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on May 23, 2017
So I'm biased, or more properly hooked on Macintyre! His writing captures the essence of everything to come within the early paragraphs in almost every one of his books I have read. Mincemeat is no exception. You get the idea very soon which way this story is going to go but you cannot anticipate very far ahead because there is always a new character or some unexpected wrinkle proving " the best laid plans of mice and men..."
Even with the twists and quirks, the scheme has a happy ending unless you were rooting for the Third Reich. It's a great story told by a great storyteller.
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on October 14, 2017
The basic facts about the story are easy to find these days, what with the internet, but this book is well worth every cent because it really gets you acquainted with the main characters as three-dimensional people embarking on a long-shot piece of subterfuge.

What's particularly interesting is how the author shows you that the UK intelligence people were thinking very hard about how the enemy thinks. Starting there - like with Hitler's paranoia about a possible British landing at Greece or thereabouts - they could really "sell" the idea of Mincemeat to the Germans. The fact that the whole plan hinged on the ostensibly neutral Spanish makes it even more astonishing that the thing worked.

A story about a different kind of warfare. Very entertaining and human. It's amazing that it's true.
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on December 30, 2016
Macintyre does a good job putting the reader right into the action. I was reminded while reading this book that non-fiction can differ from fiction in the number of characters the reader must keep straight. I commend Macintyre's efforts to help in that task by often using the real name alongside the alias. Nevertheless, it could still get a little confusing especially when double agents were involved.

That said, I must add how much I enjoyed reading a bit of history that gets swept under the broad-brush treatment we normally get in viewing world events. It brings to mind the saying of the stage: there's no such thing as small parts, only small actors. Macintyre admits that the Sicily invasion could have been done without this one piece of deception and that no one can prove it had an impact. However, he makes a very strong case for the importance of it. I found how detailed they were in faking their ruse very fascinating. Watching how committed the Germans were to believing the ruse simply because they wanted to surpassed the work that went into creating the lie.

Operation Mincemeat was like reading a mystery that let you know the who the perpetrator was at the beginning and let you accompany him as he developed the intrigue and misleading clues. It's entertaining, astounding, and enlightening. I am now wondering where to go to get to the truth of what is happening in world, national, and even local events.
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on July 19, 2010
Operation Mincemeat by Ben Macintyre (Harmony Books, New York: 2010) is an interesting story told brilliantly. Indeed, this is a great book and the way history should be written. it is well researched--Macintyre spent three years reviewing documents and conducting interviews but the writing is anything but dry, Macintyre tells the tale with relish. It works on several levels.

While focused on but one intelligence operation during World War II--a misdirection of invasion plans served up to the Nazi war machine, the book really captures the essence of war time espionage and intelligence activity more generally because MaCintyre follows all the leads and provides insights beyond the mere operation that is the subject of his book.

This is must reading for the intelligence practitoner --and the policymaker alike. One of the obvious lessons is the potential for intelligence collectors, analysts, and policymakers to be had. I am not giving anything away by providing the gist of the plot which was the subject of a much earlier book and film (both treated in the Mincemeat)--a dead body with bogus letters discussing a military invasion (away from the actual landing in Sicily) is positioned in the sea so as to fall into German hands.

In intelligence parlance the acquisition of the letters by the German Defense Intelligence Service amounted to "documentary material," rather than quoting a living HUMINT source. And accordingly, the analytical mechanism focused on the documents rather than conducting a full analysis of the provenance of the materials. Now the letters were not crafted in a vacuum--the British knew well the potential for self-deception within the Nazi war machine because independent thought that might question the Nazi leaders perceptions was a risky business.

Indeed, while reading this it was eerily familiar: in the run-up to the Iraq war there was a similar potential for self-deception within the analytical and policymaking apparatus--the President's advisors and the President himself were determined to remove Saddam Hussein through military action, intelligence that was not corroborated was seized upon as the rationale for the invasion. The inclination to be supportive of the policy goals, to be team players, was counter to the equal need to be skeptical of uncorroborated information upon which important decisions will be made. In the intelligence collection activity, there is a constant tension among all involved in the process in terms evaluating the bone fides of the intelligence acquired while still being supportive to all involved in the mission--and while being responsive to policy needs. The tension is necessary and helpful to the process and it can save lives and embarrassment--the opposite is true when the process is corrupted.

Another key factor jumped out to me in the reading of this fine book. You could have the most ingenious intelligence plan in the world but it boils down to execution by people--and while there were certainly a cast of characters involved in Operation Mincemeat--the success of the mission was the result of the performance of just a handful of people, quality people.

All of the key factors of the intelligence craft are on display in Operation Mincemeat: the personal antagonisms, petty arguments and disagreements within bureaucracies (even the wonderfully small ones that the British had then and still do) , the unpredictability of human behavior, the long hours of work, the requirement for secrecy as well as the need for the occasional "white lie" to protect sources and methods, the potential for self-delusion as I have indicated earlier, as well as the potential to achieve significant goals on the cheap.
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on November 21, 2015
I'm not a literary critic by any means. Neither am I a wordsmith. And I certainly don't have the patience of the author to go through the effort to complete the research necessary to write what I believe is the most comprehensive account of just one of many deception missions of WWII. However "Operation Mincemeat" appears to be an accurate, or at least the most accurate to-date, account of one particularly astounding deception mission with the goal of confounding German defenses of Sicily and Italy, convince them that the invasion would be closer to Greece and thus make the Allied landings less dangerous and more successful.

