The Mystery Behind The Man Who Never Was

Fake ID and ticket stubs to a London theater were planted on the body of William Martin.
Fake ID and ticket stubs to a London theater were planted on the body of William Martin.

“WASN’T GROWING UP in the DFW Metroplex fun, David? I thought so.”

“Yeah. The older I get, the more I dislike huge cities, but at that time, in the Fifties and Sixties, it was quite the wonderland for youngsters with all of the museums, sporting events, shopping centers. They had pro teams for almost every sport. If you will excuse me I will call it groovy.” David Bastrop answered his friend, Mickey Martin, but he knew a groan was probably coming.”

Mickey was so anxious to get out his next comment that he ignored the “groovy” and just started talking. “They had a lot of TV stations that remote areas don’t have. I know because I have lived in both places, city and remote, ha! Remember the old Channel Eleven out of Fort Worth? It had wrestling and roller derby before roller derby was even popular.”

“Yeah,” David agreed. “Sportatorium events. Channel 11 was great. Remember Icky Twerp and Slam Bang Theater? It was corny, but we tuned in to watch it. You couldn’t pull us away from the set when it was on. We overdosed on The Three Stooges, for sure. As time goes by, I appreciate Slam Bang Theater more and more.”

“One of the things I liked about good old Channel 11” Mickey said, “was the old movies they ran, too. I saw so many good Sci Fi things on that channel, like The Creature of the Black Lagoon. They ran The Invisible Man, and I think they even re-ran Sea Hunt for awhile on there.” Mickey loved the weird and watery stuff.

“I can’t remember what all I saw, but I do remember a movie I saw on Channel 11 that will always stick with me. Over the years I have thought about how lucky I was to be tuned in that day, or I would have never even known of its existence or the story behind it. Clifton Webb was in it. I have a DVD of it now.”

Mickey asked, “What movie was that?”

“The Man Who Never Was,” David added drama to his voice.

“I don’t guess I know that one. What was it about?”

“It is a true story from World War II that involved quite a bit of mysterious intrigue. The story happens in 1942 and the Germans were convinced that the Allies would invade Sicily. The Allies, therefore, needed to figure out a way to make the Germans think they were going to invade Sardinia instead, to throw them off.”

“How on earth were they able to trick the Germans?”

“The Royal Naval Intelligence of Britain was given the task of coming up with a plan. They decided that if an Allied courier was found in the water, killed as the result of an aviation crash, that the Germans might deduce from papers found on the courier’s body that the Allies were going to invade Sardinia instead.”

“How did they arrange for the courier to be conveniently killed? Did a Briton volunteer for a suicide mission?”

“No. You see, he was already dead. They found a suitable dead person, one that had died of pneumonia—it would look like a drowning at sea—they   dressed him in Royal Marines military uniform, put a fake ID and fake papers on him, including letters, and arranged for his body to wash up on a beach. It did—on a beach that was Spanish territory. The Spanish authorities informed the British that their courier was found dead. The British retrieved Major Martin’s body and buried him with full military honors. They questioned the Spanish authorities about why all of the documents were missing from Martin’s body. Spain coughed them up and turned them over to the British—it was a mere oversight, they said.”

“Was it?”

“It may have been, but by close examination of the documents in laboratories, the British were able to determine in a timely fashion, that the documents had been intercepted by the Germans and examined by them before putting them back on the body. They thought no one would be the wiser. It is a little complicated, but reading the book or watching the movie makes it very clear—naturally I prefer the movie, and I have always liked Clifton Webb in anything he ever played.”

“Okay. You have gotten the best of my curiosity. I will now have to get the DVD, unless you want to lend me yours,” Micky dropped this un-ignorable hint to his friend.

*     *     *

     The basic facts: Royal Naval Intelligence procured a body of a recently deceased person, one that died of pneumonia. The family of the deceased was in total agreement but made one request—that the true identity of their loved one would never be known.

With all in agreement and these arrangements made, the body then became Maj. William Martin, Royal Marine. On the body was a letter to an Allied General Alexander explaining that he could not go through with his own campaign, as Sicily was no longer the target of the Allies—it was going to be another target in the Mediterranean.

In another letter on Martin was a message from Lord Mountbatten to an Admiral that requested for him to bring some sardines with him because they were being rationed and not available to military personnel. This off-the-cuff comment was supposed to make anyone reading the message think that Sardinia was the intended allied target and not Sicily. The body was planted near the intended shore by the HM submarine, Seraph. It had been concealed in the torpedo compartment.

The Germans, including Hitler himself, concluded from their clandestine document snooping that Sardinia would be the target and as a result the Allied invasion of Sicily was successful and Allied losses were minimized.

Who was Major Martin? There are many people, including myself, that wish they could somehow thank him.

Sara Marie Hogg is the author of The Scavenger’s Song.ScavengersSong

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