Return to Operation Mincemeat

Reader Barrett, a self-proclaimed true crime fanatic, asks why the Germans didn’t see right through Operation Mincemeat, since:

There are more than a few “tells” that would have betrayed the fact that Martin wasn’t a drowning victim. Even with the technology of the time it would have been obvious: no water in the lungs, etc.. How could the Germans have been so easily fooled?

Ah yes, a very interesting question. The problem for the Axis was simply the game of intelligence and counter-intelligence. Certainly they could have arranged to steal the body and do their own examination. However such a blatant move would have blown their whole operation. Assuming the intelligence Martin was carrying was reliable (and of course it wasn’t), stealing the body would have made it clear to the British that the Germans were on to them.

Stolen intel is only valuable if the other side doesn’t know it’s been stolen. Thus the Axis agents could not be seen to be taking an interest in Martin’s body. Had they been able to interrogate the local coroner without blowing their cover, they would have discovered that there were indeed many tell-tale signs that Martin’s body hadn’t been in the water very long (shiny hair, a lack of fish or crab bites, etc.).

Such are the limits of what can be learned when it has to appear that you aren’t interested in learning anything at all.

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