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31 History Facts!

6. Why did the Nazis assassinate Hollywood’s star?

Leslie Howard and Olivia De Havilland (Gone with the Wind, 1939)


On June 1st, 1943 KLM’s flight No 777 took off from Portugal to England. Believing that Winston Churchill is on board, the German air force – the Luftwaffe – shot it down.

All 17 passengers and crew members were killed, including one of Hollywood’s ‘Gone with the Wind’ star –  Leslie Howard.

To be sure, British intelligence knew about the attack beforehand, as they deciphered the kill order via a captured German Enigma machine. Nonetheless, Churchill decided not to warn the passengers and, indeed, to sacrifice them to keep the captured Enigma a secret. 

R.I.P Leslie Howard.

Bonus Fact: Winston Churchill was a great believer in wartime deception. In 1943 – during the Tehran conference, – he told the USSR leader, Joseph Stalin, “In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies”.

Stalin, who not endowed with Churchill’s poetic ability, replied: “This is what we call military guile.”

The meeting at Teheran was the starting pistol and the initial inspiration for one of history’s most complex military fraud programs – operation ‘Bodyguard’. The code name was given to the WWII strategic fraud program aimed to mislead the German High Command as to the time and place of D-Day – the allied forces’ invasion to occupied France. 

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