Friday, July 12, 2013

How Ian Fleming Masterminded The Invasion of Sicily

Daniel Mandel at the History News Network offers a piece on the role of Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, in the deception plan prior to the invasion of Sicily in World War II.

World War II abounds in gargantuan invasions, massive blunders, ferocious set-piece battles and scenes of hellish slaughter worthy of Hieronymus Bosch. The effort to avoid one such bloodbath originated Operation Mincemeat, one of the war's most celebrated and quirky intelligence efforts. Specifically, the conundrum for the Allies was: how to save the lives of thousands of soldiers to be landed in Europe on heavily-defended Axis beachheads?

The beaches in question were not those of Normandy on June 6, 1944, but of Sicily on July 9, 1943, seventy years ago today. British and American forces, fresh from having driven Field Marshal Erwin Rommel's panzer divisions from North Africa, were poised to assault what British Prime Minister Winston Churchill called “the soft underbelly of Europe.”

The target was Mussolini’s Italy, with Sicily the ideal -- but painfully obvious -- invasion point. How might the Germans be deflected from heavily reinforcing the island’s defenses? 

... With World War II, the idea was refined to planting false documents on a dead body. The idea stemmed from an obscure detective novel, The Milliner’s Hat Mystery (1937) by Sir Basil Thomson, the former head of London’s Criminal Investigation Department.

Largely and perhaps deservedly forgotten today, Thomson’s novels however were read by a certain Royal Navy intelligence officer by the name of Ian Fleming. The future creator of James Bond, Fleming was transfixed by the premise of The Milliner’s Hat Mystery: a body is found whose identity, reconstructed from his personal effects, turns out to be a complete fabrication.

In a top secret memo following the outbreak of war in September 1939, Fleming wrote to his superior, Admiral John Godfrey, the Director of Naval Intelligence (who served as the model for "M" in Fleming’s James Bond novels), suggesting numerous devices to deceive the Germans, one of which included an elaboration of Thomson’s premise: a corpse carrying fabricated documents would be dropped by parachute on a German-occupied coast. Godfrey had approved the idea.

You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:

You can also read an earlier post on 'Operation Mincemeat' via the below link:

And you can read my Counterterrorism magazine piece on Commander Ian Fleming's World War II intelligence-commando unit, the 30 Assault Unit, via the below link:

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