"Operation Mincemeat" reads like a tame Ian Fleming novel while all at the same time you feel the weight of the live or die decisions and the rather desperate nature of espionage and deception during the height of the war. The operations' planners are always living on the legal edge of polite English society. Otherwise upstanding British citizens are forced to complete, what would otherwise be illegal and potentially immoral activities, such as trying to find an take, without question, a corpse for the purpose of carrying off this deception.

Like all non-fiction books about major historical events, we all kind of know what the ending is; the really stellar historical non-fiction books keep you riveted by keeping the tension just high enough while making you care about the real characters which cause this story to play out. You really do take interest in the real people, most of whom are long gone, who were just crazy enough to invent the operation and carry it out.

Like a lot of non-fiction, the author does get caught up in the minutia of certain aspects of the story, and from time-to-time the "name flurry" of all the real folks that were involved in this gets a bit intense. There were times I almost felt like getting out a legal pad and writing down all the names and roles just to keep the story straight, but this didn't detract from the facts of the events or the focus on the creators and perpetrators of this larger than life story.

This is also not a quick read. You will invest many hours of fairly intense reading to really get the most out of the book, and be sure to not be too distracted while reading because if you are you might miss key events or passing facts which you'll need to recall later on as the operation progresses.

I highly recommend this book. Don't speed read through it, you'll miss a lot, so this isn't necessarily a subway or bus commute read, but it is both highly enjoyable and educational, especially if you are a WWII buff or looking for a great non-fiction thriller.
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A story involving a body, spurious documents, brilliant but eccentric men and women, a submarine, four different countries and a global conflict might be thought too unlikely to be believable as spy fiction. But Operation Mincemeat really happened, and Ben Macintyre's enthralling account is as riveting and fascinating as any work by Ian Fleming (who plays a small part in this story).

In 1943 the Allies were planning an invasion of Sicily as a prelude to knocking Italy out of World War II. The problem facing a small group of men and women working in the war rooms under Whitehall in London was enormous: how to mislead the Germans into believing the invasion would happen somewhere else, so that Sicily would be only lightly defended and easily overrun. The tangled process which became Operation Mincemeat took months to develop and required the creation of an entirely imaginary British officer who would have on his (borrowed) body meticulously created and absolutely fake documents. The body would wash ashore in Spain, where German spies could easily get hold of it. Everything had to look genuine enough to fool the Germans, who were well aware that the British might try to trick them in this fashion.

Macintyre did a superb job identifying the multitudinous ins and outs of Operation Mincemeat. His short biographies of the British, Spanish, and German officials who were involved in the affair testify to the enormous amount of research involved. I laughed and laughed over the story of the creation of the life and personality of the "officer" whose body was to wash ashore carrying the documents. I was touched by the sad story of the real man whose body was used for the "officer". In the end, Macintyre points out that practically everybody involved in Operation Mincemeat was involved in some sort of double or even triple life of their own. In the end Operation Mincemeat was a success: the body was found, the Germans believed the documents, and the invasion of Sicily, which led to the collapse of Italy and the weakening of the Axis, unfolded quickly with far fewer deaths than had been predicted.

I appreciated the appendix at the end, which gives details and photos of the documents, and I also enjoyed the last chapter in which Macintyre sums up the subsequent lives and careers of the chief protagonists. I was glad to see on the final page that the poor man whose death provided the body used in Operation Mincemeat has finally been honored by having his own name carved on the tombstone erected as part of the original subterfuge.
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on October 20, 2014
This is a well-written, well-researched book that comprehensively describes an important operation in WWII. What I really liked about the book is the way the author brought to life the individuals, even those that may have been treated as minor characters barely worth a mention in other similar books. This attention to detail made me feel I understood the time, the issues, and the characters in a way a more pedestrian history book would not allow. It had a three dimensional feel to it.
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on November 18, 2016
A thoroughly detailed and richly annotated account of a fascinating (and sometimes seemingly improbable) plot on the part of British intelligence to deceive the Germans as to the Allies' next target after the liberation of north Africa. The riveting story is well told, but beyond that the author did a wonderful (and engrossing) job of exploring many of the personalities involved so that they became three-dimensional actors instead of "just" names from history. One of those personalities, interestingly, was one Sir Ian Flemming, the future author of the James Bond novels. The account includes an appropriately-qualified assessment of the deception's impact on Operation Husky but goes on to explore many of the main players' post-war years, and how word of the operation eventuality saw the light of day.
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on June 3, 2017
A very good read, well laid out and easy to follow and enjoy. I like how each character when they come into the story are described in detail about not only their role but about their lives. It's especially nice to read about the part the men and women had in intelligence during the war. I gave it 5 stars because it's hard to find anything I didn't like in it. Even if I might not agreed with some of the seemingly harsh criticism of some of the people that the book talks about I realize that everyone has an opinion. I will certainly be recommending this book.
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on August 1, 2014
The story is fascinating, but could have been told better. Starting in the middle of the story robbed the opportunity to build suspense. Then too many characters introduced in rapid succession. Too much going on at once (back & forth to other times, places, & events), then nothing going on (re-hashing of story line already told). I found the page-after-page of numbered references annoying; I skipped over them, making this a considerably shorter book.
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