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Operation Mincemeat
January 4, 2010 12:12 PM   Subscribe


 
Well that's one use for the Welsh.

/ducks
posted by Artw at 12:35 PM on January 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


I like that they called it "Operation Mincemeat." A sense of humor is important.
posted by dortmunder at 12:39 PM on January 4, 2010


I always thought his name was Bob.

(now it's Pete)

/tasteless
posted by Pollomacho at 12:39 PM on January 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


There is no way it was Welshman. If it was, it would have been named 'Operation Wffyydydyffyd'.
posted by WinnipegDragon at 12:40 PM on January 4, 2010 [12 favorites]


.
posted by PenDevil at 12:42 PM on January 4, 2010


In the "Meat" chapter of Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson thought it was butcher Gerald Hott from Chicago.
posted by minimii at 12:55 PM on January 4, 2010 [3 favorites]


I've long been fascinated by this story, but right now I'm more curious about this bit:

there have been repeated claims that Mincemeat's chief planner, Lieutenant Commander Ewen Montagu, was so intent on deceiving the Germans that he stole the body of a crew member from HMS Dasher, a Royal Navy aircraft carrier which exploded off the Scottish coast in March 1943, and lied to the dead man's relatives.


An entire aircraft carrier just went and exploded? And they mention it as if it was an almost everyday occurrence.

*BOOM* "Ah, the fleet must be in town again..." *BOOM*
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:17 PM on January 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ah dear, the local historians are just not going to throw the towel in, are they? It's a shame they didn't let a professional carry out a thorough investigation before they intruded on someone's grief with a memorial service based on what turns out to be dodgy amateur history.
posted by Flitcraft at 1:20 PM on January 4, 2010


"Toronto University"? If the article is that badly fact-checked, I wouldn't trust anything else it says.
posted by Pseudoephedrine at 1:25 PM on January 4, 2010


.
posted by RussHy at 1:27 PM on January 4, 2010


While at this "Toronto University" I heard Denis Smyth talk about this affair while researching his book not long ago. If his writing is half as good as his speaking personality then the book is a must buy. A really captivating fellow.
posted by boubelium at 1:32 PM on January 4, 2010


I read about this 30+ years ago. I distinctly remember they talked about using someone who had died of pneumonia, so there would be fluid in the lungs, better simulating a drowning victim...
posted by aquanaut at 1:33 PM on January 4, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wikipedia on HMS Dasher. Apparently the British government covered up the explosion to protect morale.
posted by kirkaracha at 1:37 PM on January 4, 2010


I'm fairly sure I read that the man in question had died of pneumonia and they hoped that this would fool the Nazis into thinking he had instead drowned (Wikipedia sort of backs this scenario). That doesn't seem to follow with a death by rat poison/liver failure.
posted by tommasz at 1:38 PM on January 4, 2010


Damn, aquanaut beat me to it!
posted by tommasz at 1:40 PM on January 4, 2010


I'm fairly sure I read that the man in question had died of pneumonia and they hoped that this would fool the Nazis into thinking he had instead drowned

That's in the book (I was tickled to see this post; this was one of the first nonfiction books I read -- back in middle school -- and it spurred my interest in historical mysteries that lasts until this day), but of course Montagu wrote the book and it was vetted before publication. I wouldn't necessarily think this fact was true. (Although it is logical.)
posted by anastasiav at 1:52 PM on January 4, 2010


I read about this 30+ years ago. I distinctly remember they talked about using someone who had died of pneumonia, so there would be fluid in the lungs, better simulating a drowning victim...

posted by aquanaut at 1:33 PM on January 4


Phonetically eponysterical?
posted by brundlefly at 2:44 PM on January 4, 2010


Wikipedia on HMS Dasher.

Teak flightdeck. Nice.
posted by Artw at 2:54 PM on January 4, 2010


Teak flightdeck. Nice.

That was pretty standard for early aircraft carriers.
posted by me & my monkey at 3:02 PM on January 4, 2010


In that case early aircraft carriers are awesome.
posted by Artw at 3:09 PM on January 4, 2010


I am also personally acquainted with Prof Smyth (a colleague), and discussed this research with him at length, back in 2001. The Mincemeat body had suffered pneumonia, but didn't die of that disease. As the article says, there's strong evidence to suggest that he died of rat poison (he had been scavenging crusts of bread in a factory, IIRC).

We also know a couple of other things which point to Michael (very circumstantially). Montagu records that they were worried that the lack of physical conditioning on the body would tip off the Germans that the man was not who his papers said he was. They decided that this wouldn't be a problem because he didn't have to resemble a fighting-fit man so much as a staff officer. There's also the fact that Montegu made a point of making 'Maj. William Martin' a Welshman ('for no particular reason', he claimed). I remember being rather touched by this postmortem repatriation. As I say, far from conclusive evidence, but suggestive.

Incidentally, the man on the ID card at the top of the Times article (posing as Maj. Martin) was none other than Eddie Chapman, better known as Agent Zigzag. Chapman had been a spy for the Germans, dropped over British territory, who immediately turned himself over to the British and became a double agent. Montegu noticed his uncanny resemblance to the corpse, and took a photo of him for 'Martin's' fake ID, presumably hoping that nobody in the Abwer would notice that they were sending back a photo of their own (presumed) spy!

Oh, and the Mincemeat name was a coincidence. Code names were randomly assigned. But yes, they thought it was funny too when they had it assigned to their operation.
posted by Dreadnought at 4:11 PM on January 4, 2010 [4 favorites]


The yellowish brown timber with good grains and texture from teak trunk is used in the manufacture of outdoor furniture, boat decks, and other articles where weather resistance is desired. Emphasis mine. From the Wikipedia article.
posted by Daddy-O at 6:35 PM on January 4, 2010


That idiot John of Michigan posted something about this back in 2005.
posted by John of Michigan at 7:03 PM on January 4, 2010


I'm pretty sure it was Eccles.
posted by Trochanter at 8:20 PM on January 4, 2010 [2 favorites]


Interesting stuff, Dreadnought. Incidentally, I've read the story of Eddie Chapman and it's absolutely fascinating. I heartily recommend people search out Ben Macintyre's book "Agent Zigzag: The True Wartime Story of Eddie Chapman, Lover, Betrayer, Hero, Spy. London".
posted by salmacis at 1:00 AM on January 5, 2010


"An entire aircraft carrier just went and exploded? And they mention it as if it was an almost everyday occurrence.

"*BOOM* 'Ah, the fleet must be in town again...' *BOOM*"


There was a war on at the time; They probably averaged several boats/ships a day.
posted by Mitheral at 1:58 AM on January 5, 2010


Great story! You can add me to the list of those who read the Montagu's book in grade school and remained fascinated by the story ever since..

Dreadnought-tell us more!
posted by TedW at 5:17 AM on January 5, 2010


You know if the Germans had done this, they would have kept records, dammit.
posted by dhartung at 8:50 AM on January 5, 2010


The British may have records but they could still be covered by secrecy acts. It's one of the advantages of winning these dust ups.
posted by Mitheral at 9:22 AM on January 5, 2010


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