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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*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