Customer Reviews


363 Reviews
5 star:
 (180)
4 star:
 (123)
3 star:
 (40)
2 star:
 (14)
1 star:
 (6)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


174 of 178 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Keeping the Germans in the dark...and pigeons in the air.
Before you begin reading this book, take a look at the map at the very front. It's a map of northern France and southern England. Notice how close the cities of Dover and Calais are; the sea distance is about 21 miles. Meanwhile, continue west to the widest gap between France and England which is about 100 miles. That's the distance between Portsmouth, England and the...
Published on June 1, 2012 by Jill Meyer

versus
67 of 74 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Superficial overview
The deception efforts of D-Day are one of my favorite parts of modern history, and I have read a good amount of the published works on the subject. I believe this story is a very complex and multi-faceted tale, and not really a good candidate for a 300 page book.

The Good Stuff

* The material the book does present is fascinating. The narrative is...
Published on June 16, 2012 by Andy in Washington


‹ Previous | 1 237 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

174 of 178 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Keeping the Germans in the dark...and pigeons in the air., June 1, 2012
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Before you begin reading this book, take a look at the map at the very front. It's a map of northern France and southern England. Notice how close the cities of Dover and Calais are; the sea distance is about 21 miles. Meanwhile, continue west to the widest gap between France and England which is about 100 miles. That's the distance between Portsmouth, England and the five Normandy beaches. Those 100 miles were crossed by the American, British, and Canadian forces on June 6, 1944 - D-Day. Why the Allied forces chose to set the invasion on this particular plot of land in France, reachable after an all-night trip from England, is the topic of many other books about WW2. This book, "Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies" by Ben MacIntyre, is the story of how British intelligence worked to make the Germans think the imminent invasion would occur at Calais, rather than Normandy.

By 1942 the smart money in Germany was on an invasion on the European continent in France or Scandinavia by Allied forces. It was thought to be both inevitable and somewhat imminent. The time factor was based on many things, including build-up of invasion forces, the war effort in other European theater sites, and, of course, the geography of France. Just looking at a map shows the shortest distance was from Dover in Kent to Calais - as I wrote before, about 21 miles. Hitler and the German High Command were expecting the invasion in that area, and had mined the beaches and inner area in preparation for repelling an invasion. There were many troops stationed in the area, too. But, the Germans also mined and prepared the Normandy beaches with the same mines and hill top fortifications, though not as many as in Calais and they also had fewer troops stationed in Normandy.

British intelligence - MI5 (national) and MI6 (international) were cooperating in controlling German spies inside the UK. The "idea" of spies - both homegrown and dropped in - was much worse than the truth of the matter. Britain actually had captured and either turned or executed all the spies who had been dropped in by air or had landed by sea. These German "spies" tended to be a dismal lot of dullards who ineptly gave themselves away by various means to the Brits who would literally stumble upon them. But a few of the spies could be used to broadcast back to Germany what their British controls ordered them to say.

Another group of spies were individuals - in this case, French, Polish, Spanish, and Peruvian(!) - who had come to British embassies in Lisbon and Madrid and offered their services to the Allied war effort. Their reasons ranged from mercenary (nearly everyone's) to patriotic (the Polish man who had set up a spy network in France that had been broken up by the Germans before he volunteered to help the Brits). Most were double crossing the Germans who also handled them. With this patched together network, based in London, Madrid, and Lisbon, British intelligence was able to hone the message their new agents were sending back to Germany. Honing the message to throw the Germans off the true site of the inevitable invasion, from Normandy to Calais and to the timing of the invasion. Using fake letters, some "real" but not important bits of intel, and even the "sighting" of British General Montgomery in Gibraltar, by using an actor to play Montgomery. If "Monty" was in Gibraltar in late May, then how could he possibly be working on the upcoming invasion?

