December 7, 2010

A FRESH ONE:

Operation Mincemeat, BBC Two, review (Andrew Pettie, 06 Dec 2010, The Telegraph)

In 1939, Ian Fleming, an imaginative chap in Naval intelligence, drew up a list of top secret schemes with which to outfox the Nazis. Number 28 was headed: “A suggestion (not a very nice one)”. Fleming’s idea was that “a corpse dressed as an airman with dispatches in his pockets could be dropped on the coast” so that the fake documents in his possession might lead the Germans, ever so sneakily, right up the garden path.

“There is no difficulty in obtaining corpses,” Fleming observed, “but it would have to be a fresh one.” It was the sort of preposterous pipe dream that Fleming’s superiors could easily have dismissed as “something out of a James Bond novel”. Except for the fact that Fleming had yet to write one. So instead they filed his not very nice suggestion away and waited for a suitable opportunity. It came in 1943.

The Allies, now in the ascendant, were itching to invade Italy. Sicily was the obvious place to start, but Hitler knew this as well as Churchill. A diversion was required and so Fleming’s morbid scheme was brought to life as Operation Mincemeat. Last night, BBC Two’s atmospheric documentary supplied a blow-by-blow account of how this macabre hoax, “perhaps the greatest military deception since the Trojan horse”, changed the course of the War.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at December 7, 2010 12:00 AM
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