Tonya N. Williams

Operation: " Mincemeat"-"The Man Who Never Was"

"Mincemeat" was one of the many plans of deception implemented by the Allies during World War II. It was the major component in a plan codenamed "Trojan Horse." The objective of Mincemeat was to lead the Germans into believing that the Allies were planning to invade Greece, in order to reach the Balkans, and Sardinia, not Sicily. "Husky", the name given to the invasion of Sicily, was in danger of being anticipated by the Germans due to the capture of Pantelleria, a small island off the southeast coast of Sicily, on June 11, 1943.

The whole idea behind Mincemeat was not a new one; it was to place "false paper's into the enemy's hands in order to lead him to do something to his own disadvantage." In this case, it was to foul Hitler into fortifying Greece and Sardinia leaving Sicily with little defense and it did just that. On a bigger scale, if Husky was successful a two-front war would be created and Hitler would be unable to defend a northern and southern attack simultaneously for too long with his already weakened army.

"Why shouldn't we get a body, disguise it as a staff officer, and give him really high-level papers which will show clearly that we are going to attack somewhere (other than Sicily)"
- Commander Ewan Montagu

Mincemeat was originally proposed by Commander Ewan Montagu to the XX-Committee. After meeting the approval of Britain's Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, U. S. President Dwight Eisenhower, the Combined Chiefs at Washington, and the Chiefs of Staff at London, the plan was quickly yet meticulously drawn up and carried out to the last detail. 

The main prop for the deception would be a briefcase filled with falsified documents that would give the Germans the impression that there would be an invasion in Greece and Sardinia. Now they needed a vehicle to carry the briefcase. The XX-Committee went in search of a corpse. The corpse had to be of a man in his early thirties, slightly out of shape, and had died of drowning, either from a pneumonia or physical drowning (to give the impression that he went down in a plane crash and had been floating at sea for a few days). Then the corpse must be given an identity, a life, and a personality. The corpse became Captain (acting Major) William Martin, 09560, Royal Marines, a staff officer at Combined Operations Headquarters. 
To develop his life and personality, Captain Martin was armed with personal letters. One letter was from Lloyds Bank politely informing Martin that he had an overdraft. According to the bill from S. J. Phillips, the international jewelers of Bond Street for a ring, the Captain recently became engaged and to support that claim, one of Montagu's female secretaries wrote two love letters to be included in the bunch. In addition were two other letters, one from his father and one from the family's solicitors. There was much attention to detail in the composition of these letters. Everything was constructed to support details in the other letters and the dates on receipted bills and ticket stubs were calculated to the number indicating that he had not left London until April 24. To give Martin credibility and importance a letter written by Lord Louis Mountbatten to the Admiral of the Fleet Sir Andrew Cunningham proclaiming Captain Martin as an expert in the employment of landing craft. With this, his persona was complete. One last and vital letter was to be included among Captain Martin's possessions, a letter from General Archibald Nye, the Vice Chief of the Imperial General Staff, to General Sir Harold Alexander, the commander under Eisenhower who would execute Husky, revealing the Allies plan to invade at Greece and Sardinia.

Like any plan, Mincemeat had its risks as well as its advantages. Its major advantage was in the fact that the German intelligence network in Spain, Abwehr, was not thorough in its in its operations meaning that any of Captain Martin's flaws would go undetected. The risk was that the Germans would be able to sniff out the deception. This would be detrimental to Husky. If Hitler viewed the evidence in reverse, he would know of the planned invasion of Sicily and would be able to defend his position.

At 6:00 p.m. on April 19, 1943, the body left London on the submarine HMS Seraph and on April 30 before the dawn the body was set adrift off the coast of Huelva, Spain, "an old Moorish fishing town in the Gulf of Cadiz". The same day, Martin was picked up just after dawn by a local fisherman, brought into port and given to the Armada. The British vice-consul not knowing of Mincemeat called British naval attaché in Madrid, J. H. Hillgarth for instructions. Knowing of Mincemeat, Hillgarth instructed that the briefcase be recovered unopened and intact. The Spaniards refused the vice-consul's request for the briefcase, claiming that it was being held for "judicial purposes" when they were really informing German intelligence. The Abwehr officials checked the body for authenticity, photocopied the documents that the corpse was carrying, and then replaced everything as they were to be given back to the Spaniards to be given to the Allies. 

To add give the corpse further authenticity, his name showed up in the British papers listed with two officers who had really perished in a plane at sea and he was sol listed in the Casualty Section of the Commissions and Warrants Branch of the Admiralty. In Huelva he was buried with full military honors, his "fiancée" sent a funeral wreath and a "heart-broken card of remembrance, and photographs were sent to his family of the Spanish naval party firing a salute at the graveside.

Abwehr quickly notified Berlin and once in Berlin the documents underwent further evaluation under Colonel Baron Von Roenne, chief of Fremde Heere West. Fortunately, the documents were not doubted and the Germans were convinced that there would be an attack in Greece and Sardinia, an attempt on the Balkans, the German's petrol and raw material supply. As the Allies had hoped Hitler shifted his concentration of forces to defend the eastern and western Mediterranean. Mincemeat was a success.


Breur, William B. Hood Winking Hitler: The Normandy Deception

Brown, Anthony Cave. Bodyguard of Lies. New York: Bantam Books and Harper &Row, Publishers, Inc., 1975.