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Deathly Deception: The Real Story of Operation Mincemeat Hardcover – July 15, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Smyth, a professor of history at the University of Toronto, applies the research and analytic skills of his discipline to a subject primarily addressed by general audience writers. The story of Operation Mincemeat is familiar: it was an elaborate ruse to distract the Germans from a planned invasion of Sicily by leading them to believe Greece was the Allied target. In early 1943, British Intelligence produced a briefcase containing documents alluding to the purported Aegean campaign. They invented an officer's identity, found a body to fit, and released the corpse and briefcase from a submarine. The man who never was washed ashore in Franco's Spain, and the Nazis eventually swallowed Mincemeat whole. Smyth sacrifices none of the dramatic details of the plan's construction and implementation, down to reconfirming the identity of the man who became Major William Martin. Smyth completes the story in three ways. He presents the complex processes of the false information's evaluation by German intelligence, the high command, and Hitler himself. Second, he describes the painstaking method by which the British verified Mincemeat's progress. And third, he relates the vital achievement of Allied intelligence to convince the military commanders to undertake the deception. As a strategic success, Mincemeat has few rivals and no superiors. 8 pages of b&w photos. (Aug.)
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From Booklist

*Starred Review* This superlative and almost unexpurgated account of Operation Mincemeat will enthrall serious students of WWII. Ewen Montague told the tale first in The Man Who Never Was (1953), the classic account of planting deceptive documents on a dead body and releasing it off the Spanish coast in 1943 so they would fall into German hands and mislead them about the planned invasion of Sicily. He appears here as a vital creative and coordinating force, but he was not the only vital member of a large cast, all portrayed with a novelist’s skill and a narrative historian’s eye for the context of their roles. We find RAF officers, submarine captains, forensic pathologists, coroners, two female intelligence officers simulating the deceased’s fiancée, a racing driver who carried the body across Britain, and higher-ups including Lord Mountbatten and the vice chief of the Imperial General Staff. Then there is the whole network of British agents and diplomats in Spain, who steered the documents around pro-Allied elements in the Spanish navy into hands that would pass them along to Hitler. After that come British and Greek saboteurs, who made sure that German troops deployed to Greece to meet the imagined invasion stayed there! Finally, there is the indigent Welshman, whose body was presented as Major William Martin. Readers are likely to find this book impossible to put down once started and impossible to forget once finished. --Roland Green
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 367 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1st edition (July 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199233985
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199233984
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 1.1 x 6.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,330,654 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Anson Cassel Mills on August 19, 2010
Format: Hardcover
Smyth's thorough investigation of the daring and successful 1943 deception of German intelligence--probably best known under the name of its officially censored account, The Man Who Never Was (1953)--will probably remain indefinitely the most important academic study of this British intelligence coup.

It would be difficult even for a pedant to make such a story boring, but Smyth wields a better pen than most professors. Occasionally he gives way to some heavy-handed humor; more frequently, he wanders off course with extensive biographical and historical detail. But how unfortunate for Smyth that the gifted journalist Ben Macintyre would publish his popular Operation Mincemeat the same year!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By OXFORD DON on February 4, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The definitive account of Operation Mincemeat---the British intelligence coup putting a corpse in the sea dressed as a major of the Royal Marines carrying faked letters indicating that the allies would invade Greece rather than their next intended target Sicily. Based on much more solid research then the MacIntyre book,Deathly Deception places the operation in the larger context of British deception in the Med. There is a wealth of detail and biography concerning the various players which takes the book beyond the realm of the story of the actual deception. Of particular interest is the author's discussion of the debate over whether Operation Mincemeat was effective in getting the Germans to change their military dispositions. He shows that the operation was indeed so effective and was a forerunner of the very successful D Day deception in 1944. An outstanding work.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By JB - Phils on November 12, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have known about and heard about "the man that never was" most of my life - including seeing the movie a long time ago. But recently, after reading other books about World War II and the Abwehr (German Military Intelligence), I was fascinated to know more about how British intelligence actually carried out this most famous of all "misinformation" projects. Well if you have the same curiosity, you need look no further than this amazingly researched and detailed, but still enthralling account, by Denis Smyth. And the book obviously benefits by the amount of classified information that has become available through the passage of time and long after sensitive governments stopped publication of sensitive aspects of the project. The extents to which the British agents went to fool the Gestapo and the Abwehr were truly extraordinary. A great read and I would imagine mandatory reading for all intelligence services.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Peter Norrie Martin on December 20, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Denis Smyth writes with the authority of a master of history. He provides in depth analysis combined with the human touch. His coverage of my late father's military identity being used in the deception is accurate to a fault. His book is, in my opinion, second to none, and provides an extremely well researched account of a truly complex operation.
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