Ben MacIntyre - who also wrote an excellent book a couple of years ago called "Operation Mincemeat" about the attempt to throw German intelligence off the prospective Allied invasion of Sicily - returns here with a sometimes humorous, but always serous, story of the spies, the spy masters, the actors, the military staffs, who together pulled off the successful trick of getting the Germans to consider the Pas de Calais as the ONLY invasion area, even after the main invasion had begun on June 6th! Still expecting the invasion to take place to the east, many German troops were kept back from that area, joining too late their fellow soldiers repelling the Allied forces at Normandy to the west. MacIntyre's book on D-Day and the spies and agents who kept the secret and helped focus German intelligence on other places and other times, is filled with characters usually found only in fiction. I suppose it takes a certain individual with the flair and guts to pull of a double crossing spying job, and the five or so foreign spies who were on Sir John Masterman's "Double Cross" system payroll were an intriguing lot. This book is a must-read for the WW2 buff. (By the way, his writing on pigeons - both German and Allied - being used in spying, is a hoot.)
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


64 of 66 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Double Cross, April 13, 2012
Anyone who has read anything by Ben Macintyre before, including the excellent Operation Mincemeat and Agent Zigzag will know that they are in for a treat. He is a wonderful storyteller and, in this book, he is on territory he seems to understand brilliantly and relish. The Allied military planners were working on the the great assault on Nazi Occupied Europe - the D-Day invasion would decide the outcome of the war. In order to convince the Germans that the invasion was coming where it was not actually coming, and not coming in the place where it was actually coming, a huge amount of effort was expended. There were dummy planes, tanks and even dummy armies in place to fool the Germans. There were even pigeons masquerading as German carrier pigeons (lots more on pigeons in the book - they play a larger part than you might imagine!). There were impersonators to convince the Germans that military leaders were elsewhere. Counterfeit generals led non-existent armies. Radio operators created a barrage of fake signals. Finally, there were spies. The Allies had a harder task than it appears in hindsight, knowing that it succeeded, as the target range for a cross-Channel invasion was small. There were only a handful of suitable spots for a massed landing and it was important that the entire might of the German forces were not waiting when the Allies landed.

Tar Robertson created a bodyguard of liars - the "Double Cross System" coordinated by the Twenty (XX) Committee. They specialised in turning German spies into double agents. Every single German agent in Britain was under his control, enabling huge and co-ordinated lies to be told. The task of Operation Fortitude was to bottle up German troops in the Pas de Calais and keep them there - this ability depended on Robertson's spies. These included a bisexual Peruvian playgirl, a tiny Polish fighter pilot, a mercurial Frenchwoman who adored her dog, a Serbian seducer and an eccentric Spaniard with marital problems. These spies never met, but together they created false trails, gave false information and often created totally false networks of sub-spies, including a group of entirely fictional Welsh fascists - all of which the Germans swallowed completely. In some cases, very extensive lies were not even noticed by the Germans, whereas the Allies had much confidential information (courtesy of Bletchly Park) even before the Germans themselves were aware of it. It is astounding to realise the control the Allies had over information sent to the Germans and the inventive ways to which this was put to use.

This then is a great book of subterfuge, downright lies, great ingenuity and often, great courage, for no reward other than a belief in freedom. Many of these individuals had families threatened by the Germans, at least one person connected to the group was arrested, and there was always the risk of being discovered which would undoubtedly have led to many more deaths of Allied troops when D-Day arrived. Nobody could tell this story as Ben Macintyre does, with dry humour, great understatement and a great deal of respect for his subjects.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


57 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction, And Sometimes Much Funnier, May 30, 2012
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I used to think all those spy novels and movies were wildly exagerrated and that crazy stunts and bizarrely convoluted plotting didn't go on in real life. That was before I started reading Ben Macintyre's histories of espionage performed by the British during World War II, including Agent Zigzag and Operation Mincemeat among others. Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies, is Macintyre's latest offering and his best yet. Just imagine the most implausible twists and turns in a spy novel, then rest assured that something much weirder actually did take place during the World War II years.

In the early 1940s Britain's situation looked pretty desperate as she faced a triumphant Third Reich. Fortunately, along with all the pluck and perseverance we know the British people showed in "their finest hour" they also had a team of highly intelligent, extremely imaginative and creative, not to mention downright devious, men and women hard at work in MI5 and MI6. Their job was to identify German spies within Great Britain, turn them if possible into double agents, and then use them to mislead the Germans as to Allied intentions.

The stories Macintyre relates are fascinating. At one point the British actually had the Abwehr (German military intelligence) funding British efforts to undermine Germany's spy networks! Some of Germany's most trusted and apparently reliable spies in Britain were actually feeding disinformation to them! Eventually the British efforts spread to the US, where the FBI's anti-espionage efforts were laughably feeble in comparison. The most important task of the British spymasters was to keep the Germans confused and off balance as to the date and location of the expected Allied invasion of Western Europe, and they succeeded dramatically, assisted by their double agents, who included some of the most colorful characters ever encountered outside of a Bond movie.

