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Just like in the movies - only more incredible: impressive special operations in recent history

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Photo: The officers of HM Submarine SERAPH on her return to Portsmouth after operations in the Mediterranean, December 24, 1943. (Royal Navy official photographer/ public domain/ via Wikimedia Commons)
Photo: The officers of HM Submarine SERAPH on her return to Portsmouth after operations in the Mediterranean, December 24, 1943. (Royal Navy official photographer/ public domain/ via Wikimedia Commons)

Specialized combat training, exceptional psychological stability and ideological motivation are the basic characteristics of a special agent. A person capable of performing unique tasks in extreme conditions. Over the past century, intelligence officers have carried out thousands of operations, but only a few of them have become legendary.

Read on to learn about unique solutions and impressive results under the "top secret" classification.

Baffling Hitler: Operation Mincemeat 

The clerk of the British Naval Intelligence, lawyer Ewen Montagu, knew the power of "wet-stamped papers" well. Such evidence worked flawlessly in court, which meant that it had to impress the enemy's military command.

Hitler was analyzing the potential directions of the anti-fascist coalition's offensive. And the British intelligence officer decided to show the Fuhrer the way by developing one of the most famous special operations of WWII – Operation Mincemeat

The body of the dead homeless man was dressed in a military uniform. In his pockets he had an ID card in the name of Major William Martin, a London residence permit, theater tickets, and a photo of his fiancée.

A small suitcase strapped to the deceased's arm contained something more interesting: correspondence between the alleged Deputy Head of the General Staff of the British Empire and the commander of the Anglo-American army in North Africa. The military discussed the landing in Greece.

The "secret letters" were supposed to end up on the shores near Ulva, Spain, where German agents were actively working. The press reported on a plane crash involving British officers. The Times mentioned "Major William Martin" in a brief obituary. A submarine delivered the body to the right water.

The Spaniards quickly found the drowned man and his suitcase with "top-secret contents." The Spaniards' allies, the German intelligence services, gained full access to the correspondence. The "exclusive interception" was sent to Berlin.

Hitler urgently sent 10 divisions to Greece. Instead, American and British troops landed in Sicily, quickly taking control of the island.

Tracking down target number 1: operation Neptune Spear

For 13 years, one of the world's most powerful intelligence services, the CIA, had been trying to hunt down a single terrorist. Bin Laden has become the most wanted man on the planet and the most secretive one.

Accused of organizing the September 11 attacks, the leader of the Islamist militant group al-Qaeda did not use the Internet or cellular communications. His closest associates had the same restrictions. However, in the summer of 2010, one of the terrorist's Kuwaiti bodyguards broke the rules.

CIA agents managed to intercept a call to Pakistan. The trail led to a fashionable house surrounded by a 5-meter concrete wall and barbed wire in Abbottabad. The house was not connected to the Internet or telephone, which raised suspicion.

Satellite imagery helped identify the house's occupants. The CIA concluded that bin Laden's presence there was likely.

On May 2, 2011, Operation Neptune Spear was launched. Two helicopters delivered 23 Navy SEALs, an interpreter, and a combat dog to the Pakistani residence. Despite armed resistance and damage to one of the helicopters, Osama bin Laden was killed. His body was transported for identification and subsequent burial in the waters of the Arabian Sea.

Saving civilians: Kabul evacuation mission 

The withdrawal of the peacekeeping contingent from Afghanistan has turned into a tragic collapse. Thousands of people surrounded Kabul's central airport in the hope of being rescued. Some desperately clung to the landing gear of the last planes and died during takeoff, while others threw their children over the fence, having no hope of seeing them again. On September 26, 2021, an explosion occurred at the airport. The terrorist attack, organized by ISIL militants, killed at least 170 civilians and 13 American soldiers.

Acess to the airport was blocked. Afghans and citizens of other countries, including diplomatic representatives of the embassies of Canada, the United States and Australia, were trapped outside the airport.

"Twice the Canadian military and once the U.S. State Department failed to evacuate this group," an eyewitness told the authoritative Canadian newspaper The Globe. The people had to get to the airport gate, which "proved impossible amid the chaos" at the airport.

Security forces from the United States, Qatar, and Canada recognized the rescue attempts as unrealistic. Ukrainian special operations forces came to the rescue.

"For the Ukrainians, it was a crash course in dealing with a Taliban government struggling with internal division, bureaucratic chaos and a barely controlled inclination for violence. For days, the Taliban refused to release the people the Ukrainians hoped to rescue, repeatedly changing the terms of the evacuation deal, demanding official recognition from the Ukrainian government, and at one point threatening to commandeer the plane," NYT writes.

Despite the extremely high risks, the Ukrainian military went into Kabul to evacuate UN representatives, members of human rights organizations, journalists and other coalition partners.

"The Ukrainian operation succeeded where others failed because Ukrainian Special Forces went into the city on foot to conduct the rescue operation," Mohammed told The Globe.

"The transport got to the airport because the Ukrainians came out. We just sent them the plate numbers of our vehicles... and they came to the local bazaar to find us." The Ukrainian military surrounded the buses and escorted them to the airfield.

“Everybody was surprised. I tried for the last month to have someone get us. We asked the Americans, the Canadians, the Qataris, everybody – and no solution. They were scared to come out,” said Javed Haqmal, a member of the Canadian Special Forces in Kandahar.

“The Ukrainian soldiers were angels for us. They did an exceptional job. They have big hearts.” In total, Ukrainians managed to evacuate more than 700 people.

It seems that high-risk rescue operations are becoming a hallmark of Ukrainian intelligence. A similar campaign to Kabul was conducted in war-torn Sudan, "where a bloody massacre broke out between government troops and Russian-backed paramilitary groups," the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine reported in its official telegram channel.

"A special forces group of less than 10 people was acting. Compared to the rescue operations of the United States, which used helicopters, armored vehicles, special forces, or Saudi Arabia, which used a missile cruiser in the port of Sudan, we acted alone without armored vehicles, aviation and heavy weapons, because all our forces are now involved in the front," said a participant of the special operation, intelligence officer Yarema.

The stories of intelligence officers, who are ready to sacrifice themselves, recognizing the value of every human life, are an inexhaustible source of inspiration for writers and film producers. However, it is worth recalling that there are also special agents whose task is to spread war and death. Last year alone, 400 Russian spies were expelled from Europe.


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