Brian Brushwood is bringing listeners one episode closer to some of the greatest con jobs, swindles, and heists in history. You’ll learn about how some of the most epic cons came to pull off their plans. In his first episode, he’s talking about how someone got away with fooling Hitler.
Fool the Nazis, or live with them for the rest of your life. Those were the consequences of whatever the Allies decided to do in 1943. Brian Brushwood, professional con artist/magician, author, and lecturer tells the story of one of the world’s greatest cons. It involves the Allies, a Trojan Horse-type situation, a corpse, and James Bond. Well, not James Bond, but Ian Fleming, the author/creator of James Bond.
Brushwood is obsessed with this story, and now we are, too. He spins us the tale of the Allies operation to take the island of Sicily, or the soccer ball of Italy, as he put it. Occupying Sicily meant control of the Mediterranean, putting them in ideal positioning to receive inbound ships and control the canals surrounding it. The problem was, Axis-controlled Sicily was the perfect target, so perfect that the Axis powers had no question that’s what the Allies would attack next. There were no ifs, ands, or buts. Sicily was going to be next, and Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy were prepared for that.
Husky and Mincemeat
So, the leading warminds of the Allies, Winston Churchill, Dwight Eisenhower, the whole gang, had to come up with a plan. How to take Sicily and turn the tide of the war? They called this Operation Husky, which was just the operation to take the island of Axis-occupied Sicily. Not good enough. They had to con the Axis Powers into believing this was not their plan.
In comes Charles Cholmondely and Ewen Montagu, one of the heads of the Twenty Committee. The Twenty Committee, as we learned literally just right now, oversaw the Double Cross System, which was a World War II counter-espionage and deception operation of the British Security Service. One of their jobs was to create fake spies, or double agents. You see, if Germany got their hands on the Allies’ list of all of their double-agents, they would simply go out and kill them all. But creating fake people, fake spies, made it impossible to know who was real and who was not, therefore misleading the Nazis and potentially saving their agents lives.
A Trojan Horse and a trout
Together the two came up with a “Trojan Horse” of a plan that would put the Allies plans directly into the hands of Hitler. It was based on the 1939 Trout memo, written by Rear Admiral John Godfrey and his personal assistant, Lieutenant Commander Ian Fleming. It was called Operation Mincemeat: a misinformation campaign designed to make Hitler believe they are not going to take Sicily, but instead attack the Balkans. And all they needed was a dead body, a Royal Marines uniform, and a war plan document signed by all of the highest ranking Allies officials. Then just a little bit of luck that Germany and Italy would take the bait, and fully believe that this corpse and all of it’s secrets were authentic.
And that’s just the first episode. “World’s Greatest Con” will forever skew your idea of what makes a great podcast. Because this is a great podcast. A five-part series narrated by the most entertaining man alive telling the most interesting story we’ve heard in a long while. We’ll probably listen to these five episodes a few more times, in fact! Brushwood is funny, entertaining, heartbreakingly genuine about his brother’s death, and above all, a genius storyteller. Do yourself a favor and listen to “World’s Greatest Con,” you’ll be hooked within 60 seconds.