Macintyre's many anecdotes make for riveting reading and often caused me to laugh aloud, particularly when I read of the roles played by homing pigeons and a pampered little dog in the Allied war effort. I cannot recommend Double Cross too highly, and next time I hear about mysterious events and surprising turns anywhere in the world I'll wonder whether the heirs of those crafty men and women are still at work today.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


67 of 74 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Superficial overview, June 16, 2012
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The deception efforts of D-Day are one of my favorite parts of modern history, and I have read a good amount of the published works on the subject. I believe this story is a very complex and multi-faceted tale, and not really a good candidate for a 300 page book.

The Good Stuff

* The material the book does present is fascinating. The narrative is limited to the story of about a half-dozen agents, and they are a marvelous assortment of characters.

* The fates of thousands of men are dependent upon the most unlikely turns of events. A little white dog, the moral turpitude of a confirmed playboy, people with no loyalty to anyone-all play a large part in this piece of history.

* The book is written in a fairly easy to read format, and the reader can easily get caught up in the story. The book jumps around a bit, and there is not a lot of background info provided, so some basic knowledge of WWII era history will be helpful.

The Not-So-Good Stuff

* The story of the allied deception around D-Day is an incredibly complex tale. All of the agents are suspect, many have multiple and poorly understood agendas. The politics of the German Army and Intelligence services come into play (something hinted at in the book, but not developed), as do considerations about French civilian and Resistance casualties. Inter-Allied conflicts, strong personalities of leaders, and countless other factors.

In short, the deception resembles a 4-dimensional game of chess played in a house of mirrors, with chess pieces that randomly disappear and reappear. Unfortunately, Macintyre tries to cover this as a simple, linear story told from an "overview" level. This strategy doesn't work well, because the devil in this story is truly in the details, and nothing about it is at all straightforward or open to simplification.

* Some of the editing/fact checking seems suspect. For example on page 288, the book states that "What Hitler did not know, and never knew was that Alexis von Roenne and Roger Michael were running their own deception operation." On page 289, we come to the statement "...because Hitler, when he discovered von Roenne's disloyalty, had him murdered." I can not reconcile these two statements.

Summary
The book is enjoyable for what it is, but it leaves out so much as to miss the true plot of the D-Day deception. I believe any history of this deception campaign needs to be a lot more detailed, and therefore a lot longer than the length of this book.
While there is some new material in this book, for anyone truly interested in the topic, I would suggest Bodyguard of Lies: The Extraordinary True Story Behind D-Day. It is quite a bit longer, and a little bit of a dry read, but has an excellent level of detail.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Double Cross - A Contrary View, August 17, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This is a great collection of stories, but its premise is flawed. It suggests that the Abwehr, Nazi Germany's Foreign Intelligence Service - and particularly its leader, Adm. Wilhelm Canaris - were led down the garden path by the real and imaginary agents that Britain's Secret Service created.

That is a bit simplistic.

Adm. Canaris was a brilliant, patriotic German who hated Hitler and all that the Nazis stood for. As head of Germany's intelligence service, he worked tirelessly to short-circuit, mislead and undermine Hitler's plans. The Israelis, who know a thing or two about Intelligence and could never be accused of being apologists for the Nazis, regard Canaris as a hero and honor him for his work. It is a testament to his brilliance that he was able to negotiate the tricky straights of seeming to support the Nazi regime while working so assiduously to mislead it. His opposition to Hitler dated back to 1933 and his 'treachery' was only discovered in 1945. He paid with his life for his deception. The Jewish Virtual Library, a division of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, covers Adm. Canaris' anti-Nazi activities in some detail.

Canaris met secretly with Spain's leader, Gen. Franco, and persuaded him to keep Hitler from using Spain as staging area for attacking Gibraltar. He exaggerated the Swiss' ability to resist attack, and deterred Hitler from incorporating Switzerland (and all of the foreign exchange, stored in its vaults), into his `New Europe.' He met secretly with Gen. Stuart Menzies, chief of Britain's Secret Service, and Gen. William J. Donovan, head of America's OSS, and deliberately misled Hitler into believing the Americans would not land at Anzio. Along with Germany's brilliant Gen. Rommel and other high-ranking Wehrmacht officers, Canaris was a co-conspirator in the 1944 attempt to assassinate Hitler. That ultimately led to his undoing: on Apr 9th, 1945 Wilhelm Canaris, along with many of those conspirators, were hanged at the Flossenburg Concentration Camp and their bodies were left to rot. Two weeks later the Camp was liberated by the Americans.

