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Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies Hardcover – Deckle Edge, July 31, 2012
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In his celebrated bestsellers Agent Zigzag and Operation Mincemeat, Ben Macintyre told the dazzling true stories of a remarkable WWII double agent and of how the Allies employed a corpse to fool the Nazis and assure a decisive victory. In Double Cross, Macintyre returns with the untold story of the grand final deception of the war and of the extraordinary spies who achieved it. On June 6, 1944, 150,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy and suffered an astonishingly low rate of casualties. D-Day was a stunning military accomplishment, but it was also a masterpiece of trickery. Operation Fortitude, which protected and enabled the invasion, and the Double Cross system, which specialized in turning German spies into double agents, deceived the Nazis into believing that the Allies would attack at Calais and Norway rather than Normandy. It was the most sophisticated and successful deception operation ever carried out, ensuring that Hitler kept an entire army awaiting a fake invasion, saving thousands of lives, and securing an Allied victory at the most critical juncture in the war. The story of D-Day has been told from the point of view of the soldiers who fought in it, the tacticians who planned it, and the generals who led it. But this epic event in world history has never before been told from the perspectives of the key individuals in the Double Cross System. These include its director (a brilliant, urbane intelligence officer), a colorful assortment of MI5 handlers (as well as their counterparts in Nazi intelligence), and the five spies who formed Double Cross’s nucleus. The D-Day spies were, without question, one of the oddest military units ever assembled, and their success depended on the delicate, dubious relationship between spy and spymaster, both German and British. Their enterprise was saved from catastrophe by a shadowy sixth spy whose heroic sacrifice is revealed here for the first time.
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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.
Though this brand of espionage apparently served the Allies quite well, one of the main tensions in the book is how the whole program was often hanging by the thread of a spider-web. Plus, not everyone in British secret service agreed that they should be doing this or that it could possibly work at all, without a tremendous blowup and backlash.
Very Informative.- Excellent book!
The rhythm of Macintyre's narrative takes some getting use too as he presents five individual spies and their stories and it takes a while to introduce them , their backgrounds, and both German and British handlers.. But take it in stride because as you become familiar with each individual and their back stories I promise you that the suspense builds and your interest in each individual case and fate increases. The last chapter is a great epilogue that brings each significant character's (spies, MI5 handlers, and Germans) post war lives to light.
Just one example: One of the spies, who before the war was a chicken hating Spanish chicken farmer living outside Barcelona, won the Iron Cross from the Germans... AFTER D-Day so total was his act of deception.
If I have a complaint about the book... it would be that there is material here for several books (and several movies). But no doubt about it this is a history that is a very entertaining well researched true life story. And a tribute to those who participated in the deception, lies, immorality, friendships, ideology, loyalty, love and survival that ultimately resulted in the success of Operation Fortitude. Your understanding of the D-Day landings will never be complete without learning of a Serbian playboy, a Polish fighter pilot, a bi-sexual Peruvian party girl, a Frenchwoman who cared more for her dog than the mission's success, and of course that chicken farmer who ended up winning the Iron Cross.