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They Dared Return: The True Story of Jewish Spies behind the Lines in Nazi Germany Hardcover – October 13, 2009


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Revisiting one of the most dangerous WWII missions ever, O'Donnell (We Were One) examines the planning and execution of a 1944 strike by Jewish soldiers against a top-secret target in Austria that, it was believed, could shorten the conflict. He fleshes out the tale of sacrifice, spies, courage and betrayal organized by the American Office of Strategic Services to take on Gestapo troops in a heavily fortified district, Alpine Redoubt, the site of a planned bunker where Nazi leaders would hide after the Allies arrived in Germany. Under the command of Frederick Mayer—a German-Jewish refugee, naturalized American citizen and Wildcat Ranger—Operation Greenup was a brazen military exercise behind enemy lines, using a core of Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany and locals to gather intelligence and reduce the resistance from SS soldiers. Armed with research in the National Archives, confidential documents and personal interviews, O'Donnell tells a heart-stopping tale of sabotage by men and women who placed everything on the line against a seemingly unstoppable tyranny. 8 pages of b&w photos; map. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

WETA.org, 5/5/09
“That book will be not only fascinating, but an important contribution to our understanding of World War II.”
 
Kirkus, 9/15

“These were no ‘inglourious basterds’ whose stories O’Donnell tells, no avengers focused on sanguinary retribution…The agents’ courage, skill, persistence, modesty and devotion soar…An important story, thoroughly…told.”

World War II Forums, 9/20
“Compelling…A wonderful addition to the recent burst of scholarship surrounding Southern Europe during World War II…Any reader of O’Donnell’s cannot help but feel that all of his histories are ready to be made into films, and readers can only hope that Hollywood pays heed to that call. They Dared Return will engage novice and expert students of World War II alike. It is a fine book.”

Publishers Weekly, 9/28
“[O’Donnell] fleshes out the tale of sacrifice, spies, courage and betrayal organized by the American Office of Strategic Services to take on Gestapo troops in a heavily fortified district, Alpine Redoubt…Armed with research in the National Archives, confidential documents and personal interviews, O'Donnell tells a heart-stopping tale of sabotage by men and women who placed everything on the line against a seemingly unstoppable tyranny.”

Veterans Reporter (Southern Nevada Issue), September
“This book is yet another side of WWII, and a segment of the war that has not been fully explored heretofore.”

Washington Jewish Week,10/7
“Readers, especially Jewish readers, will derive great satisfaction from the feats of the Jewish soldiers.”

Blogcritics.org, 10/11
“[A] riveting history of the planning and the execution of the behind-enemy-lines covert action codenamed Operation Greenup. One of the striking things about They Dared Return is that reads like so much like a thriller…History's twists and turns come alive thanks to O'Donnell's feel for the dramatic…They Dared Return is first-rate reading that captures the action and the drama of war in the shadows. Unlike film and spy novel fantasies, this is the real deal, popular history at its best.”

Augusta Metro Spirit, 11/4/09
“O’Donnell’s treatment of this story is detailed, rich and oriented to understanding the complexities of the times…Reads like a well-orchestrated novel.”

History In Review, 11/16/09
They Dared Return cries out to be made into a movie. It has everything that makes a Hollywood blockbuster—unforgettable heroes, a dastardly enemy, lots of action, and even a little romance. Most important, it is a true story that you'll remember for the rest of your life!...A must read for anyone with an interest in Jewish history, World War II, or espionage. It will also enthrall anyone with a liking for espionage thrillers. O'Donnell writes with the skill of a novelist, and his narrative style of writing draws you into the story and never lets you go, while at the same time authenticating his information to the satisfaction of scholars and general readers alike who demand historical accuracy…The most riveting history book that I've ever read! Whether you are a fan of popular histories, or espionage thrillers, give this book a read, I think that you'll agree that it is a ripping good read that is both edifying and entertaining.”

Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles, 11/25/09
“Tells one of the great untold stories of World War II…As exciting and exotic as any Hollywood movie, but They Dared Return is solidly rooted in the facts…The courageous deeds of Mayer and his fellow fighters are narrated with all the suspense of a Len Deighton novel.”

