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Man Who Never Was: World War II's Boldest Counterintelligence Operation (Bluejacket Books) Paperback – January 23, 2001


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Editorial Reviews

Review

"...a splendid read about the most curious scheme of World War II." -- Nautical Magazine, February 2004

About the Author

Ewen Montagu ran the counterespionage sub-branch of the naval intelligence division at the British Admiralty. He later became judge advocate of the fleet and died in 1985.
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Product Details

  • Series: Bluejacket Books
  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press (January 23, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1557504482
  • ISBN-13: 978-1557504487
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #235,380 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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44 of 46 people found the following review helpful By A. Woodley on July 19, 2002
Format: Paperback
Modern novellists would never have thought of this simple yet highly complicated plan to deceive the Germans during World War II. This book is written by Ewen Montagu who actually undertook the whole operation. Due to the fact of its high secrecy it could not first be revealed until the Mid-1950's when the first edition came out. Even then the full story could not be told for one of the other great secrets of WWII (the fact that the British had cracked the German code 'Engima') meant that the progress of the deception was monitored throughout its progress.
The deception was simple - dump a body with highly secret documents in a place where the Germans will be party to the find. Make it so convincing that they will take the bait. This was to mislead the Germans over the true place where the allies wanted to land (Sicily) so getting them to fortify another part of South Eastern Europe instead - the Dodecanese and Sardinia. It was a plan to save lives - as many allied lives as possible by reducing German resistance. And it worked - beautifully.
This book by Montagu gives us the absolute inside story with all the twists and turns to how the idea was conceived and how it was implemented. And for such a simple idea it was of course relatively complicated to implement. How to find an appropriately dead body to dump - where to dump it - how to make sure the Germans would find it without being suspicious of the material and so on. All very fascinating stuff and makes for a good, quick and easy read - it is very well-written and if nothing else is such an amazing story it is hard to put down.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 23, 1998
Format: Paperback
The book tells the story how British Intelligence decided to mislead the Nazis in 1943 about where the next landing in the Mediterranean would occur. The original story was that they waited until a young man died of pneumonia, so he would have fluid in the lungs as cause of death. In fact, he was an unclaimed homeless man who died from eating rat poison. A submarine slipped his body into the sea off Spain, making it look like he was a Royal Marine officer and courier, and a victim of an offshore airplane crash. This was done near a town with a known active Nazi agent. The brief case he was carrying falsely showed that the Allies would invade Greece, not Sicily. The Nazi agent was allowed to see his papers which showed a coming landing in Greece. The movie has King George himself meet with the family to convince them to give over the body, missing burial with his family. In reality, the man eventually was buried with military honors in Spain. Since the original book was published, a new edition has appeared (Oxford University Press, 1996). We have learned that the first edition would never have been written had not a novel appeared in 1950 with substantially the same plot. The new (1996) edition reveals approval by the Twenty Committee in charge of these projects (Twenty = XX = double cross). The new introduction also reveals the British monitored the progress of the deception using Ultra. In the original edition, the one who conceived the operation was "George." Now it can be revealed that it was created by a lowly Flight-Lieutenant, Charles Cholmondeley, and carried out by the author, who later became chief judicial officer of the Royal Navy. The deception was a success. The Nazis did move some forces away from Sicily.Read more ›
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Maxwell Stern on August 5, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The story of the man who never was is told in this book by one of the men involved in the scheme. It does not go as far as the latest book on the subject, "Operation Mincemeat", but that is because there were restrictions on release of information and documents in the 1950's when Montagu wrote his early version. Nevertheless, it is of interest because it is in the words of one on the "inside" of the scheme - a scheme which, unbelievably, actually succeeded in befuddling the German high command, and contributed to the successful allied invasion of Europe in 1944.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Ned Middleton on March 8, 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a fantastic tale whereby the body of a young man was used to deceive the German high command during WW2 into believing a forthcoming Allied offensive would be centred in one European country and not the real target. Given the somewhat inappropriate codename of `Operation Mincemeat, the body of a young man was dressed in the uniform of a major in the Royal Marines and furnished with a complete set of false papers. The minute detail which went into those papers included two used cinema ticket stubs plus a photograph and letters from a fictional girlfriend. Handcuffed to his wrist was a briefcase inside which were copies of a supposed invasion plan. His body was then set adrift so that it would be washed up on the coast of Spain in the certain knowledge that all those papers would be handed over to the German authorities in that country.

Perhaps one might be forgiven for thinking that obtaining a suitable dead body during WW2 would have been relatively easy but not so. The human body could not be kept in storage for too long before assuming a certain state of unnatural decomposition which would have alerted German doctors that all was not as it seemed. It was also imperative that the body was washed ashore in the right place. After all, it could hardly be parachuted into Berlin!!!

Eventually, a man of the right size, condition and age to suit the false persona of Major Martin Royal Marines was found dead in the streets of London and his body used to completely deceive the Germans. The full account of this amazing tale is retold by the person who was placed in charge of the deception. When first published, this book became a best seller.

It was intended for the identity of the deceased to have remained a secret forever.
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