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Operation Mincemeat [Hardcover]

Ben Macintyre
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (184 customer reviews)
RRP: 16.99
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Book Description

18 Jan 2010
One April morning in 1943, a sardine fisherman spotted the corpse of a British soldier floating in the sea off the coast of Spain and set in train a course of events that would change the course of the Second World War. Operation Mincemeat was the most successful wartime deception ever attempted, and certainly the strangest. It hoodwinked the Nazi espionage chiefs, sent German troops hurtling in the wrong direction, and saved thousands of lives by deploying a secret agent who was different, in one crucial respect, from any spy before or since: he was dead. His mission: to convince the Germans that instead of attacking Sicily, the Allied armies planned to invade Greece. The brainchild of an eccentric RAF officer and a brilliant Jewish barrister, the great hoax involved an extraordinary cast of characters including a famous forensic pathologist, a gold-prospector, an inventor, a beautiful secret service secretary, a submarine captain, three novelists, a transvestite English spymaster, an irascible admiral who loved fly-fishing, and a dead Welsh tramp. Using fraud, imagination and seduction, Churchill's team of spies spun a web of deceit so elaborate and so convincing that they began to believe it themselves. The deception started in a windowless basement beneath Whitehall. It travelled from London to Scotland to Spain to Germany. And it ended up on Hitler's desk. Ben Macintyre, bestselling author of "Agent Zigzag", weaves together private documents, photographs, memories, letters and diaries, as well as newly released material from the intelligence files of MI5 and Naval Intelligence, to tell for the first time the full story of Operation Mincemeat.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC; Reprint edition (18 Jan 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0747598681
  • ISBN-13: 978-0747598688
  • Product Dimensions: 14.9 x 22.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (184 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 100,766 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Ben Macintyre is a columnist and Associate Editor on The Times. He has worked as the newspaper's correspondent in New York, Paris and Washington. He is the author of seven previous books including Agent Zigzag, the story of wartime double-agent Eddie Chapman, which was shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award and the Galaxy British Book Award for Biography of the Year 2008. Operation Mincemeat: The True Spy Story that Changed the Course of World War II, published in January 2010, is the thrilling true story of the greatest and most successful wartime deception ever attempted. He lives in London with his wife and three children.

(Photo credit: Jerry Bauer)

Product Description


`Fascinating ...The complexities and consequences of the story that Macintyre tells in Operation Mincemeat are compelling - a tribute to his impressive abilities as a sleuth (ones that we've witnessed in his previous books) and to his capacities as a writer. He has the instincts of a novelist rather than a historian when it comes to elision , exposition, narrative and pace, and is depiction of character is vividly alive to nuance and idiosyncrasy . Like the best novelists, he understands that all people are fundamentally individual - odd and unique to themselves - and that stereotypes exist only in bad fiction, whether on the page or on screen' --William Boyd, The Times

`Ben Macintyre turns up trumps in this rollicking tale of a second world war mission to dupe the Germans by using a corpse bearing fictional military plans ... The cast of characters is irresistible, and Macintyre's enthusiasm for them richly merited ... a terrific book with exceptional photographs of everybody, including the corpse. Students of the second world war have been familiar with Mincemeat for many years, but Macintyre offers a mass of new detail, and enchanting pen portraits of the British, Spanish and German participants. His book is a rollicking read for all those who enjoy a spy story so fanciful that Ian Fleming - himself an officer in Montagu's wartime department - would never have dared to invent it'
--Max Hastings, Sunday Times

'Ben Macintyre has taken a well known story of wartime deception, embellished it, and shown that it was even more ingenious and even more risky than we had all supposed. -- Spectator, January 2010

'This true story of wartime deception is as creative and as cunning as a good spy novel.' -- Sunday Telegraph, February 2010

'Ben Macintyre skilfully breathes life into the diverse cast of characters involved in the plan, imaginatively fleshing out the colourful personalities on both sides.' -- Metro London

'Macintyre tells a 'rollicking' story with 'infectious glee'. -- The Week, February 2010

' ... they would surely applaud his skill in finally bringing all to life.'
-- Times

About the Author

Ben Macintyre is a columnist and Associate Editor on The Times. He has worked as the newspaper's correspondent in New York, Paris and Washington. He is the author of seven previous books including Agent Zigzag, the story of wartime double-agent Eddie Chapman, which was shortlisted for the Costa Biography Award and the Galaxy British Book Award for Biography of the Year 2008. He lives in London with his wife and three children.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
92 of 94 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A page-turning history of WWII espionage 27 Aug 2010
By John Middleton TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Operation Mincemeat is history written like good fiction: hardly surprising when you consider that Operation Mincemeat itself was pure fiction to begin with.

This book tells the story of perhaps the greatest British deception operation of WWII, "The man who never was". To throw the Axis off the scent of the invasion of Sicily, a dead body was floated onto Spanish shores with a briefcase full of (bogus) secret documents. Added to other bits and pieces, it helped convince the Nazis that Sicily was only a feint, with the real invasion directed at Sardinia and the Balkans. That it worked is incredible, when you think about how many things could have gone wrong - and nearly did.

