Major William Martin was one of WWII England’s great military heroes, directly responsible for the invasion of Sicily which in turn led to the fall of Benito Mussolini. He achieved his success despite being dead and technically not existing.
In April 1943, the body of William Martin, late of the British Royal Marines, was discovered floating off of the coast of southern Spain. His ship had apparently been sunk (not an uncommon occurrence for naval vessels of the day) and he had drowned. Even though the ocean waves and sea life had damaged his body, they had not taken the treasure which was manacled to his wrist… a black attache case containing information about British troop movements.
Spain was officially neutral between the Axis and the Allies, but their leadership and populace both leaned heavily toward the Axis powers. When they informed the UK diplomatic corps of the body they’d recovered, Britain negotiated furiously to retrieve both body and the briefcase it had been carrying.
Germany was also interested… and Francisco Franco, leader of Spain, was happy to assist Hitler. Negotiations with Britain continued apace, but the case was opened and the somewhat water-damaged papers were provided to German intelligence officials.
The documents didn’t contain much usable information, but some of the details were more valuable than a case full of gold for the Nazis. Specifically, there were details of an impending attack. Germany shifted their troops, preparing to slaughter the British as they landed.
This was the point of Operation Mincemeat.
UK intelligence officials had visited morgues, looking for a vagrant with no known family. Finding one in Wales, they proceeded to secure the body in a container to preserve it while creating a series of fake documents. The case was chained to the corpse’s wrist, then the body was secretly dropped off the coast of Spain, where they knew ocean currents would bring it to shore.
The Brits counted on the duplicity of the Franco regime and the overconfidence of the Hitler regime to bring their trick to success. They were proven correct. The troops stationed near Sicily were moved to the false “invasion point” in Greece, and when the Allies invaded Sicily there were comparatively few Axis troops to oppose them.
Question of the night : What’s a European city you’d like to visit?