Blending fiction with a true event that changed the course of history, “Operation Mincemeat” stays true to the details while adding dramatic elements to make it an engaging watch. The film narrates the operation that was undertaken by British intelligence to divert the attention of the Axis forces from Italy to Greece. Since invading Sicily seemed an obvious choice, they had to come up with a convincing strategy to make the Nazis believe the story of Greece’s invasion. The narrator of the story is Ian Fleming, who used to be the personal assistant to Admiral John Godfrey and later went on to create James Bond. The creators found it fitting to pose Ian as the narrator, knowing his future prospects. However, it was, in fact, Fleming whose ideas in the Trout memo that was considered for Operation Mincemeat.
‘Operation Mincemeat’ Plot Summary: What Is The Film About?
The film centers around Ewen Montagu and Charles Cholmondeley, members of the Twenty Committee, a small group of British intelligence agents in charge of double agents. As the committee discussed the methods they could use to divert the Nazis, Charles suggested that they use the Trojan method as mentioned in the Trout Memo plan. According to the plan, a corpse would land with the help of a parachute and would carry important fake documents that the enemy would consider as the truth and work accordingly. The idea was dismissed by those at the table, particularly Admiral John Godfrey. But Ewen was in favor of it and planned the execution of the operation with Charles Cholmondeley. They worked on the idea to avoid any loopholes and hoped for their plan to be approved.
The team consisted of Jean Leslie, who was brought in by Charles to pose as the corpse’s fiancé, Pam. Charles was attracted to Jean, and Jean felt a certain softness toward Ewen. Their affection at times became a reason for jealousy among Charles and Ewen. Before taking on his role as a secret agent, Ewen had sent his wife and children to America, fearing for their lives. They were half Jewish, and he knew that if they lost the war, his family would have to face the consequences. His wife was not in favor of this separation, but he had no other way to deal with the crisis. It was while writing the love letters that he felt attracted to Jean, as a result of her smartness and beauty. However, their responsibility toward their country forbade them from exploring their relationship, even though they knew that the attraction was mutual.
With a love triangle at play and a final twist to create suspense, “Operation Mincemeat” takes certain creative liberties but manages to keep the details of the operation intact.
What Were The Factors Involved In Choosing The Corpse?
The corpse was the primary element that they had to find to execute the operation. While there was no dearth of bodies, it was important to find one that was unclaimed. Along with that, the body also had to be one that would not raise suspicion, meaning that the body must not have been previously injured. Even though it was challenging to find the right body, with the help of a coroner, Bentley Purchase, they were able to locate one that was unclaimed. The man was Glyndwr Michael. He struggled with mental illness and had consumed rat poison, which resulted in his death. The amount of rat poison was too small to be detected even if an autopsy was conducted. This made Michael the perfect choice for executing their plan.
To avoid dismembering the body, airdropping was avoided. The plan was to transport the body using the submarine and then submerge it into the water. With fake documents on his body, they decided to establish Michael’s identity as Captain (Acting Officer) William Martin. The name William Martin was common in the Royal Navy, and that was the primary reason for naming him so. They created a fiancé for Major Martin, naming her Pam. A picture of Jean Leslie, an intelligence agent, was attached to it. It was this factor that brought Jean closer to the case and Ewen. Along with the picture, they wrote a love letter that could be used as a part of the pocket litter. Such personal documents were created to make the identity of the man all the more believable. Ewen and Jean would discuss the fictional romance between Pam and the officer in detail, creating a scope for them to express their affection for one another. The proximity between the two enraged Charles, who had always liked Jean.
Along with the personal documents, there would be a letter from Lieutenant General Sir Archibald Nye to General Sir Harold Alexander, commander in Algeria and Tunisia, disclosing their plan regarding the invasion. The letter spoke about how the Britishers were planning to invade Greece but were spreading a rumor about entering through Sicily. This was the crucial piece of information that they hoped would reach the German officials and force them to divert their attention to protecting Greece instead of Sicily. To confirm that the words remained intact, the intelligence team worked to find the perfect waterproof ink that could be used to write the letters. Coroner Purchase warned them that the plan had to be executed within three months since, beyond that timeframe, it would start to decompose and could not be used any longer. Along with that, they also had to keep in mind to keep the letter from Sir Nye in a briefcase to attract more attention. The briefcase was then tied to his trench coat to secure its position and to confirm its safety.
