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"I am not what I am!"
-Iago in Othello
In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always
be attended by a bodyguard of lies."
-Winston Churchill, speaking to Franklin D. Roosevelt and Josef Stalin.
The Second World War was a many-faceted struggle. Battle lines were drawn on many fronts, but combat was not resolved exclusively by the G.I. on the black sands of Iwo Jima or in the bitter cold of the Ardennes. A sordid array of characters was fighting the war in such little-known places as Korcula and Saigon, and traipsing through supposedly secure areas such as U.S. Army arsenals and British RAF bases. The German Abwehr, SD and SS, British MI-5, MI-6 and the ultra-secret X-Troop, Soviet Red Orchestra, and the fledgling American OSS were all spy organizations that played pivotal roles in the balances of information and power during the second great World War.
In 1938 when British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain returned to London from a Munich meeting with German Chancellor Adolf Hitler and triumphantly declared "peace for our time," the chiefs of secret intelligence agencies all over Europe knew better. Espionage was well under way, and the following year the German Wehrmacht opened the War by crushing Poland.
Nazi Germany had two agencies already spying: the Abwehr, a branch of the OKW, or Armed Forces High Command, engaged in keeping watch on such information as the military preparedness of foreign nations; and the SD, or Sicherheitsdienst, the secret intelligence and security service of the Nazi party, responsible for both internal surveillance and espionage abroad. England also had two agencies for military intelligence, MI-5 and MI-6. In theory, MI-5 dealt with domestic security and MI-6 with foreign espionage. In practice, the concerns of the two agencies frequently overlapped, as did the respective concerns and agendas of Germany's Abwehr and the SD.
One British intelligence coup of particular note takes place before the invasion of Sicily. Carried off by the espionage unit known as X-Troop in a deceptive scheme known as Operation Mincemeat, a British submarine deposited a corpse in the uniform of a Royal Marines major off the Spanish coast. "Major Martin" would be found with a briefcase containing documents and letters suggesting that Greece and Sardinia were the prime targets for landings. The British officer that did not exist washed up in the Spanish waters according to plan. Hitler accepted the bogus information as genuine, disregarding the advice of his Intelligence experts, and at once ordered reinforcements to Greece and Sardinia. Sicily was thus left less heavily defended than it would otherwise have been. Lord Louis Mountbatten, the founder and initial commanding officer of X-Troop had written one of these letters of deception. Afterwards, when anyone mentioned this scheme, he would say jocularly that "Ma!
jor Martin" was "the best Royal Marines officer I ever had on my staff."
X-Troop was arguably the strangest, most individualistic and most secret
unit to wear uniform in any Allied army. Even its title was unusual. Winston Churchill suggested the enigmatic designation when Lord Mountbatten was forming the unit. "Because they will all be unknown warriors," Churchill pointed out, "they must perforce be considered an unknown quantity. Since the algebraic symbol for the unknown is X, let us call them X-Troop." The unit was composed entirely of volunteers from various and diverse walks of life. Anti-Nazi Germans, Hungarians and Austrians. Many were Jews whose families had died in concentration camps. All had volunteered for hazardous tasks where their particular backgrounds or qualifications were of great value. Sometimes the required skills for volunteers were somewhat bizarre: the candidate must be a chemist, or be able to drive a Rumanian railway locomotive
The cryptic man behind the Nazi Abwehr spy network, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, built the Abwehr from an adjunct of the German military establishment into a vast organization that succeeded in gathering intelligence from thousands of spies all over the world. He relished his job as Abwehr chief, working from the start to establish his departments importance to the Nazi state. He recruited agents by the thousands and dispersed them to sensitive listening posts about the world. through diplomatic maneuvering he won a set of written accords that guaranteed the autonomy of the Abwehr from the SS in matters of military intelligence. The provisos
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Abwehr, German Lutherans, Wilhelm Canaris, Espionage, Sicherheitsdienst, Secret Intelligence Service, Gnther Schtz, John Codd
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