Operation Mincemeat part 1/2

Operation Mincemeat was a successful British deception plan during World War II. As part of the widespread deception plan Operation Barclay 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. The story was used as the plot in Duff Cooper's 1950 novel Operation Heartbreak, but revealed as a true story in the 1953 book The Man Who Never Was.

late 1942, Operation Torch to invade French North Africa was imminent, and victory in the North African Campaign was expected. Allied planners considered the next step in the war and decided to continue attacks in the Mediterranean.

From North Africa, attacks could be made either into Italy or through the Balkans trapping the German forces there between the Western Allies and the Soviets. Control of Sicily would open the Mediterranean to Allied shipping and allow invasion of continental Europe, making Sicily an obvious strategic objective. German planners saw this as well; Winston Churchill commented "Everyone but a bloody fool would know that it's Sicily."

The massive Allied buildup of resources for the invasion (code-named Operation Husky) would be detected. The Germans would know that some large attack was coming. However, if the Allies could deceive the Germans about where that attack was going, the Germans might disperse or divert some significant part of their forces, which would help the invasion succeed. This had already been practiced by the British in the fighting in North Africa and the British had established a competent system for deception of the enemy, able to give the appearance of fake formations and to feed misinformation through double agents and diplomatic rumour.

Several months before, Flight Lt. Charles Cholmondeley RAF of Section B1 of MI5, suggested dropping a dead man attached to a badly-opened parachute in France with a radio set for the Germans to find. The idea was for the Germans to think that the Allies did not know the set was captured, and pretend to be Allied agents operating it, thus allowing the Allies to feed them misinformation. This was dismissed as unworkable; however the idea was taken up later by the Twenty Committee, the small inter-service, inter-departmental intelligence team in charge of double agents. Cholmondeley was on the Twenty Committee, as was Lt. Cmdr. Ewen Montagu, a Royal Navy intelligence officer.

According to historian Ben Macintyre, Cholmondeley got the idea from a 1939 memo written by Ian Fleming, later author of the James Bond novels. Fleming himself reportedly got the idea from a 1930s detective novel by Basil Thomson.

Montagu and Cholmondeley developed Cholmondeley's idea into a workable plan, using documents instead of a radio. The Committee thought of planting the documents on a body with a defective parachute. However, the Germans knew that it was Allied policy never to send sensitive documents over enemy territory, so they decided to make the man a victim of a plane crash at sea. That would explain how the man would be several days dead and how he could be carrying secret documents. The body would be floated ashore in Spain, where the nominally neutral government was known to cooperate with the Abwehr (German intelligence). The British were sure the Spanish authorities would search the body and allow German agents to examine anything found. Montagu gave the operation the code name of Mincemeat, just restored to the list of available names after its use for another successful mission.

The deliberate planting of fake documents on the enemy was not new. Known as the "Haversack Ruse", it had been practiced by the British in the First World War. Also, in August 1942 in North Africa, before the Battle of Alam Halfa a corpse was placed in a blown-up scout car, in a minefield facing the German 90th Light Division just south of Qaret el Abd. With the corpse was a map showing the locations of non-existent British minefields. The Germans fell for the ruse, and Rommel's panzers were routed to areas of soft sand where they bogged down.]

In September 1942, a PBY Catalina crashed off Cadiz carrying Paymaster-Lt. James Hadden Turner, a courier. He was carrying a letter from General Mark Clark to the Governor of Gibraltar, which named French agents in North Africa and gave the date of the Torch landings as November 4 (although the actual date was November Turner's body washed up on the beach near Tarifa and was recovered by the Spanish authorities. When the body was returned to the British, the letter was still on it, and technicians determined that the letter was never opened. The Germans had the means to read the letter without opening the envelope, but if they did, they apparently decided the letter was "planted" and the information was bogus, and so ignored it.