By 1943, the Allies had already set in motion the coming destruction of the Axis powers. With the collapse of the African front, and the main invasion of Europe not scheduled until 1944, the next series of planned operations centered on the invasion of Sicily. “Operation Husky”, as it was called, would enable control of the sea and air routes around Italy, enabling the steady flow of men and material into the theater of operations.
However, the invasion of Sicily did not look to be a cakewalk with the German forces, particularly the Luftwaffe, having strong air and land forces present and in place. So, a diversion was planned….
Originating in the offices of the British Naval Intelligence Division, the plan of was at once simple yet seeming crazy. Captain Ewen Edward Montagu came up with the idea of planting fake intelligence on the body of a dead man, then leaving the corpse to wash up on shore. The plan was to have the German intelligence read this information, convincing them that the invasion was to take place at another location, in this instance Greece and the Balkans. This would weaken the forces on Sicily, thereby increasing the chances of success. The plan was approved, and preparations went forward.
There remains some different theories as to how exactly the body was obtained and who the body originally belonged to. But we cannot deny the belief of the Germans in the information they found. Delivered via the submarine Seraph, “Captain William Martin” was soon found and the documents enclosed were exaustively studied and information flowed upward through the German command structure.
The end result?
“…The care which Montagu and his team lavished on establishing Martin’s identity paid off, for they were to learn much later that the Germans noted the date on the theatre stubs (April 22, 1943) and confirmed their authenticity. As a result Hitler was so convinced of the veracity of the bogus documents that he disagreed with Mussolini that Sicily would be the most likely invasion point, insisting that any incursion against the island should be regarded as a feint. Hitler ordered the reinforcement of Sardinia and Corsica and sent Field Marshall Erwin Rommel to Athens to form an Army Group. Even patrol boats as well as minesweepers and minelayers marked for the defence of Sicily were diverted. Perhaps the most critical move of all was diverting two panzer divisions to Greece…”
Operation Husky was quite a success, with the island taken in just over a month. With the diverted forces, we have to say this bit of “deception” was quite the smart thing to do, both in saving lives and time.
I’ve assembled some great links today that will give you the complete backstory as well as fill in the blanks that I couldn’t fit into the post. Enjoy!
Have a great day, see you tomorrow!