the War, why wouldn't the family want everyone to know the true identification of this "soldier"? It looks like there would be some type of formal military recognition for the role this man played in helping the Allies win the War. I understand the family's right to privacy, but what if this was the single event that won the War in the European theatre? Wouldn't this man and his family's heritage be forever remembered in the history books?"

He was probably a Nazi sympathizer :D Wouldn't that be hilarious.


EVERYTHINGZEN
Posted 09 May 2006 at 03:33 pm

I agree with some of the other on here, if the family didn't want it to be disclosed, why try to find out?

So are you saying that if your child were molested, sotomized, beaten and held as a hostage for weeks on end that you would be okay, no matter the child's age, for their name to be let into the media's hands? It's not necessarily about the recognition, but what would come thereafter.

Or if you saved a small country from annhilation, would you really want all the publicity that followed? Most people wouldn't. I don't think I would. Great that you're a hero, but maybe secret heroes, the humble few amongst us, would just be appreciated that much more.


white_matter
Posted 09 May 2006 at 03:55 pm

That's cool.

Is there a place on the back of your drivers licence to sign authorizing this upon death?


BloodXBros.
Posted 09 May 2006 at 05:52 pm

There was a massive collaboration to build fake seaport tons on Britains coast so that they would be hit instead of actual town, infact most of WWII was done utalizing espianoge and very sneeky methods, Boeing's development and military research plant was hidden entirely under cleaverly constructed nets that immulated fields and barns rather than a tarmac and huge hangers


BloodXBros.
Posted 09 May 2006 at 05:54 pm

i have shamed myself with illiteracy, and for this i apologize


sierra_club_sux
Posted 09 May 2006 at 06:52 pm

For those of you wondering who would buy into this, the world was a different place back then. Society wasn't quite as "tainted" as it is today.
And as for the briefcase hand-cuffed to himself? Who (however absent-minded) loses a briefcase on an airplane?


jbigdog
Posted 09 May 2006 at 06:57 pm

love it!


Hayley
Posted 09 May 2006 at 08:41 pm

The British (and Americans) are...so cool....


Stuart
Posted 10 May 2006 at 01:35 am

bryon said: "It's hard to believe that Hitler fell for this. If this was the plot for a movie, it would be laughable. Was there that much honor between leaders that one would expect the other NOT to read "sensitive" documents they happened upon? You would think that Hitler would have expected the British to assume he read the documents and that the secrets therein would have been breeched. Therefore, he should have assumed the British would have changed the secret plans."

The body was recovered in Spain and the article states, "Spain was compelled to respond because the country was technically a neutral party in the war," so Hitler might not have had reason to believe that the British would suspect that the plans had come into the hands of German intelligence. Its easy for us in hindsight to see the planting of the body as extremely suspicious and wonder how the Germans could have fallen for such an obvious ruse. But then we are reading about it on 'damninteresting.com' not 'commonoccurance.com' which is exactly what the discovery of a body, washed ashore after a plane crash, was during the war.


MrEleganza
Posted 10 May 2006 at 08:44 am

EVERYTHINGZEN said:

So are you saying that if your child were molested, sotomized, beaten and held as a hostage for weeks on end that you would be okay, no matter the child's age, for their name to be let into the media's hands? It's not necessarily about the recognition, but what would come thereafter.

Wow. That's kinda apples and oranges, isn't it?

sierra_club_sux said:
And as for the briefcase hand-cuffed to himself? Who (however absent-minded) loses a briefcase on an airplane?"

I've left important things on city buses before. And that's stuff that was right next to me, not in an overhead bin as on plane.


wood
Posted 10 May 2006 at 04:02 pm

Regarding rat poison and pneumonia: when people say "rat poison" they normally mean warfarin sodium (which, incidentally, when you given to humans in therapeutic doses, is called Coumadin). Warfarin works by interfering with blood coagulation—with a large enough dose your blood "thins" to the point that you hemorrhage internally. So it's probable that the gentleman to whom we are referring ingested enough warfarin that he experienced significant pulmonary hemorrhage. Pnuemonia, contrary to common wisdom, is nothing more than an excess of fluid in the lungs (one doesn't "catch" pnuemonia, one suffers a pulmonary insult of some kind, whether viral, bacterial or chemical, and develops pnuemonia as a serious secondary symptom), which would be expected in the case of fatal pulmonary hemmorhage.

