Monday, August 20, 2012

Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben Macintyre

Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies, by Ben Macintyre is an absolutely riveting book. I have always liked books about the Second World War, particularly about the experiences of individuals, and how they could find themselves in extraordinary circumstances. This book details how several average people in France, England, Germany and Poland became spies for Britain's MI5 network. But none of them were simple spies, which would have been scary enough during a brutal global war, they were all, men and women alike, double agents. Some of them were triple agents, and perhaps even quadruple agents. That's a hard concept to understand, but the author does a really nice job of explaining the machinations of these people. The book details how all of these agents came to work for the British, how they fooled the Germans, and how they would relay the information they gathered to the Germans. The spies would feed the German Military just enough true information to make them seem trustworthy, and throw in false information to throw them off track of what was really happening. They used this technique to great effect in the months leading up to D-Day, when they worked with the Allied Armies to convince Hitler that the European invasion would take place at Calais. This was an absolutely vital part of the D-Day plans since it kept most of the German army away from the site of the real attack; Normandy. The most amazing part of the narrative for me, was the story of Johnny Jebson. I doubt most people have ever heard this man's name, but he truly had a pivotal role in the fate of the entire world. He was a double agent and he knew everything. He knew the names and locations of all of the other agents, he knew about the false information being fed to the Germans, he knew where the Allies really planned to land on D-Day. He was captured by the Gestapo just weeks before the landings. We can only imagine what they did to him, yet he never told them anything. He vanished after the war, having kept all of those vital secrets to himself. Had he revealed any of what we knew, the course of the war would have been very different. The book is so detailed it is hard to review it well, but if you have any interest at all in the war or espionage, then this is something you should read.
Also Try: Deception: The Untold Story of East-West Espionage Today by Edward Lucas The Man Who Never Was: World War II's Boldest Counter-Intelligence Operation by Ewan Montagu A Man Called Intrepid: The Incredible WWII Narrative of the Hero Whose Spy Network and Secret Diplomacy Changed the Course of History by William Stevenson

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