Collected Miscellany, 12/1/09
“O’Donnell explores one of the most intriguing stories out of World War II…A gripping story…Well-researched and supported by materials from the National Archives, confidential documents, and personal interviews. The book is a fine tribute to a group of men and women who risked their lives to stop one of the cruelest regimes in modern history.”

InfoDad blog, 12/3/09
“Filled with narrow escapes, captures, astonishing acts of ‘greatest generation’ heroism, and intricate retellings of events that were all in a day’s work for everyday heroes of the time—but seem in retrospect to be instances of astonishing bravery…They Dared Return is about what really matters to people, in time of war and afterwards…It is ultimately [Meyer’s] postwar modesty that stays with the reader as much as the hair-raising events, narrow escapes and constant dangers of the war itself.”

Publishers Weekly, 12/7/09
“A true-life companion to Quentin Tarantino’s recent pulp-grade wish-fulfillment WWII movie Inglorious Basterds…Quick-paced and immediate, with many satisfying moments.”

America in WWII, 2/1/10
“This chronicle of Jewish warriors returning to Germany to defend their adopted country and to extract revenge for the murders of their families is a story of courage, fortitude, and high adventure. O’Donnell, the author of We Were One, one of the very best Iraq War books, tells this tale with verve, clarity, and insight.”

Bookgasm.com, 12/7/09
“O’Donnell shines a light on five men who were the real deal…Fred Mayer…comes off not only incredibly likable, but probably one of the unsung heroes of that war…He seems like the stuff of men’s adventure fiction, except being all true…His exploits would make some truly gripping movies…This book is a testament to these men who, after escaping Germany, went right back in to fight for their new adopted country, with no regard for their own safety. O’Donnell once again has taken real history and made it so much readable than most fiction.”

WWII History, March 2009
“The book reads like a terrific spy novel, but it is all fact.”
 
WNTI, NJ public radio website
“A story of revenge, adventure, espionage, and love.”

Midwest Book Review, December 2009
“Utterly fascinating and highly recommended.”

Operation Homefront Online’s “Best Military Reads of 2009”, 12/9/09
“It’s truly difficult to believe that this amazing story isn’t better known…It’s a must-read.”

Letters on Pages blog, 1/3/10
“A wonderfully written narrative about a couple of really brave Jews near the end of WWII…It is absolutely incredible to read about the things they did…This book reads really fast…very much like a good mystery novel…I would highly recommend this book. It is really fun to read and you’ll learn a little slice of history at the same time!”

Lancashire Evening Post, 12/21/09
“A tale of awe-inspiring daring and heroism…[O’Donnell] has become an important channel for collating the personal histories of a dwindling band of Second World War veterans…This is a story that should belong in the realms of fiction. The fact that it is true is both breath-taking and humbling.”

Washington Times, 1/15/2010
“Of the countless books I’ve read about bravery in espionage and war, few moved me as much [as] did Patrick K. O’Donnell’s They Dared Return…Mr. O'Donnell has proved himself a wizard at finding untold stories in the archives…A first-rate read.”

San Diego Jewish World, 3/3/10
“O’Donnell has written a great spy story. It is a story of five brave men who risked their lives for their adopted country, the United States of America. If their story of courage and sacrifice were made into a movie, it would be more believable and dramatic than the fictional Inglorious Basterds.”

Association of Jewish Libraries Newsletter, Feb/March 2010
“[A] well-written, fast-paced account of an unbelievable story…This excellent resource is highly recommended for high school, public, and academic library collections.”

Nights with Brian Wilshire Show, 4/4/10
“It really is absolutely brilliant.”

Jerusalem Post, 1/22/10
“A gripping page-turner that has the reader racing from chapter to chapter to see what happens next, and to learn whether the person written about will be discovered and captured or killed. O'Donnell, a military historian, writes fact as if he were writing suspense fiction.”

Multicultural Review, Spring 2010
“A well-researched account about how the OSS (Office of Strategic Services), forerunner of the CIA, trained and parachuted refugee German Jews back into the Third Reich to gather intelligence…This book is an eye-opener…O’Donnell has written a marvelous story of an unknown chapter of World War Two and Jewish history. It is a wonderful tale of courage against tyranny… [with] important lessons for Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Jewish Book World, Summer 2010
“O’Donnell records the history of these unsung heroes. It is a gripping tale of Jewish Germans who escaped and then returned…Their true story would make a great movie.”
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; First Edition edition (October 13, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306818000
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306818004
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 6.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #455,648 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Combat historian, bestselling author, and public speaker Patrick K. O'Donnell has written eight critically acclaimed books that recount the epic stories of America's wars.

