I am fascinated with the deception campaigns and espionage that went on in WW2. As a freshman in high school, my first research paper was on this topic, and the more I read the more I wanted to learn. I read Ewen Montague’s book The Man Who Never Was at least three times while I was in high school, and I’ve read it at least twice more since then.
The story in short: British command needs to divert Nazi attention from a planned invasion of Sicily. The plan is formed — suppose the Nazi sympathizers in Spain found the body of a British officer with authentic-looking plans for a DIFFERENT invasion. They give those plans (or photographed copies of those plans) to the Germans, and the real invasion goes off without a hitch. Simple, right?
Montague’s book tells the tale of the plan, and a lot of the behind the scenes details. Macintyre’s new book goes even further behind the scenes. Who knew that British Intelligence was full of budding spy novelists (including Ian “James Bond” Fleming himself). Who knew that Montague’s own brother was a Soviet agent? Macintyre was given access to ALL of Montague’s personal papers from that time period — including papers that Montague was allowed to take with him when he retired; papers that really should have been classified Top Secret.
Macintyre’s work shows the problems as well as the successes. He goes into great detail with mini-biographies of all the major players involved in Operation Mincemeat, including the Spanish and German officers who swallowed the tale hook, line, and sinker. Even if you’ve read all about Operation Mincemeat, you will learn something when you read this book. It is outstanding, from the writing style to the scholarship and research involved.