Just my two cents. Fantastic blog, btw, I read it every day!


Tralith
Posted 10 May 2006 at 07:57 pm

Genius... pure genius. As many of you have brought to light, it would definately have been tough to fabricate into a believable ruse, but apparently the British really knew what they were doing. It is strokes of brilliance like this that really turn the tides in worldwide conflicts such as WWII.


techkid
Posted 11 May 2006 at 12:57 pm

we should try this on canada. maybe we could plant the top secret stuff in an apple pie. they'll be so eager to learn our secret recipe that they'll rip open the pie. then they'll find our "plans" of attack.


sierra_club_sux
Posted 11 May 2006 at 09:00 pm

techkid said: "we should try this on canada. maybe we could plant the top secret stuff in an apple pie. they'll be so eager to learn our secret recipe that they'll rip open the pie. then they'll find our "plans" of attack."

Put it in a box with "Secret Recipe" printed on the sides... ...And have grandmother transporting it in her Buick with Florida tags...


GMBurns
Posted 23 June 2006 at 07:29 am

alias said: "I'm surprised the Germans fell for the trick, it seemed pretty obvious to me what was going on from the beginning of the article, the chaining of the breifcase to Major Martins body is the give away..."


Finding enemy plans that are genuine is a frequent occurence in war (paper, paper everywere, and then everyone running around in panic at a moment's notice). At one US Civil War battle, a Union officer happened to find the Confederate plans for an upcoming battle (Antietam?) wrapped around some cigars _in the Union headquarters!!!
And the plans were genuine!!!
There are numerous other instances in war of one side stumbling onto another's plans, most such instances never get much publicity, so this would not have seemed odd compared to the cigar one.
By the way, soldiers in the US Army (back in my day) were trained to check any enemy dead or prisoners for papers exactly for this reason.


djsteiniii
Posted 01 November 2006 at 06:15 am

Jono said: "This happened with the invasion of Europe, too. The Allies "lost" a lot of "documents" that told of their plans to invade France at Pas-de-Calais (across the Channel from Dover) instead of in Normandy. This duped Field Marshal Rommel into fortifying defenses at Pas-de-Calais, not Normandy. It's all in Stephen Ambose's book "D-Day." I forget the name of the operation, but it would also make for a good article."

Jono, I believe this was called Operation Overlord, and it was quite a detailed and complex operation. The allies fabricated dozens of fictitious units, complete with falsified emblems, and "leaked" the details of their invasion plans to the Germans.


Kao_Valin
Posted 02 November 2006 at 11:34 am

If you can't believe your mortal enemies anymore who can you trust?


Tink
Posted 12 March 2007 at 03:37 am

Your burning the midnight oil, Alan.

Good thing they didn't have DNA testing back then.
I suspect the Id has nothing to do with a "family", that this fellow was just another POW or spy who commited suicide; and frustrated with the inability to get any creadable inf. from him they utilised the body in this clever bait and switch.


Qalmlea
Posted 12 March 2007 at 06:35 am

In Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson, there was an incident where the British staged a shipwreck, all for the purpose of leaving behind the codebook so they'd have an excuse to change their codes without tipping off the Germans about Ultra. I thought it was too beautiful to be completely made up, and this story has the same...flavor.


CanInternet
Posted 12 March 2007 at 08:38 am

The correct spelling is: Adolf with an f not ph!!!

Please don´t germanise a name wich is allready austrian/german.
Thank you.


CanInternet
Posted 12 March 2007 at 08:41 am

PS I´m from the Netherlands (the country that speak dutch NOT to cinfuse with deutsch!) were "Dolf" is a regular name. After the war almost all started to spell their name "Dolph" as to distance them from Adolf!!!!!

