Weird Wars: Lost Maps, Lost Plans June 29, 2016Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern , trackback
You’ve all had that awful sinking feeling. You’ve prepared your masterful attack with a vast army across the entire front and then some fool goes and misplaces the map: and next thing you know the scrap of paper ends up in the hands of your opposite number, in the enemy high command. There must be a dozen examples of this through history – human incapacity being what it is – but here are four that stand out: if anyone can add please send on in drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com
First, Special Order 191 written about 10 Sept 1862. Robert E. Lee gave this order as he was moving into Union territory, taking the war, for the first time, to Lincoln. The problem was that somehow a copy of the order was misplaced in a confederate camp by General Hill, one of Stonewall Jackson’s subordinates. Luckily for the Union it was discovered with three cigars wrapped in it, by Union soldiers, 13 September. McClellan famously said on being handed the paper that if he could not ‘whip Bobby Lee’ with the report, he might as well resign. A typical lack of self knowledge on McClellan’s part: it would fall to Lincoln to help McClellan ‘go home’.
North Atlantic Naval Map. The secret German map of the north Atlantic, with cipher and signal books was found on the body of a German officer who was washed ashore, after the loss of the Magdeburg in August 1914. The Russians passed the information on to the British (who would later draw inspiration from this episode for operation mincemeat in a later world war). Naval intelligence rapidly put the map and the ciphers to work. The map split the ocean into numbered squares and allowed the Allies to track German naval plans outside the Baltic in the first year of the war.
Fall Gelb, employed in the winter of 1940. The German high command had lovingly, in the way of German high commands, sculpted its masterful attack in the west only for an idiot to mess it all up with a plane crash. 10 Jan a German plane piloted by Erich Hoenmanns had an accident: Hoenmanns first accidentally flew into Belgian territory, second got the Meuse and the Rhine mixed up, and third accidentally turned off his gas supply. He crash landed his plane on Belgian soil and was immediately taken into custody with his passenger, Helmuth Reinberger. Reinberger was, as it happened, carrying a map of the planned attack on Belgian and tried to dispose of it but the Belgian police who came to pick the Germans up smelt burning and retrieved the blue print about the planned invasion of their neutral country. Awkward…
Atlantic Wall. In 1942 René Duchez, a member of the French resistance, stole a map of the German’s Atlantic Wall, while showing the German high command wallpaper samples. The map was temporarily hidden behind a mirror in the German offices and RD, then, later retrieved it while doing decorating work. This map proved to be an understandably important resource in the attack of Summer 1944 and happily RD survived the war.
Beach has been wracking his brain about another map incident when a map was thrown from out of a burning plane after an attack on an airfield (Falklands?), but he has been unable to find the reference, or, for that matter, the war.
Louis writes in, 30 Jun 2016, ‘Market Garden, that is what you’re looking for. Against all regulations a staff officer from the 1st airborne army took with him the entire plan, with maps. His glider was cut loose from the towing plane, and crash landed somewhere in the Netherlands, which did him in, on the first day of the attack.. There the plans were found, and were in possession of OB West that evening. However FM Model suspected a dis\misinformation plan, and mistrusted them. General Bittrich did trust them and was able to formulate a spoiling plan for the reinforcements and supply drops in the following days, which more or less doomed the 1st Airborne Division. I do realise that this happend during the battle, but that is the nearest I can come up with… Although…. The plans for the Austrian-Hungarian Invasion of Galicia, in 1914, were given to the Russians by their spy in the Austrian-Hungarian high command. However, even after they caught him, those plans were not changed! When war came, they were implemented, but with a change: All assembly areas were shifted 100 miles to the west. When the change started to unhinge the mobilisation- and assembly plans, he shifted them back to the original points, where the Russians were waiting for them….
I [Beach] think that I was thinking of another plane incident but it still won’t surface… Something about a convoy?