An Unforgettable History of Fascinating Deception and Spy Capers

The discovery of a drowned body with an attached briefcase off Spain’s coast in 1943 was part of one of WWII’s most macabre deceptions. Ciencia Historica

39. Recovering Major Martin’s Briefcase

General Francisco Franco’s Spain was ostensibly neutral during WWII, but its pro-Axis sympathies were an open secret. During the Spanish Civil War, Franco had been generously supplied and armed by Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. Tens of thousands of Spanish volunteers were fighting under German command on the Eastern Front.

Initially, Spanish authorities resisted German entreaties to let them examine the contents of Major Martin’s briefcase. However, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of German military intelligence, the Abwehr, personally intervened, and the Spaniards relented. Spanish intelligence personnel carefully opened sealed envelopes in the recovered briefcase, dried and photographed them, then handed the photos to the Germans.