Rogue One: A Star Wars Story explores the lives of the rebels that kicked off the events of A New Hope by stealing the plans to the Death Star from the Empire. This is a much darker and realistic take on the galaxy far, far away, and, in a way, it emulates what real-life soldiers and agents have to go through in times of war.
Covert missions like the one in #RogueOne happen in our world, as well (minus gigantic death stations and Force-using superhumans). Some of these operations were so crazy you'd think you were reading a story from the mind of an incredibly creative writer. Here are five of the most interesting covert war missions in history:
1. Operation Musketeer (July 26, 1956 - October 22, 1956)
Egypt's second President, Gamal Abdel Nasser, announced on July 26, 1956 that he would nationalize the Suez Canal. British Prime Minister, Anthony Eden, (who was obsessed with Nasser) was informed of it during a dinner party for King Faisal of Iraq.
An agreement (involving France, England and Israel) was then quickly made to stop Nasser. The guidelines of the operation were:
"Manifestation of military force preceded by secret action adequate to include counter propaganda of Cairo Radio and correct the critique towards our own role. The response to Nasser will be given the name of "Musketeer."
Eden and Guy Mollet (French Prime Minister) concluded that the 1950 Tripartite Agreement gave England and France the legal right to occupy the Canal if a war erupted between Israel and Egypt. To make the world believe this was the case, the MI6 and Mossad used the media to spread "false" information about how Nasser represented a growing threat to Israel.
On October 22 of 1956, representatives from British Intelligence and the Mossad converged in the French city of Sevres to plan the assault. Keep in mind: These people plotted such an operation without the consent of any of their respective governments. Isser Harel, one of the people in the meeting, stated:
"The situation had a medieval hint."
The meeting had to be over by midnight to allow the Israelis to return to Tel Aviv and avoid the detection of their absence. Finally, they reached an agreement: Israel would attack Egypt through the Sinai Desert and would try to reach the Suez Canal in less than 24 hours.
Britain and France would then give Nasser and his troops an ultimatum, and enter the zone as peace forces; by then, the Israeli forces would fall back. If the ultimatum wasn't accepted, Britain and France would invade Egypt and take control of the Canal. The taking of the Suez Canal was ultimately a disaster, but... hey, at least it was a great buildup.
2. Winston Churchill Vs. Nazi Bombing (1944)
On June 13, 1944, several missiles flew over London, each carrying 1,763 pounds of explosives. Over the course of two days, London was bombed. On the night of June 17, Prime Minister Winston Churchill called a meeting with prominent intelligence representatives to figure out how to protect the heart of London. This portion of the city was so important because it held the different operations Britain led against Nazi Germany.
Present in the meeting was MI5's John Cecil Masterman. He headed the XX Committee, which controlled 102 double agents who had endured brutal interrogations.
Churchill asked him to have his double agents leak false information to their German contacts to make the launching base's technicians adjust their target's coordinates. The goal was to trick the German technicians into shortening the bombs' range, making them believe they were hitting the main target: The heart of London. This meant that the missiles had to be redirected to other populated areas, mainly East End. Masterman assigned the mission to his best double agent, Eddie Chapman (code name "Zigzag").
On July 1st, 1944, Chapman sent his first radio message to his contact in the Abwehr. The following missiles then started to hit the East End and nearby fields, successfully diverting fire from the heart of London. Masterman proudly recalled of this operation:
"The ruse was an authentic triumph and saved thousands of lives."
Chapman's messages to his contact were destroyed by David Petrie (Director General of MI5) to leave no evidence of Churchill's involvement in so many deaths. The brutal attack ended in August of 1944 and claimed 6,184 lives.
3. Operation Wrath Of God/Operation Bayonet (1972)
During the Summer Olympics of 1972, the Munich massacre occurred; 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team were killed. In response, the Mossad (Israel's intelligence agency) created "Wrath of God," an operation to hunt down the individuals involved in the tragedy. This wasn't just one operation but several, but it's on this list because they served the same purpose.
The missions were carried out by the Mossad's kill squad, the Kideon. The team consisted of 15 people divided into five groups: They had individuals in charge of killing, guards for them, people who would provide covers for the group, others who did reconnaissance work and a group in charge of communications.
One mission involved extracting three targets living in heavily guarded houses in Lebanon. To accomplish this, on April 9, 1973, three commandos snuck to the coast of Lebanon via speedboats, dressed as civilians or as females. They were met by Mossad agents who got them to their targets' houses and drove them back to the beach for extraction.
4. Operation Anthropoid (December 1941 - May 1942)
The target: The head of the Reich Main Security Office, Reinhard Heydrich. The goal: Assassinate him. The Allies specifically chose Heydrich due to his brutal treatment of citizens and his high rank, which would show other Nazi officers they were not far from their reach.
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Warrant Officers Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš were tasked with the assassination, and decided on attempting to intercept the Nazi officer during his daily travel. They were aided by seven members from Czechoslovakia's army-in-exile and two other teams.
On May 27, 1942, Heydrich was on his way to Prague Castle. The ambush was planned on a particular curve in the road as it would inevitably force Heydrich's Mercedes to slow down. Gabčík and Kubis waited at a nearby tram stop while another operative, Josef Valčík, was keeping an eye out for his car.
Once the car got there, Gabčík stepped in front of the vehicle and opened fire. Heydrich responded by shooting him. Kubiš threw a grenade at the Nazi officer and severely wounded him. Because the blast caught Kubiš and his partner as well, they were forced to run away.
Shortly after, Heydrich was found and hospitalized. After a week, he went into a coma and died. A movie based on the operation starring Cillian Murphy and Jamie Dornan was even released earlier this year:
5. Operation Desert Shield (2006)
Delta Force is a special ops unit of the U.S. Army. Considered primarily a counter-terrorism unit, their missions are varied and incredibly dangerous. One of their most memorable ones occurred during their involvement in the Persian Gulf War.
Delta was in charge of hunting down Scud missiles, which caused devastatingly heavy damage wherever they hit. On the ground war's last day, Delta sniper teams discovered 26 of the aforementioned missiles in western Iraq. They were meant for Israel, Sadam Hussein's ploy to drag that country into the war.
The Delta team snipers, however, shot the missiles' fuel tanks from ultra long-range, killing the people handling them and thus thwarting the plan. Writing about it now doesn't do justice to the incredible feat these men accomplished and all the deaths they avoided because, had Israel got involved in the conflict, the Arab Union would have been destroyed.
As you can see, real-life events can be just as, if not more interesting than the stories we love to watch on screen. A funny thing to consider is that, as these operations prove, several of these types of missions could be going on right now as you're reading this.
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