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Forces War Records Blog

APRIL 30TH - A BAD DAY FOR HITLER

Wrecked Reich Chancellery Courtyard, where it is believed that Hitler and Eva Braun were burned after they had committed suicide.

Blogger: GemSen Looking back through history, today’s date does not appear to be a great one for Adolf Hitler… On this day in 1943: Operation Mincemeat On this day in 1943, the British launched ‘Operation Mincemeat’, a wartime deception plan that fooled Hitler and the Germans -  a major turning point during the Second World War. By early 1943, the Allies were in control of almost all of North Africa and Sicily, Italy, was the next obvious place to attack. The problem was that this was a rather obvious move so something had to be done to divert German and Italian attention away from Sicily and towards another potential invasion spot. Swallowed rod, line and sinker... The plan that was eventually agreed upon was the brainchild of Ian Fleming, who went on to write the James Bond stories. Showing great creativity and imagination, Fleming who was in Naval intelligence, enjoyed coming up with plans that would outfox the Nazis. His idea was that a corpse dressed as an airman carrying fake 'secret documents' could be dropped on the North Spanish coast so that the fake documents would lead the Germans to Greece rather than Italy. The two masterminds that made the operation happen were Charles Cholmondeley and Ewen Montagu. First, they identified a suitable corpse – a Welsh vagrant named Glyndwr Michael who had committed suicide – they gave him a new name (William Martin), a new job (in the Royal Marines), and a new identity. They also gave the man a backstory with false identity cards, faked personal letters, receipts, bills, and photographs. Then in April 1943, Martin’s corpse was dropped into the sea from a Royal Navy submarine, off the coast of Northern Spain. A briefcase chained to his wrist contained official-looking documents, which indicated that the Allied armies were aiming for Greece. It was found by fishermen and handed to the Spanish authorities and then to the Nazis’ top spy in Spain, Adolf Clauss, who was the specific target that Montagu and Cholmondeley had in mind for their elaborate deception. He was known to be efficient, ruthless and gullible. "Mincemeat swallowed, rod, line and sinker" was the message sent to Churchill after the Allies learned the plot had rather fantastically worked. The diversion of German troops to Greece, thanks to 'Operation Mincemeat' played a major part in the success of the Sicily invasion. The events inspired the film ‘The Man Who Never Was’. Major Martin (Glyndwr Michael) was buried in Spain with full military honours. It is believed that Churchill wanted British spies to have “corkscrew minds” because Hitler “thought in straight lines” - it would appear that Operation Mincemeat proves exactly this. What a great true story that sounds like it was right out of, well, a James Bond movie. On this day in 1945: It's all over for Hitler  Fast forward a few years from April 30th 1943, and on this day in 1945 things got even worse for Hitler - feeling that suicide was his only option rather than face the ignominy of capture, he shot himself in the head. Shortly after his death, on May 8th 1945, Germany surrendered to the Allied forces, ending the Führer’s plans for a thousand year Reich. Accompanying Hitler in his shelter and in death was his new wife, Eva Braun, who also ended her life by swallowing a cyanide capsule. Over a 100 days in a bunker From 1943 it was becoming increasingly clear that Germany would collapse under the pressure of the Allied forces. In January 1945, Germany was facing a fierce siege of Berlin by the soviets, and Hitler was forced to hide out in his bunker, located below his headquarters, the Chancellery. Hitler rarely left the safety of the bunker and stayed in his lair for over 100 days  - it is where he and Eva Braun were married days before they both killed themselves. Hitler, growing increasingly mad, continued to control the German government from the shelter and he maintained access to the outside world via telephone and telegraph lines. By this time though, it was too late for Hitler and the German army to make any real impact. And on April 29th, the night before his death, the news got worse when Field Marshall Keitel reported that Berlin would be lost to the Russians as it would receive no more troops. General Weidling, given the task of defending Berlin, believed that his men would stop fighting that night due to their ammunition running out. Hitler had heard that Mussolini had also been caught and shot in Italy with his body, along with that of his mistress, Clara Pettachi, hung upside down in a square in Milan. Not wanting the same humiliation, Hitler ordered that after committing suicide, that both his and his wife’s body should be burned. Apparently, none of the bunker’s survivors heard the shot that killed Hitler and his body was never found, which sparked off rumours that he managed somehow to flee to South America. Also, a fragment of a skull complete with gunshot wound, believed for decades to be the Nazi leader’s turned out to be that of a woman under 40 after DNA analysis. The piece of skull had been taken from outside Hitler's bunker by the Russian Army and preserved by Soviet intelligence. The story of Hitler’s death is perhaps considered a bit more mysterious and conspiracy theorists do debate whether he died in the bunker at all. What do you believe happened to Hitler? Do you think that April 30th 1945 marks his death, or perhaps his escape? Comment below and let us know... Hutchinson's Pictorial History of War, Series 26, no 18, in the Forces War Records Historic documents collection contains a photograph showing the wrecked Chancellery where Hitler is said to have died. The Forces War Records historic document library is full of documents relating to World War II - have a look around for some interesting finds. Sources: BBC History and www.history.com  
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