As the blurb on the book cover has it, “Operation Mincemeat” by Ben Macintyre is ” the true spy story that changed the course of World War II .” I am not quite sure whether it did that. However, it cannot be denied that this amazing true story details how the Germans were deceived into believing that the Allies would attack Greece, when they actually stormed Sicily in July 1943. This was immensely significant at that time as it was the first assault by Allied troops on what was known as Hitler’s Fortress Europe. One indicator of the success of any attack is the survival rate of the troops who take part in it. Out of the 160,000 troops that fought in this campaign more than 153,000 survived. This indicates the extent to which the Germans were caught by surprise. They had expected the Allies to attack German-occupied Greece and Sardinia.
This is the story of how the Germans were led to believe that Greece and not Sicily would be the focal point of the Allied attack in 1943. A key figure in this elaborate plan of deception was Major William Martin of the Royal Marines. To be more precise, a corpse that floated ashore on April 30, 1943 at Punta Umbria in Spain with papers to say that he was Major William Martin of the Royal Marines ! There was a strong presence of Nazi informers in that part of Spain. It was hoped the Germans would fall for the ruse which they did! To them discovering Major Martin’s body and the papers he carried was acclaimed to be an intelligence coup. Actually it was a huge blunder. Hitler moved troops from France to Greece as a direct consequence to prepare for the assault.
The plan was hatched by two officers of the British Naval Intelligence then headed by Admiral Godfrey: Ewen Montagu and Charles Cholmondeley. The Germans were led to believe that Major Martin had died following an air crash. In reality, the corpse was that of a little known tramp from Scotland. It had been transported all the way from there by a British submarine and cast into the waters of the Atlantic at a predetermined spot.
Macintyre’s attention to detail and skillful unveiling of a complex plot are the hallmarks of this extremely interesting story. Highly recommended to those who love stories of the World Wars and mysteries.