Get your names/facts strait.
You are stepping on sensitive toes...


CanInternet
Posted 12 March 2007 at 08:43 am

CanInternet
Posted 12 March 2007 at 08:44 am

oh and just to make sure here it is in bloody german: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Hitler


agooga
Posted 12 March 2007 at 09:57 am

It seems as if there is a deficit of creative double-crossing taking place in the latter day wars and skirmishes. You rarely hear of these types of ploys used today, or maybe we never hear of them on purpose.

I have always thought a good ruse for the War on Terror would be a trojan horse-- allow a jet to crash or be shot down somewhere in Pakistan/Afghanistan and have this vehicle be carrying a very convincing, yet completely inoperable atomic weapon (or any other type of weapon booty a terrorist might crave). But make the "weapon" to carry multiple locator devices inside each usable component.

See what happens...


davidw987
Posted 12 March 2007 at 11:53 am

Qalmlea said: "In Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson, there was an incident where the British staged a shipwreck, all for the purpose of leaving behind the codebook so they'd have an excuse to change their codes without tipping off the Germans about Ultra. "

One of my top five all time favorite books. Wasn't there also a part in Cryptonomicon where they take a dead soldier (a cook as I recall), put him in a wet suit, hide him with some "secret papers" and dump him in the Mediterranean?


8270369
Posted 12 March 2007 at 12:34 pm

The Cold War was all about this kind of deception. I'm surprised no one has mentioned it in these comments.


sh0cktopus
Posted 12 March 2007 at 01:25 pm

agooga said: "I have always thought a good ruse for the War on Terror would be a trojan horse– allow a jet to crash or be shot down somewhere in Pakistan/Afghanistan and have this vehicle be carrying a very convincing, yet completely inoperable atomic weapon (or any other type of weapon booty a terrorist might crave). But make the "weapon" to carry multiple locator devices inside each usable component.


See what happens…"

Hey, according to the conspiracy buffs, the events of 9/11 were supposedly staged by our government to give us an excuse to go to war. Not exactly a "Trojan horse," but if it were true it would put all these wheels within wheels to shame. Not that I actually believe my government is THAT evil ... or even smart enough to pull it off.


Sir Osis Of Liver
Posted 12 March 2007 at 02:39 pm

Some more trivia on this story. Here is a link and some snippets:

http://delarue.net/fleming.htm

Ian Fleming was the creator of James Bond - he wrote twelve James Bond novels between 1952 and 1964. The movies have been produced since 1962. Bond's world was based on Fleming's own experiences in World War II.

Fleming was plucked out of newspaper work to join British Naval Intelligence in 1939, when Churchill was still the First Lord of the Admiralty in Chamberlain's government.

One of the more unusual operations that Fleming directed was Operation Mincemeat, later known by the book title The Man Who Never Was.

Fleming's task was to make the body totally convincing. The book covers the minute attention paid to detail, which included placing theatre tickets and love letters in "Major Martin's" pockets. The operation was overwhelmingly successful. The love letters were in fact written by Paddy Bennett, Fleming's secretary (later known as Lady Victoire Ridsdale). Bennett was later the inspiration for Mrs. Moneypenny, although she has insisted that she was never in love with Fleming.


Cobalt65
Posted 12 March 2007 at 04:45 pm

interesting, i read this about a month ago and never commented on it, one of my favorite articles. oh by the way did you know on the first page there are 4 articles with the title "blank blank and the blank blanks"


Old Man
Posted 12 March 2007 at 06:48 pm

Diplomatic couriers and others routinely handcuff themselves to briefcases, don't they? It may not have been that unusual...


Bread
Posted 12 March 2007 at 11:32 pm

Old Man says:

Diplomatic couriers and others routinely handcuff themselves to briefcases, don't they? It may not have been that unusual…

Why would you do that?


