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How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory

by Ben Macintyre

Pub Date: May 4th, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-307-45327-3
Publisher: Harmony

The exciting story of the ingenious British ruse that distracted the Nazis from the Allied Sicilian invasion.

Although the invasion finally took place July 10, 1943, allowing the Allied forces an initial foothold into the German “Fortress Europe,” the trick that kept the Nazis from fortifying Sicily took place months before. The dead body of a British major, “William Martin,” had been hauled in on April 30 by fishermen off the port of Huelva, Spain, a pro-German outpost, his briefcase full of top-secret letters by British officers detailing the invasions of Greece and Sardinia and sure to land in the eager hands of the Germans. In fact, the body was a plant, a suicide victim actually named Glyndwr Michael. He had been plucked from a morgue in London, kept on ice for a few months, dressed in a well-used British Navy uniform, stocked with identification, fake official letters and correspondence from his father and fiancée “Pam,” and slipped into the Spanish waters by a British submarine. London Times writer at large Macintyre (Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal, 2007, etc.) skillfully unravels this crazy, brilliant plan by degrees. The “corkscrew minds” at British Navy Intelligence, headed by John Godfrey and his assistant, Ian Fleming (yes, of James Bond fame), put forth the germ of the idea, which was then developed to its fantastic implementation by RAF flight officer Charles Cholmondeley and Lt. Commander Ewen Montagu, first under the code name "Trojan Horse," then the more prosaic “Operation Mincemeat.” The author's chronicle of how the last two intelligence officers lovingly created an entire personality for “Major Martin” makes for priceless reading. Astoundingly, as Winston Churchill noted exultantly, the Nazis swallowed the bait “rod, line and sinker.”

Macintyre spins a terrific yarn, full of details gleaned from painstaking detective work.