Military Hoax Collection
Will and Guy's Collection of Military Hoaxes
Will and Guy think that the word hoax probably dates from the early 18th century where it could be a contraction of the term "hocus pocus", a phrase long used by stage magicians and for describing nonsense.
When you think of the greatest hoax on a battlefield, then the Trojan horse probably comes to mind. We want to see how history repeats itself, and investigate military hoaxes of the modern era.
A Brilliant Ruse Which Changed the Direction of World War 2
During the 2nd World War [1939-1945] a number of deceptive ruses were carried out in order to confuse and confound the enemy. One of the best that Will and Guy have come across involves a Major Martin, who, even in death, played an enormous part in misinforming the Nazi authorities. Operation Mincemeat, a disinformation plan was possibly the most effective deception of the war. Also, because of one family's sacrifice, thousands of lives were saved.
Here we briefly retell the story of this WW2 military hoax.
The story begins early on the morning of 30th April 1943 at 04:30 hours when the corpse of Major Martin was secretly buried at sea from the British submarine HMS Seraph. At that moment Martin, began his first and last battle. He would become the leading actor in a bizarre plan to convince the Germans that the Allied attack on Europe would take place on Sardinia, not Sicily which was the most obvious place.
The brilliant plan was to put top-secret documents in the clothes of "a shot down airman," then throw the corpse into the sea off the Spanish coast, where it would fall into enemy hands.
British Intelligence officials, faced with the problem of finding a suitable corpse, selected a soldier who had died from pneumonia, for an autopsy would reveal water in the lungs and seem to prove that the victim had drowned. The soldier's relatives bravely agreed to the mission on the condition that his identity never be revealed.
British Intelligence named him Major Martin and supplied him with a complete background. For personal papers, they gave him a bank overdraft of £80, a photograph of his supposed fiancée, a £53 bill for an engagement ring, and torn tickets for a London show. Because the corpse looked 'too hopelessly dead,' a 'double' was found and photographed for the identity card. Most important of all, Martin had a letter personally signed by Lord Mountbatten which ended with a simple pun designed to trick the Germans into believing the Allied assault would be on Sardinia, 'Let me have him [Martin] back, please, as soon as the assault is over. He might bring some sardines with him; they are on points here!'
Major Martin was buried at sea in a Mae West life jacket. Later in the day the body was found by Spanish fishermen. A post-mortem [autopsy] officially established cause of death as "asphyxiation through immersion in the sea."
On 2nd May 1943 Major Martin was buried with full military honours. He even got an obituary notice in the London Times. However, his papers were not returned until May 13th, when it was established that they had been carefully examined by German agents in Spain.
Days later British Intelligence learned that the Germans had begun sending large reinforcements to Sardinia. When the Allies invaded Sicily, Field Marshal Rommel, of the German High Command, said that the failure of the German defences was 'a result of a diplomatic courier's body being washed up off Spain.'
A bold statement: however, the success of his hoax to fool Rommel's army in the desert, contributed to Montgomery's victory in 1942. Similar to the Trojan horse scam so many years before, deception was used in the Second World War, most famously at the battle of El Alamein, in northern Egypt.
As part of General Montgomery's "Operation Bertram", about 2,000 dummy tanks, made of timber and canvas, were positioned well to the south of the proposed point of attack, where 1,000 real tanks had been disguised as lorries.
To deceive General Rommel's army into believing that the Allies were in no hurry to attack, a fake water pipeline to supply the simulated armies was built, in a somewhat leisurely manner. Its progress could be tracked from the air by German planes.
The operation was a success and this army hoax contributed to the allied forces being able to invade Europe later in the war.
British intelligence came up with the idea of using an actor to impersonate General Montgomery. They had been amused by Meyrick Clifton James doing an impression of General Bernard Montgomery and on the eve of the D-Day invasion of Normandy they decided to send him as a decoy Gibraltar. The ruse worked so well that Germany's spy Major Ignacio Molina Pérez, was convinced that he was seeing General Montgomery meeting Governor, Lieutenant-General Sir Ralph Rusty" Eastwood.
The German high command believed Pérez and diverted valuable troops away from Normandy to meet the nonexistent threat of Meyrick Clifton James in the Mediterranean. Meanwhile the real General Montgomery was masterminding the D-Day landings on Gold, Sword and Juno beaches. (Photo right of James, not Montgomery.)
Soldier magazine revealed that the fur on the bearskin helmets worn by the Irish guards while on duty at Buckingham Palace keeps growing and needs to be regularly trimmed, 'The most hair-raising fact about the bearskins has been discovered by scientists recently. The skins retain an original hormone, which lives on after the animal has been skinned. Scientists call it otiose and it is hoped it can be put to use in medical research - especially into baldness.'
Will and Guy have discovered that the article also quoted Major Ursa who noted, 'Bears hibernate in the winter and the amazing thing is that in the spring the skins really start to sprout.'
An accompanying photo, which we are unable to track down, showed Guardsmen sitting in an army barbershop having their helmets trimmed.
This military hoax was picked up by the British national daily newspapers and run as a straight story.
A college graduate applied for a job at the Central Intelligence Agency.
Together with several other applicants, he was given a sealed envelope and told to take it to the fourth floor.
He couldn't help but wonder what was inside but he couldn't check it because of the other people in the elevator.
His curiosity got the better of him when the elevator opened on the 4th floor. He snuck away to an empty hallway, looked both ways to make sure no one else was around and opened the envelope.
Inside there was a message that read, "You're our kind of person. You're hired. Report to the fifth floor."
An imposter with an impossible array of medals has been found out. Look at the number medals worn by this man who had no right to wear them. He was spotted on a Remembrance Day parade wearing the medals and was arrested and charged under Section 197 of the Military Act 1955.
What makes this a particularly stupid attempt to show off is that actual soldiers would scan the medals and realize that they were 'wrong'. Take for example the Distinguished Service Order with Palm indicating Mention in Dispatches. Those with knowledge of medals would spot that 'Mention in Dispatches' is a separate award that should be worn only on a campaign medal and not on the DSO. Also the Kuwait Liberation Medal is not allowed to be worn publically. All mysterious protocol to Will and Guy, but clear signs of an imposter to any curious military man, and they would all be curious to 'clock' such a distinguished set of medals.
The man, Roger Day, had wanted to impress a lady some 24 years younger than him. He later married her and persuaded her to buy the 17 medals claiming that he had lost the originals.
He gained a number of advantages by deceiving his relatives and friends. He started wearing the medals over the years and began bragging and told stories to others while wearing the medals. The court learned that he attended local pubs with medals and insignia and told detailed stories to the vicar at the local church who then made him a church warden. After marching in the parade on Remembrance Day he enjoyed refreshments with veterans and free coffee.'
The man pleaded guilty to a charge of military deception and has been ordered to complete community service. His medals have been confiscated we are pleased to report.
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