US Intelligence Mistakes Helped Build Myth of Nazi Alpine Redoubt, Historian Says | World War II

An American spy master inadvertently helped the Nazis develop one of the most effective disinformation campaigns of WWII by spreading rumors about Hitler’s plans for a Where Eagles Dare-style alpine redoubt, discovered a historian with access to classified American military archives.

The myth that the Nazis were amassing arms and crack units from 100,000 fanatic soldiers in the spring of 1945 for one last fight in the Austro-Bavarian Alps was without any foundation but had a strong hold on the imaginations of US military leaders and British. , who feared it would prolong the war for years.

Thomas Boghardt, a German historian at the US Army’s Military History Center in Washington DC, argues in a new book that the myth of a Nazi Alpine fortress was not a crucial factor behind the abandonment by US forces of the race in Berlin for a push to the south. but it was the one that American espionage helped make.

Nazi leaders learned of Allied fears of a final mountain-top fight in 1944, after SS intelligence intercepted a cable sent from the United States Embassy in Bern, Switzerland . As Boghardt shows in Covert Legions: US Army Intelligence in Germany 1944-1949, the message was most likely sent by Allen Dulles, later the CIA chief during the Bay of Pigs invasion fiasco but to the he was then the head of the Bern station for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS).

Allen Dulles, pictured in 1954, while serving as director of the CIA. Photograph: Associated Press

The British Secret Service had discovered that the special encryption used to secure Dulles’ communications had been compromised, but the American spy master continued to ignore their warnings, driving an enraged British agent to despair.

“[C]Would you like to point out to the idiot [Dulles] who knows his code was compromised if he used that code to report meetings with someone, the Germans have probably identified the people involved and are using them to jam [disinformation]», Entrusted the agent to his head of post. “He swallows easily.

As the British had feared, Goebbels’ propaganda ministry spent the following months constructing the myth of a German defense effort in Austria and Bavaria through disinformation and media reports, hoping that a military leadership American hijacked could be drawn into separate peace talks or even an alliance. against the Soviets.

“Dulles was a very capable officer in charge who excelled at working with human sources, but when it came to signals intelligence he was indeed very sloppy,” Boghardt told The Guardian.

As Covert Legions shows, Allied forces were extremely sensitive to disinformation campaigns in the later stages of the war, with Field Marshal Montgomery being arrested at one point as an impostor by US guards following a rumor according to him. which the Germans were considering impersonating the British commander.

After the war ended, the Nazis barricading themselves on top of snow-capped mountains became a staple of swashbuckling war films, such as 1968’s Where Eagles Dare, starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood.

However, while some Allied intelligence reports explicitly cited the Alpine Redoubt theory as an argument for an Allied push into southern Germany in 1945, Boghardt rejects the idea that it played a role. crucial in shaping the end of WWII and in preparing the ground for the Cold War. tensions with the Soviet Union, as Winston Churchill later asserted.

The United States’ decision not to support a British “pencil stroke” plan to Berlin was probably more due to the fact that the Red Army was already within 20 miles of the German capital while the Anglo-British forces. Americans were still 300 miles away, he said. said, and an agreement to divide the city had already been made.

“My impression is that the American command ultimately did not really believe in the myth of the Alpine redoubt, but perhaps kept it alive to persuade the British of their dominant strategy. “

About Victoria Rothstein

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