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Hannah Ransom

September 17, 2009

Govt 139g
Operation Mincemeat

Executive Summary:

The subject of this ensuing investigation is Operation Mincemeat, which used a single

deceptive move to deceive the enemy—the single crucial move was the planting of a body. On

April 30, 1943 the body of a decorated Royal Marines officer was found washed up on shore of

Huelva, Spain. Attached to the officer’s belt was a briefcase that contained many highly

classified documents principally a top-secret letter from Sir Archibald Nye, then Vice Chief of

the Imperial General Staff in the War Office, to General Sir Harold Alexander, the British

commander in North Africa. The letter hinted at an Allied plan to invade southern Europe via

Corsica and Sardinia.

Copies of these precious documents soon found there way into the hands of high ranking

German officers and by May of 1943 Hitler had taken steps to defend both Greece and Sardinia

from the impending attacks. Two months later, the Allies invaded Sicily and were met with

hardly any resistance from the Germans and Italians because their eyes were turned northward

towards Sardinia. The operation was a success.1

Operational Orders

1. Objective:

To cause a briefcase containing planted classified information to drift ashore as close as

possible to Huelva, Spain. The enemy needs to believe that the briefcase washed ashore from an

aircraft that had crashed at sea when the case was in transport from the U.K. to Allied forces in

Montagu, Ewen The Man Who Never Was. New York: Lippincott Company. 1954.
North Africa.2

2. Method:

A body of an unknown British citizen was dressed in the military uniform of a Royal

Marines Major, and wearing a life vest is to be taken out in a submarine, with the briefcase and a

dingy. The body will be packed (fully clothed and ready to go) in a tubular airtight container.

The container is almost 6 feet 6 inches long and is just less than two feet in diameter. When full,

the container will weigh approximately 400 lbs. Once the body is in the container it will be

packed with dry ice in order to preserve the body so that a certain amount of decomposition will

happen naturally once it is sent afloat in the ocean.3

3. The Vital Document

In order for the Germans to succumb to the ruse they must believe that the letter they

intercepted is accurate and up to date. Therefore the letter must be written by someone, and to

someone, whom the Germans knew and whom they knew was in the British “need to know”

circle.4 Owing to this fact General Sir Archibald Nye was asked to write the letter to General

Alexander who is the British commander in North Africa. The letter should be of the “good old

boy” type; it should be friendly, empathetic, and semi-casual. It is to be a friendly letter that can

give information and explanations that cannot be communicated through official channels.

Through the mutual rapport of the letter crucial information will be leaked that will hopefully

convince the Germans that the next attack will be in Corsica and Sardinia—not Sicily. The letter

was addressed informally to “My Dear Alex” and signed by “Archie Nye”. The off the record

atmosphere of the letter and the personal mattes that were discussed within it makes it very
Montagu, Ewen The Man Who Never Was. New York: Lippincott Company. 1954. P.37
Montagu, Ewen The Man Who Never Was. New York: Lippincott Company. 1954. P.38
Montagu, Ewen The Man Who Never Was. New York: Lippincott Company. 1954. P.43
normal for the letter not to be sent through an official channel. This provides the Germans with a

rationale of why a Major would be carrying such a letter with him on a flight. 5

3. Major Martin, Royal Marines

One crucial aspect of this operation is that the body is believed by the combatants to truly

be Major Martin of the Royal Marines. In Ruminating about the ruse we were at first uncertain

about which branch of the military Martin should join. The initial thought was to put him in the

army. However, that was decided against for a number of reasons. Principally, the Army would

not work because of their standard operating procedures when it comes to the distribution of

signals and reports. Any telegram that reported a body being washed up on a Spanish beach

would be automatically distributed to far too many people. This system would be impossible to

bypass and it would leave far to many people confused and in the know. If major Martin were to

join any branch under the Admiralty system than it would be possible to bypass this

communication distribution with the help of the authority of the Department of Naval

Intelligence. Once this had been decided the task was still far from over. Martin could not

become a naval officer because a naval officer would have to wear a proper, personally tailored

uniform on such a flight. The visual of having a tailor come down to fit the corpse was too much

to stomach and was Martin’s naval career was quickly discarded. The only option left was for

Martin to joint he Royal Marines.6

In order for the deception to be fruitful certain corroborative details needs to be included.

One such detail is an admiralty identification card. Thanks to a young gentleman who resembled

the body we were able to procure a picture that would hold up under scrutiny. With the addition

of the uniform and security passes we were able to procure establishing the body, as a Major was

Montagu, Ewen The Man Who Never Was. New York: Lippincott Company. 1954. P.55
Montagu, Ewen The Man Who Never Was. New York: Lippincott Company. 1954. P.58-59
complete. One question that still needed to be answered was why Major Martin was going to

North Africa. If the Germans could find evidence answering that question than it would

hopefully further increase the validity of the vital document. After much rumination it was

decided that a seaborne operation was being mounted against a well-defended coat. The

operation would involve the use of landing craft and it might happen that there was some lack of

training that would call for the assistance from an expert in that field. Major Martin was to be

that expert and a document was created to make that clear. A letter was drafted from an officer in

charge to another officer in charge, which explained Major Martin’s skills and work ethic and

requested his quick return following the completion of the operation.7 This letter created an

explanation for why he was flying to North Africa as well as why he was carrying the “vital

letter” through an unofficial channel.

