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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces part of
The Man Who Never Was

Ewen Montagu

published by
J. B. Lippincott Company
Philadelphia and New York,

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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please let me know!


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Author's Note

 p11  Foreword

by General the Rt. Hon. Lord Ismay, G. C. B., C. H., D. S. O.
Secretary-General of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and, from 1940 to 1946, Chief of Staff to Mr. Winston Churchill, the Minister of Defence.

To mystify and mislead the enemy has always been one of the cardinal principles of war. Consequently, ruses de guerre of one kind or another have played a part in almost every campaign ever since the episode of the Trojan horse, or perhaps even earlier.

The game has been played for so long that it is not easy to think out new methods of disguising one's strength or one's intentions. Moreover, meticulous care must be exercised in the planning and execution of these schemes. Otherwise, so far from deceiving the enemy, they merely give the show away.

The Allies decided that their next step, after the battle for Tunisia, should be the invasion of Italy through Sicily. We felt sure — one always does on these occasions — that this was such an obvious corollary to  p12 the North African campaign, that the enemy would expect it and concentrate to meet it. What could be done to put them off the scent?

I so well remember how I was brought, one evening, the outlines of a cover plan which was ultimately given the somewhat gruesome name of "Operation Mincemeat." I was, I confess, a little dubious whether it would work; but I put it up to the Chiefs of Staff, who approved it in principle. Thereafter, Lieut.‑Commander Montagu, who originated the idea, and his colleagues went full steam ahead.

The operation succeeded beyond our wildest dreams. To have spread-eagled the German defensive effort right across Europe, even to the extent of sending German vessels away from Sicily itself, was a remarkable achievement. Those who landed in Sicily, as well as their families, have cause to be especially grateful.

It is not often that the whole story of a secret operation can be made public, told by someone who knows every detail. The military student can be grateful that chance has made it possible for him to have a text-book example of a very specialised branch of the art of war; others will enjoy a "real-life thriller" — which once more illustrates that truth is stranger than fiction.

7th June, 1953.

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