Dog Company: The Boys of Pointe du Hoc The Rangers Who Accomplished D-Day's Toughest Mission and Led the Way Across Europe is his most recent work.

His bestseller, Beyond Valor, which tells the gripping tales of U.S. WWII Ranger and Airborne veterans, won the William E. Colby Award for Outstanding Military History. O'Donnell's We Were One: Shoulder to Shoulder With the Marines Who Took Fallujah is required reading for Marines and is on the Commandants' Professional Reading List.

His other books include Into the Rising Sun; Operatives, Spies, and Saboteurs; The Brenner Assignment: The Untold Story of the Most Daring Spy Mission of WWII; They Dared Return; and Give Me Tomorrow: The Korean War's Greatest Untold Story - The Epic Stand Of The Marines Of George Company.

His books have been Main or Alternate selections of the Book-of-the-Month, History, and Military History Book Clubs. Reviewers from media outlets as diverse as The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Jerusalem Post, Los Angeles Times, CNN, C-SPAN, and National Public Radio (NPR) have hailed his publications.

O'Donnell has been studying World War II and modern war since childhood. He has a passion for finding ways to preserve the oral histories of America's combat veterans for generations to come. Nearly two decades ago, he founded The Drop Zone, the first online military oral history project and virtual museum. This award-winning website contains many of the thousands of interviews O'Donnell personally conducted with veterans and their adversaries, making it one of the largest private collections of historical materials from elite and special operations troops.

As an expert on WWII espionage, special operations, and counter-insurgency on the modern battlefield, the historian has helped with production and writing for numerous documentaries produced by the BBC, the History Channel, and others. He has appeared as a guest on countless television and radio shows on NPR, CNN, MSNBC, FOX, and other networks.

O'Donnell not only writes about combat--he's experienced it firsthand. During the Iraq war, he was embedded with military units as the only civilian combat historian to volunteer and spend three months in Iraq documenting the experiences of troops in battle. He fought with a Marine rifle platoon (Lima Company 3/1) during the Battle of Fallujah, surviving several ambushes, and carried a mortally wounded Marine out of a firefight with Chechen insurgents. (See WeWereOne.com and The History Channel's: Shoot Out D-Day Fallujah.)

On his second tour to Iraq, he served as a war correspondent for Men's Journal and Fox News, reporting on the conflict in Iraq from the perspective of the Marines on the ground. He has written for Military History Quarterly (MHQ) and WWII Magazine and is a contributor to The National Review, as well as a variety of nationally recognized publications.

He also provided historical consulting for DreamWorks' award-winning miniseries Band of Brothers, as well as for the billion-dollar Medal of Honor game franchise.

His skills and expertise have been tapped by private sector firms and government agencies, including DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). For the agency, O'Donnell worked on modern weapons systems for urban warfare, researched and analyzed counter-insurgency strategies and tactics, and assessed German technology from WWII, focusing on its application to the modern battlefield.

Because he believes in experiencing the places and people about which he writes, O'Donnell has traveled to nearly all of the battlefields of North America and many of the WWII battlefields in Northern Europe. In addition, each one of his books contains scores, if not hundreds, of oral history interviews, combined with years of archival research. For example, The Brenner Assignment was based on 10,000 primary source documents.

The author credits serendipity for leading him in the right direction, because the stories he tells somehow always find him.
His websites include:

www.patrickkodonnell.com
www.dogcompanybook.com
www.givemetomorrowbook.com
www.theydaredreturn.com
www.thedropzone.org
www.brennerassignment.com
www.wewereone.com
www.facebook.com/patrickkodonnell


Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By David on November 2, 2009
Format: Hardcover
They Dared Return is a pulse-pounding thriller about Americans, all previously German refugees, who were determined to take the fight to Hitler while their families were trapped in Nazi death camps. Here is a case where the truth is stranger than fiction. This small group of men "the five" one of whom was disguised as a German officer destroyed dozens of Nazi trains, gathered intelligence on German jet production, and remarkably even relayed the location and dimensions of Hitler's Berlin bunker. After enduring days of torture at the hands of the SS, two members of the five turned the tables on their captors and were responsible for the surrender of tens of thousands of German troops, thereby saving thousands of lives, including thousands of German civilians who would have been caught in the crossfire of battle. Remarkably, several of these incredible American heroes are still alive. Sadly, these men received hardly any recognition fore their exploits (they are humble and they never sought it.) The book is beautifully written in a cinematic fashion which makes the reader feel like they are behind the lines. Hollywood should turn this story into a movie. I'm an avid reader of adventure and World War stories and They Dared Return one of the best books I've read in years.
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27 of 27 people found the following review helpful By anonymous on October 10, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In an extremely well written story, O'Donnell weaves together a tale of espionage and intrigue as five Jewish refuges from Nazi Germany return to Hitler's home land to help defeat the Nazis in the final day of the war.
Supported by recently declassified documents from the National Achieves and personnel interviews with the participants, O'Donnell brings together an incredible untold story of heroism, danger and personnel sacrifice.
A great read about real life heroes.
Move over James Bond.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Alexandria Vicar on October 6, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Yet another amazing book by O'Donnell. His brilliant prose puts me right there behind the enemy lines with "Hans" and "Fred" as part of Operation Greenup. These true stories of real life heroes are cinema-worthy, especially enjoyable is the part where Fred dresses up as a German Officer. These men risked everything to parachute back into enemy territory to gain invaluable intel on the Nazi war machine. Hans and Fred can teach all of us a lot about life. Reading this book made me reflect on my life and the paths it choose. Would I be willing to risk everything for what I believe? Hans and Fred did. After reading this book, so would I.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Paul Jochena on December 16, 2009
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What do you get when you take two recent Jewish émigrés to Brooklyn: the first, a lanky, blond haired Dutchman, the second, a stocky, dark haired German and throw them out of a perfectly airworthy B-24 over the frozen confines of German occupied Austrian Alpine territory? Oh, and mix in a couple of Wehrmacht deserters: the first, a German swindler of ill repute, the second, an Austrian Heer officer with an anti-Nazi predisposition? And for good measure, add a couple of Gestapo sadists, a few opportunistic Nazi Party officials, and a modest helping of courageous anti-Nazi Austrian townsfolk? No, you do not have the making of another Quentin Tarantino action-drama. You have, arguably, the most successful OSS mission of the Second World War--Operation Greenup. That is the tale that Mr. O'Donnell tells in "They Dared Return." Page for page, a most satisfying read!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Robin Fode on March 14, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This author has really done some incredible work to find facts and details in history concerning events rarely told. There is so much more to history that is covertly left our of educational teaching. Understanding these factual stories equip us to see the broader picture in current events of our time.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on December 15, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In the name of what's right, some people will go into certain death. "They Dared Return: The True Story of Jewish Spies Behind the Lines in Nazi Germany" tells the story of a group of Jews who, having escaped the clutches of Hitler's final solution, went back to fight against the Nazi's genocide. These individuals brought a quicker end to the war through their heroism, and Patrick K. O'Donnell tells their story. "They Dared Return" is utterly fascinating and highly recommended.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Kelly F. Lawrence on October 21, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have been researching intellignence activities in Europe during World War II. This book was informative, as well as interesting.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Charles Ota Heller on July 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover
THEY DARED RETURN is an incredible story of five Jewish refugees from Germany who joined the U.S. Armed Forces and volunteered for incredibly dangerous work, even while their families were being rounded up for death camps. After intensive OSS (predecessor of the CIA) training, the men jumped behind enemy lines in the late stages of the war and wreaked havoc on the Nazis. Most incredibly, joined by deserters from the Wehrmacht, the Jews coopted the Germans into surrendering strategic strongholds, thus shortening the war and probably saving hundreds of lives.

What is terribly disturbing to me is that -- although I lived through World War II as one of Europe's "hidden children" and did extensive research on the war for my memoir, PRAGUE: MY LONG JOURNEY HOME -- I had never before heard this amazing story. The most heroic of these men, Fred Mayer, is deserving of the Medal of Honor, and a statue of all these Jewish soldiers should be erected in our nation's capital.
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