One other detail that had to be taken care of was to ensure that the Spaniards did not

intercept the letters before the German agents did. The problem arises because an officer would

probably put two normal sized envelopes into his pockets even despite the secrecy of one of

them. Therefore, Major Martin needed an excuse for carrying the letters in a briefcase. The

timing worked out well because the official pamphlet on the Commandos by Hilary Saunders

was about to be published. It was decided that it was plausible to have an officer write to

General Eisenhower asking him for a foreword inclusion in the pamphlet. A letter was drafted

which made the request and the proof of the pamphlet and the photographs it would contain were

included.8 This supplied Major Martin with ample enough documents to warrant carrying a


In order for the ruse to be fully swallowed Major Martin had to be established as a person

Montagu, Ewen The Man Who Never Was. New York: Lippincott Company. 1954. P 64-65
Montagu, Ewen The Man Who Never Was. New York: Lippincott Company. 1954. P. 66
as well. The method used to figure out Major Martin’s personality was to simply keep on

discussing him. It was decided that he had met a lovely girl named Pam shortly before being

deployed and she gave him a photo of her and in exchange he gave her an engagement ring.

Martin will carry the picture of her, a couple of ecstatic letters from her, and the bill for the

engagement ring. In addition, Major Martin will carry a key ring, a small amount of money, a

pack of cigarettes and some matches.

4. Position:

The body should be put into position as close as possible to Huelva that the submarine

can go without being detected. The tides in the area to the northwest of the river mouth tend to

run mainly up and down the coast. Therefore, every effort should be made to choose a delivery

period with a wind that is going shoreward. During the spring, the prevailing winds are

southwesterly which will be advantageous.

5. Delivery of the Package:

The “package” will be delivered to the port of departure by truck on whatever day is

preferred, however as close to the sailing day as possible. The briefcase will be handed over at

the same time to the Captain of the submarine. The dingy will also be handed over at this time.

6. Disposal of the Body:

When the body is removed from the container all that will need to be done is to fasten the

briefcase to the body. The chain attached to the briefcase will be looped through the belt of the

trench coat, which will be the outermost garment on the body. The body should then be put into
the water along with the dingy. Since the body and dinghy will drift at different speeds, the exact

position where it is released is moderately unimportant. However, it should be near the body but

not too near if that is possible.

7. Those in the Know:

The success of this mission is highly reliant upon it staying top secret. Owing to this, only

two commanding officers at Gibraltar are informed. No one else there will be told about the

operation. By keeping those in the know small it will allow for less of a chance of information

being prematurely leaked or procured by the enemies.

8. Signals

If the operation is a success than the signal “mincemeat completed” should be made. This

signal should be made through the regular channels and addressed to the Director of Naval


9. Cancellation:

If the operation has to be canceled than the signal “cancel mincemeat” will be given. If

this signal is given than the body and the container should be sunk in deep water. Since the

container might be buoyant it will probably have to be weighted or opened up to allow water to

enter. If the container is opened care must be taken to assure that the body does not accidentally

escape. The briefcase should be given to the staff officer at Gibraltar and he needs to

immediately burn the briefcase—unopened—in its entirety.

10. Cover:

The cover of the operation is of utmost importance. Until the operation commences the

labeling of the container as “optical instruments” will be sufficient. The cover after the operation
has been completed is to be that we were hoping to trap a very active German agent and acquire

enough information about his activities to get the Spaniards to force him out of their country.

The importance of the need for secrecy has to be strongly impressed up on the crew. They must

believe that if any information is ever leaked that it will endanger our ability to get the Spaniards

to act in such cases. It is vital that no information about the cover is leaked. It is most important

that the Germans and Spaniards should not mistake the papers for a plant. If so, the negative

consequences would be far reaching.


Thanks to the careful and extremely detail oriented planning, Operation Mincemeat

turned out to be a huge success for the Allied Forces. They were able to successfully invade

Sicily with little resistance from the forces stationed there because the majority of the Axis

forces had been sent to protect Corsica and Sardinia from the Allied attack that they believed to

be imminent. It is largely considered to be the best example of a single deceptive move in recent

history. The fact that it was just a single well thought out move makes this operation truly

unique and all that more fascinating. Most successful deception operations tend to involve

multiple moves by multiple players. This makes Operation Mincemeat a true exception to the

rule and a remarkable tale of modern deception.

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