While everything was going according to plan, the deceased Glyndwr Michael’s sister appeared and claimed his body. She regretted not being by her brother’s side and wanted to bury him with dignity. But she was informed that her brother was now a part of a secret project that the government was working on. Ian Fleming offered her money to leave the premises, but she refused it and left in anger.
‘Operation Mincemeat’ Ending Explained: Who Was The Nazi Hater Spy That Questioned Jean? How Did The Information Reach The German Intelligence?
According to the plan, the body was submerged close to the Huelva shore, in southern Spain. Spain was neutral ground and, therefore, the perfect spot for the body to emerge. The body was submerged on April 29th and was recovered by the Spanish fisherman on April 30th. The body was taken away by the Spanish soldiers. As the coroner had rightly assumed, even though an autopsy was conducted, it was done so in a hurry, and it was certified that the man in question had died as a result of drowning in water.
Adolf Clauss, the German agent and member of Abwehr, requested the Spanish officials for the documents, but it was too late since the briefcase had already traveled to Madrid. After Clauss failed to procure it, the senior agent of the Abwehr, Karl-Erich Kühlenthal, made attempts to get hold of the letter; they were convinced that it had information that would expose the British invasion plan. It was a British triple agent, Captain David Ainsworth, who worked for the British but pretended to be a German sympathizer in Madrid, who was able to convince the German sympathizer, Colonel Cerruti, a Spanish official, of the importance of the letter. But Cerruti was able to convince Admiral Moreno to hand over the documents to Kühlenthal. The letter had reached the Germans, and the briefcase was handed to the British Embassy.
While the rest of the team rejoiced in the fact that their plan had worked, Jean had to face an unexpected revelation. As she entered her apartment, she saw a copy of the picture that was kept in Michael’s pocket placed on her side table. She knew something was wrong, and that was when she was greeted by Teddy. Teddy worked at the club that was owned by Ewen and where Ewen, Charles, and Jean would frequent. He explained that he found the picture among Major Martin’s documents. Teddy was part of a group of Germans who wanted to see the Fuhrer fall. But the British had labeled them as an anti-Hitler hoax. This enraged them since they could not help the Allied forces even if they wanted to. He asked Jean to explain the entirety of Operation Mincemeat, which she did under pressure. He wanted to understand the scenario to inform the Nazi haters about the actions that were being taken by the Allied forces.
The incident with Teddy infuriated Charles since he doubted how Ewen was not aware of an employee being a German. His reason for doubt was also that Ewen’s brother, Ivor, was a Communist sympathizer. He was asked by Admiral John Godfrey to spy on Ewen to confirm that he did not have any vested interests. Even though Charles was not in favor of spying on his colleague, Godfrey promised to bring the body of his brother, who had passed away in Chittagong, back to England. In a heated discussion, Charles confronted Ewen about his brother. Ewen was not proud of his brother’s association, but he knew that he was not conspiring, and, most importantly, he did not share information about the operation with his brother.
The team waited for news as the British troupe was on their way to Sicily. While intelligence indicated that the Germans were moving toward Greece and did buy into their story, they were still not entirely convinced, especially after the Teddy incident. The atmosphere was tense as everyone prayed for a favorable result. News finally arrived stating that the British soldiers were able to invade Sicily and faced minimum resistance. Operation Mincemeat was a success and helped to save the lives of thousands. While the world looks at the war that takes place in the field, there are always secret wars that are fought from behind the curtains that play a significant role in affecting history.
At the end of “Operation Mincemeat,” we learn that Ewen and Iris Montagu remained married till the death of Ewen in 1985. Jean Leslie married a soldier who was among the first wave of the Sicilian invasion, a year after the war. Charles Cholmondeley remained a member of MI5 up until 1952. He was later married and pursued various hobbies. We also learn that the identity of Major Martin remained a secret for forty-four years, and in 1997 the British Government added his name to the tomb. “Operation Mincemeat” is an engaging thriller that explains an important chapter in World War II history.
“Operation Mincemeat” is a 2022 Period War Drama film directed by John Madden.