After over 50 years, one of the last Top Secret operations of the Second World War has finally been declassified. It took a suit under the Freedom of Information Act and nearly ten years of effort before the Defense Department even admitted that any of the requested documents existed. After the first court battle, in which the Disassociated Press was granted access to the files, the documents were so heavily censored that even the page numbers were blacked out. Rooters, the British news service joined the suit, and pages 3 and 5 of the 752 page report were released.
It was just enough.
Through relentless research, participants’ names were uncovered. A team of reporters descended on retirement homes in Florida to locate enough World War II veterans who were aware of these events. Although they had been sworn to secrecy, one 96 year old veteran talked. He said that it had been so long since anyone had sat and listened to him, that he’d share an interesting story. After he was done, several of his shuffleboard buddies affirmed his tale.
Operation “Next, Please?”
Many people believe that the Second World War was won by sheer strength by a pincer movement with the Soviets to the East and the Americans to the West closing in on Berlin. This was the coup de gras, but victory was assured not only by our men in uniform, but also by covert operatives smuggled into Germany beginning in 1944.
The British Secret Intelligence Service had attempted to reintroduce French refugees back to the European mainland to conduct intelligence gathering and sabotage. These efforts at first were mildly successful. The German SS attempted to identify members of the French Underground at first but soon realized that it was far more effective to merely bait areas at potential risk with caches of wine and soft cheeses. In many cases such “Café Traps” managed to distract the French agents from their missions until the mission was either forgotten or no longer feasible. Instead the intended underground fighters were content to sip wine, eat cheese and lie to one another about their war experiences. It’s true that there was the occasional demolition of a railroad line or radio station, but most damage was limited to issues that could be repaired in a matter of days.
With ruthless German efficiency, factories in the Ruhr Valley churned out thousands of gallons of red wine and metric tons of brie. The cost of utilizing these top divert the French from their missions was less costly than maintaining a single battalion of Waffen SS to maintain control. It was one of the most efficient and effective weapons of the war.
Eventually, Great Britain threw up their hands and turned to the Americans to help. The Americans had several significant advantages that allowed them to succeed where the Brits had failed. The first was that the American universities and libraries had not undergone the damage that their English counterparts had experienced from German air raids. The English had taken to hosing down the books at the first sound of the air raid siren. It prevented fires, but made the pages very difficult to turn.
Top researchers were assigned to a project whose security made the Manhattan project seem puny by comparison. Working around the clock, such diverse academicians as mathematicians, social scientists, psychologists, business professors and music appreciation teachers scoured the literature for the weaknesses they knew must exist. They were successful.
The second advantage that the American had was due to their immigrant population. Almost every US citizen had roots that started in some other country. Many second, third or even fourth generation Americans still spoke the family language at home. As those who spoke German were drafted or enlisted, they were secretly evaluated and those who met certain criteria were quietly shipped to a secret training facility in the outskirts of Frankenmuth, Michigan. The criteria included the expected blonde hair and blue eyes as well as shortness of stature and the lack of a sense of humor
Training was rigorous and details are still highly classified. However, we now know, thanks to the veterans who were brave enough then to carry out the missions then and brave enough to share information with us, where the operatives were sent after training.
After being equipped with appropriate German uniforms, the operatives were initially smuggled into occupied France. Passing as German bureaucrats, they began their mission. Here is one example.
German Chief of Staff: “Field Marshall Rommel has called for his automobile. He needs to get to Normandy immediately.”
US Operative, dressed as German Bureaucrat: “That will not be possible! I need two copies of form 1732 signed by a logistics engineer.”
German Chief of Staff: “Even for a Field Marshall! This is preposterous!”
US Operative: “Fuehrer’s personal orders. He is taking a more personal interest in every aspect of the war these days.”
German Chief of Staff: (Sighs.) “Where do I get the forms.”
US Operative: “I have the forms here, but you’ll have to go to Calais to get them signed. If you leave now, you can be back by tomorrow afternoon and then you can go to Normandy.”
German Chief of Staff: (Mumbles under his breath) “Very well, and when I return I expect you to be here at your post, and not somewhere taking a break.”
US Operative: (Angrily) “This post is always manned. I may only be a clerk, but I’m a clerk for the Third Reich! Heil Hitler!”
The German penchant for efficiency and predictable routine was easily manipulated by the ersatz bureaucrats. Operatives made their way into Germany where they set up shop in fuel dumps, refusing to issue petroleum products to any vehicle without the correct serial number. German soldiers returning in defeat from the Eastern front were ordered by operatives to return to Russia and not come back until they had retrieved their entire issue of equipment. Successful officers were summarily removed from combat and informed that they had orders to return to school, get married, or in extreme cases to sit in the waiting room until called.
The German Army effectiveness crumbled even as it efficiently adapted to the new rules. Buried under a mountain of paperwork, the Third Reich collapsed.
General Dwight D. Eisenhower was so incensed when he found out that he decided to retire from the Army and go into politics.