Monday 16 Jul 2018 | 07:13 | SYDNEY
Monday 16 Jul 2018 | 07:13 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: Mincemeat

26 May 2010 08:05

On Monday we posted a link to a new essay on Operation Mincemeat, which Wikipedia describes as:

...a successful British deception plan during World War II...Mincemeat helped to convince the German high command that the Allies planned to invade Greece and Sardinia in 1943 instead of Sicily, the actual objective. This was accomplished by persuading the Germans that they had, by accident, intercepted "top secret" documents...attached to a corpse deliberately left to wash up on a beach in Punta Umbría (Spain).

ASPI's Andrew Davies responds:

While I’m always pleased to see a new Malcolm Gladwell article to read, the alleged success of Op Mincemeat is one of those enduring stories that is, if not quite established as myth, at least highly contestable.

In an otherwise fairly unexceptional book, Constantine Fitzgibbon described first person discussions with GEN Warlimont (in early 1944 Deputy Chief of the Armed Forces Operations Staff) who observed that the papers were recognised quickly as an obvious plant. More importantly, he asserted that the papers and their disinformation were not discussed at any supreme council meeting of the German high staff.

More enlightening is the explanation he gives for the reason the Germans assumed the Allied thrust in the Mediterranean would come in Greece rather than in Italy. From the German point of view, strategic logic for the western Allies would dictate US/UK control of the Balkans to deny Soviet influence in the region. An invasion of Italy was bound to end in a geographically imposed impasse in the form of the Alps, which is precisely what happened. (Not before one of history’s great fighting retreats led by Kesselring, bit I digress…) In other words, the Germans acted in a way that gave Op Mincemeat more credibility than it should have, by assuming that the Allies would invade where the outcomes were more likely to be worthwhile. (Perhaps they had forgotten the Dardanelles campaign of WWI?)

Fitzgibbon sums it up this way: ‘Operation Mincemeat was an expensive flop in pursuit of poor policy’.