Bread
Posted 12 March 2007 at 11:32 pm

p.s. my last comment was 50th


misanthrope
Posted 13 March 2007 at 08:05 am

You are stepping on sensitive toes…

Sensitive would appear to be an understatement. You wouldn't happen to be called Dolph, would you? ;)


misanthrope
Posted 13 March 2007 at 08:07 am

Bread: You'd do it so that the case cannot be stolen (or at least not as easily).


dubyamd
Posted 13 March 2007 at 10:12 am

First!

oh... oh... nevermind....


sh0cktopus
Posted 13 March 2007 at 02:31 pm

Ahhh... the benefits of reruns... nobody can be first anymore. But apparently, that doesn't stop people from talking about it anyway.


Bernardo_MC
Posted 13 March 2007 at 03:09 pm

alias said: "I'm surprised the Germans fell for the trick, it seemed pretty obvious to me what was going on from the beginning of the article, the chaining of the breifcase to Major Martins body is the give away, even though they gave an explanation as to why it was chained on (absent minded but responsible). That was the biggest hint that this was a setup because that would be the only way to plant the briefcase in the germans hands if the body was to float over water, and yet the germans beleived it. It seems an obvious trick."

Actually, it was common practice for diplomats who were travelling to walk around with briefcases handcuffed on. (My father worked as diplomat...) This not only ensures that you don't lose it, but also that someone doesn't nick it. I also remember working on the film Evita and the musical director, David Caddick, arrived with the sheet music in a briefcase that was chained to his hand.


chudez
Posted 13 March 2007 at 08:18 pm

Sir Osis of Liver mentioned the site [http://delarue.net/fleming.htm] and it was DI to learn that Ian Flemming apparently worked on this same operation. Unfortunately, this site seems to be pointing out that Flemming was the one who came up with the idea for Operation Mincemeat rather than Lt. Cmdr. Ewen Montagu as mentioned in this article.

Anyway, DI article.


Nonesuch
Posted 14 March 2007 at 04:22 pm

CanInternet said: "PS I´m from the Netherlands (the country that speak dutch NOT to cinfuse with deutsch!)"

PS. I'm from the confused (spelled with a u {no umlaut}), and I'm sure you understand that we want to distance ourselves from the cinfused and certainly wouldn't want to get in dutch with them.

You are stepping on sensitive toes…"

Might I suggest protecting those sensitive tootsies in large, floppy clown shoes, such as the ones I'm wearing?


robo
Posted 21 March 2007 at 04:08 pm

I highly doubt that the Germans fell for this deception - that seems like an Old Wives Tale to me. Sicily being left unprotected by the Germans had nothing to do with this ruse.


CCC
Posted 27 March 2007 at 08:28 am

shocktopus is a lame name. Want to play a game? Let's all be the same. No fame for your dame not like mine.


tednugentkicksass
Posted 13 April 2007 at 03:13 am

This story is actually mentioned (and stolen) by Tom Clancy's most badd-ass character(Mr. Clark) in one of his books. "Red Rabbit" I believe it was. I wasn't sure if it was real, so thanks for the verification.

Anyways, it was/is by no means unussual for people carrying sensitive documents to have them physically secured to their person. I recall reading about one of Germany's more highly ranked agent provocateurs (sp?) during WWI leaving a briefcase full of names of contacts, plans, etc. on a full subway car (maybe a bus?). Some dope found it, opened it, and thought to himself, "Gee, this looks vaguely important," and turned it into the prper authorities.

Long story short, the agent was forced back to Germany with his tail between his legs. I seem to remember that this guy was utterly incompetent, but that thought might be colored by the fact that he left a briefcase full of sensitive documents in a public place (and not for a dead-drop or any secret agenty shit, but because he was a goddamned idiot)

Oh, yeah..P.S. this is my very first comment. ever. on this page, I mean.


tednugentkicksass
Posted 13 April 2007 at 09:08 am

The dope turned it IN TO, not into the PROPER authorities.

and i meant this site, not page.