Canaris organized a trusted group of like-minded officers in the Abwehr to mislead Hitler and to undermine his strategies. Was he really duped, as the book implies, or was he a willing collaborator who `validated' the false intelligence Britain's Double Cross Committee generated and passed it along to Hitler? In light of his documented opposition to the Nazi regime, the latter is far more likely.

The writer of this review is a retired CIA officer and author of the memoir, `Skating on the Edge.'
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A History Buff's Delight!, June 1, 2012
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
If the reader doesn't expect Double Cross to be a spy novel but loves history and has the patience to sort through the countless names and places this will be an extremely interesting read. It is a factual account of the espionage efforts of the British spies and double agents that were used to convince the Germans that the invasion of Europe would take place at Pas De Calais and not at Normandy.
Macintyre's research is impeccable and he uses anecdotes and direct quotes to give the reader a flavor of the people who were used to "spy" on Britain, but who ended up actually being British double agents passing misinformation to the Germans. Yes, the male spies drank, gambled, and womanized. Yes, the woman spies gambled and bought expensive clothes and lived extravagantly on money supplied by the Germans. Yes, James Bond has some basis in fact as attested to by the agent Popov who was revered by the Germans even after he betrayed them.
These spies were a motley crew, from the hyper French woman with her dog Babs to the egocentric Polish pilot, the book is filled with an unlikely cast, a cast responsible for duping the gullible Germans into keeping their armies near Calais until reinforcing the troops at Normandy became a moot point. I particularly liked the story of Johnny Jebsen who was abducted by the Germans, tortured by the Gestapo, and yet kept his secrets, secrets that would have ruined the carefully cultivated ruse that MI6 and MI5 had so painstakingly set up over the course of the war.
Because this is a factual account and because it was written from actual historical documents, it was at times a bit tedious, but overall, it is well worth the read.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Deception Detail, June 12, 2012
By 
Walter P. Sheppard (Arlington, VA United States) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
It is generally well known that every spy Nazi Germany sent to Britain during World War II was captured and that a number of them were "turned" and acted as double agents, feeding their German masters what the British wanted the German high command to believe. It was called The Double Cross System, controlled by the Twenty Committee (punningly styled "The XX Committee") and led by J. C. Masterman, who wrote an authoritative account of its activities published by the Yale University Press in 1972; it was excellently written and is available in a paperback reprint, but it is now rather out of date because of the subsequent declassification of material that Masterman could not use when he wrote.

"Double Cross" covers the same ground, but Macintyre supplies a great deal of personal and professional detail about the agents - a pretty unlikely bunch of characters, individually and collectively - and their British and German masters. What they did resulted in one of the most important deceptions in the history of warfare. Its success was a major factor in the success of the invasion of France because of the part it played in making the Germans think the D-Day assault on Normandy was just a diversion, with the "real" invasion to follow in the Pas de Calais, plus other attacks in Norway and southern France. The deception caused the Germans to lose three days before they realized the truth and began moving reinforcements to Normandy.

Macintyre's writing in "Double Cross" is brisk and functional, like good newspaper reporting. The book is entertaining because of the colorful personalities of both the spies and some of their masters. It even manages to be suspenseful at times, in spite of the fact that we know the outcome before starting to read. Nevertheless, it is challenging to keep the cast of spies straight because they are written about under their true names, their British code names (some had more than one), and their German code names. The reader also needs to remember which British spymaster controlled which spy and which German spymaster thought he was controlling which agent. In addition, there is rivalry between Britain's MI5 and MI6 to sort out. And, finally, there is always the lingering question of how it was possible to reconstruct so precisely conversations that happened so long ago.

