Operation Mincemeat involved Allied spies dressing up a corpse and dropping it off the coast of Spain with faked Super Secret Invasion Plans in its pockets. Dead men do tell tales: The subterfuge was successful, Hitler was convinced, and he moved troops to Greece instead of Sicily. Reportedly, the mastermind behind the plot sold it to the British intelligence supervisors by pointing out that corpses rarely crack under torture.
The heroic corpse has gone unnamed for all of the intervening decades, though there have been contenders in the running, a film and previous books on the subject. The plotters went to their graves without ever revealing whose body made Operation Mincemeat possible. Now, however, historian Denis Smyth has written a book, claiming he has convincing evidence identifying “Major Martin” as Glyndwr Michael: a homeless Welshman who died eating rat poison.
It is time for Mr. Michael to get his propers. The Brits’ level of respect for their ersatz hero is evident in the operational codename Mincemeat. And even today, there are those who would deny Mr. Michael’s contribution. John Steele authored an earlier book, in which he claims that “Major Martin” was a sailor aboard the HMS Dasher. One can detect a frisson of disgust at the mere idea that the war-hero corpse-spy could have been a lunatic of the underclass: “There is no comparison whatsoever between the body of an alcoholic tramp and that of a Royal Marine,” he told the Telegraph.
Let us lift a pint tonight in commemoration of Mr. Michael’s unsung contributions to the Last Great War, and praise the ghosts of uncounted numbers other filthy, raving, suicidal, homeless madmen whose magnificence and humanity have been disregarded.
(image courtesy of kitschy kitschy koo)