Ledasmom
Posted 20 April 2007 at 03:51 pm

The novel "Operation Heartbreak" by Duff Cooper was also based, loosely, on this incident.


piper
Posted 13 May 2007 at 04:19 am

agooga, see http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0158583/

Specifically the end bit with Emerson's conversation with the French president.

Yeah, it's a pretty crappy movie.


K8theGr8
Posted 01 March 2008 at 03:19 pm

It's good that they don't know who the man was for sure, because that's what the family wanted.


Rachelita
Posted 09 May 2008 at 03:47 pm

another viewpoint said: "However, in the world today, is there any way to turn OFF the media broadcasters from telling the world what the military is up to at any one time? I have to believe that our enemies get some of their best info and "intelligence" from watching CNN nightly news…for your convenience, beamed directly to you anywhere in the world. Thank you very much."

Seriously though!


gm89
Posted 12 June 2008 at 04:01 am

For those who think it's ridiculous they fell for it (and other people did, after that) and that it could never happen these days... do a Google search for 'Top-secret Iraq documents found on train'. That's right, the UK allegedly accidentally left very important stuff on a train, in an orange envelope, and someone read them. Happened on June 10 this year (2008).


family member
Posted 21 August 2008 at 10:10 am

The man who never was as being a family member, have you told the real life of him, or this fake person, or the real person and his life. Thank you from family member.


whateverewethink
Posted 20 October 2008 at 03:09 am

gm89 said: "For those who think it's ridiculous they fell for it (and other people did, after that) and that it could never happen these days… do a Google search for 'Top-secret Iraq documents found on train'. That's right, the UK allegedly accidentally left very important stuff on a train, in an orange envelope, and someone read them. Happened on June 10 this year (2008)."

During the first Gulf War, General Norman Schwarzkopf, used this trickery to divert attention away from the actual ground invasion plans. A good short write up about diversionary tactics can be found at http://muller.lbl.gov/TRessays/17-Deceiving_Saddam.html including notation about the first night vision system developed by the British being carrot powered.
Fly my wascally wabbits, fly!!!


Flackbash
Posted 15 April 2010 at 12:42 pm

family member said: "The man who never was as being a family member, have you told the real life of him, or this fake person, or the real person and his life. Thank you from family member."

I feel more like I do now than I did before.

Great article, Alan.


ballpet
Posted 01 June 2010 at 10:01 am

There are Interesting comments in this thread, some on the mark and some who seem to be from another galaxy. …I haven’t read the book yet but it will be interesting to see if it adds anything to “The Man Who Never Was” (Ewen Montagu). For those who think that it should have been obvious to the Germans that this was a deception I would suggest further reading on the various and devious methods of deception used by the Allies during WW2. In particular Anthony Cave Brown’s tome “Bodyguard of Lies” (the title is from a Winston Churchill quote; “In war-time truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies”). Copies may be available from a used bookstore or your local library. Or just “Google” “bodyguard of lies”, there are excerpts available online.


MacAvity
Posted 06 January 2012 at 11:02 pm

There's a fairly new (2010?) book about this - Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory, by Ben McIntyre. Since it uses Ewen Montagu's personal journals and correspondences as never-before-seen sources, it answers some questions as conclusively as they can ever be answered - I recommend reading it, as it's also entertaining, engaging, and full of stranger-than-fiction details. When I saw it in my local library, I checked it out just because I had read this article years before - thank you Damn Interesting!


Lillia
Posted 01 May 2014 at 02:10 am

Prince said: "three things.

1) how can you get pneumonia from rat poison?
2) what was/is Ultra?
3) If his name was never to be revealed, how exactly did Rodger Morgan come to the conclusion that Major Martin was Glyndwr Michael?"

1) you can't. He died of the rat poison. The pneumonia was a made up cause of death.
2) Ultra was the name of the Allied code-breaking effort/machine that combatted Enigma (the German's version)
3) Someone wrote a fictional novel about a similar situation to this, and although it was entirely imagined, MI5 got twitchy, so Montagu wrote down everything in a book entitled "The Man Who Never Was". The book identified the body as Glyndwr Michael.


END OF COMMENTS
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