Everyone needs to remember that The Double Cross System was just one element in the complex, wholesale deception the Allies, led by Britain, practiced on the Axis powers throughout the war, not just for the Normandy invasion. A reader who wants a comprehensive account of that deception should turn to "The Deceivers" by Thaddeus Holt. It was published in 2004 and revised in 2007. Currently available in a paperback from Amazon, it is physically cumbersome at 1000-plus pages, but unsurpassed in its content.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining, fascinating insight into a well-hidden part of WW2 history, September 1, 2012
This is an astonishingly good, absolutely riveting account of a disparate group of individuals whose exploits during WW2 went largely unsung. It was provided to me by netgalley and is well written with humor, empathy and clarity. It brings in accounts of other operations and the bigger picture to provide context, but never moves away from the double agents themselves.

I honestly had no idea that such an infuriating, temperamental, intelligent and so diverse a group of people played such an important role in the success of the D Day landings, or in assisting the work of the codebreakers at Bletchley Park. They all did the work for a variety of reasons from greed to boredom to fierce hatred of the Nazis, but there is no doubting the courage of any of them, nor the complete ignorance in the Nazis in trusting in them so blindly.

I found the comparisons between the German and British intelligent organizations fascinating. After all, the individuals running them and operating in them were essentially equally capable, equally intelligent and equally well-resourced. So why did the British succeed where the Nazis didn't, and not only succeed, but succeed with such panache?

This was a wonderful read. I loved reading some of the bonkers messages the agents sent to their German case officers, and hearing about their various exploits.

I particularly enjoyed the epilogue, which beautifully and concisely described what happened to the double agents, their case officers (from both sides) and associates after the war, but ends exactly where it should, paying tribute to the agent who was possibly most flawed, most dodgy, least brave, and yet, most courageous when faced with Nazi torture. He ultimately gave his life to save thousands of allied soldiers landing in Normandy.

Just read it. 5 stars.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Tapestry of Deception, July 1, 2012
Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is Ben McIntyre's third book about the spies of World War II. Beginning with his book "Agent Zig Zag," and continuing through the next work, "Operation Mincemeat," the author has laid out some of the elaborate deception plans used by British Intelligence in the Second World War. With "Double Cross" he completes his portrait of the elaborate tapestry of deception that was used to save Allied lives---this work is focused exclusively on the agents used to confuse the enemy leading up to the D-Day invasion. The author expertly paints pictures of the quirky individuals that were turned into double agents by the British Intelligence service. In addition, to the character studies of each of the agents, MacIntyre does an expert job of laying out the intricate chess game that was the double cross program. While a good deal of time is spent on agent "Garbo," the author also integrates the stories of the lesser agents who, nevertheless, were vital to the overall D-Day deception plan. There is plenty of drama in the telling of the story. However, this book does not really focus on other means of deception used by the Allies. For example, Patton's role as a decoy is mentioned, but that is not the focus of the book. Instead, MI5's management of the quirky double agent personalities is woven in to a highly readable, enjoyable narrative. If you already liked "Zig Zag" and "Mincemeat," then you'll surely want to complete the picture with "Double Cross." And anyone interested in the D-Day invasion will enjoy the revelations in this highly readable book.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dazzling, August 6, 2012
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
Ben MacIntire's DOUBLECROSS is a dazzling look at the secret war, "the bodyguard of lies", that kept the Germans confused and off-balance in the run-up to D-Day. It is full of characters that would be too implausible in fiction: the bisexual Peruvian girl who partied through Paris, a Polish ex-fighter pilot, a crazy Frenchwoman obsessed with her lapdog, and the key player, a Spanish chicken farmer who used to run a one-star hotel in Madrid. The Germans thought they were all valuable spies embedded in Britain, and all were turned by MI5 and played as double agents.
MacIntire does a terrific job with this material. At times you will be amazed at the denseness of the penny pinching British. MI5's refusal to bring a small dog into the country for a valuable double agent because such an action would violate the quarantine laws is a decision that will leave the reader gasping! Angry beyond words, the woman almost betrayed the entire operation. At times like that, the spymasters look like devious, miserable little men.
This book should be read before AGENT GARBO by Stephen Talty, which expands on the career of Juan Pujol, Agent Garbo, the Spanish chicken-farming genius, giving much more detail of the role he played in orchestrating German confusion. Talty's book is also terrific.
Both books wonderful additions to WWII spy literature.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 237 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies
Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben Macintyre (Paperback - May 14, 2013)
$15.00 $9.03
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Search these reviews only
Rate and Discover Movies
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.