Ben Macintyre has started at the beginning, covering off all the principals of the saga - the dead man himself, Ewen Montagu and Charles Cholmondeley, the men responsible for creating the deception operation, and the various spies and spies and counter-spies on all sides, plus a cameo appearance by Ian Fleming, then-future creator of James Bond. There is a little about Jean Leslie as the (beautiful) girlfriend whose photo "Major Martin" kept in his wallet, and about Ewen Montagu's Communist spy brother, Ivor (whose wife Hell appears on the cover of some editions, for no reason I can discern save gender balance and to hint at a femme fatale narrative). Then, after all the buildup, we get a rare look into Franco's wartime neutral Spain, a hotbed of intrigue with frantic espionage being undertaken by pretty much every combatant of WWII, and by the Spanish themselves, largely, but far from exclusively, as a proxy for the Axis powers.
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52 of 57 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Simply brilliant 26 Jan 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is by far one of the very best "contemporary" historical accounts I have read for ages. It flows seamlessly linking the characters and describing them in such an absolutely interesting way that you feel that you know them all personally. This is done simply with great skill. It takes great skill to keep you interested in characters now sadly long gone whose backgrounds and life style now seems so alien to our own. We owe much to those unsung heroes who never received the recognition they richly deserved. This book is a tribute to them. It rises above most books of its ilk by having been thoroughly and comprehensively researched. You never ever get the feeling that anything has either been missed out or made up. An excellent gripping read.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
Necessity is the mother of invention and the need to minimise casualties in an attack on a fortified target is justifiable grounds for this operation which,at another time and in different circumstances, would most certainly be unsavoury.Years ago I read Ewen Montagu's "The Man Who Never Was" and I always felt "uncomfortable" with it. Given Montagu's panache for deception,I always felt that we were not given the full/real details of the operation. But this understandable and should not be held against him. After all,intelligence work by its nature precludes full disclosure of events, even after 60 years.It is noted that Cholmondeley "Chumly" ...(Oh, the English and their pronounciation..never pronounce a word the way it's written),maintained his silence to the end observing all confidentialities. And that perversity produced by Hollywood with Clifton Webb in the starring role, albeit with a cameo appearance by Montagu,which I think is a betrayal of those men whose dedication ensured a successful and relatively low casualty landing in Sicily ...but then that's Hollywood for you.
My congratulations to Ben Macintyre for his depth of research, especially the profiles of the many characters like Hillgarth et al.Macintyre cannot be praised too much for his endeavour in bringing into the public domain the details and yes,the emotions of one of the most thrilling episodes of World War II. In a nostalgic mood, I visited the grave in Huelva about 36 years ago and I just stood there in my shoes and I wondered ..I wondered ..who really lies in that grave. Now, with full disclosure ...I have a name.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars READS LIKE A FAST-PACED THRILLER 6 Feb 2010
During World War Two spying and intelligence played an important role.The British attached much importance to this aspect and spared no means in order to achieve substantial success.The purpose was dual:to surprise the Nazi enemy and to save the lives of as many combatants in battle as possible.
"Operation Mincemeat"was one of those deceptions which have eventually surprised the Nazis into believing that an invasion od the Allies would take place not in Sicily but in Greece.This great hoax was the brainchild of a Jewish barrister, Ewen Montagu,and a RAF officer who concocted a cocktail of deception involving a list of eccentric characters.Among them wasa famous forensic pathologist(whose style of life was bizzare),a gold-prospector,a submarine commander, three novelist and a tranvestite spymaster.
The whole deception plan started beneath Whitehall.Montagu was looking for a corpse of someone who was supposed to carry classified documents on his body.These papers were to be the proof that the Allies had invasion plans for Greece.But where do you look for a suitable corpse? Enter Sir Bernard Spilbury,a senior pathologist at the Home Office and pioneer of forensics.With the help of another colleague,Spilbury located the corpse of Welsh young man who was mentally deranged and poisoned himself.Thus,the whole procedure of arranging a forged identity of this man started.It was an arduous journey and all this was meant to build a plausible story for the Nazis.Another man working for the British intelligence designed the canister which would contain the corpse of the fictitious Major William Martin.Montagu and his RAF officer would then deliver the canister to a British submarine commander whose mission was to drop it in Spanish waters.Why Spain?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A modern re-writing of a famous WW2 tale
This is the story of 'The Man Who Never Was', of which a movie version was also made.

A scheme, one of many, which was designed to mislead the Germans into thinking that... Read more
Published 21 days ago by Andy_atGC
3.0 out of 5 stars Wanted to read it - have done - nothing to rave about
Its one of those I wanted to read so did. Interesting but not memorable - as I write this I can't really recall it.
I may have to pick it up again to read
Published 27 days ago by mike woolaghan
5.0 out of 5 stars good book
Could not put it down. A very interesting and gripping story. Don't know what else I can add to that.
Published 1 month ago by Mrs Sylvia M Jardine
5.0 out of 5 stars bought as a present
i bought this as a present because I had enjoyed the t.v. programme and the book which was even more interesting
Published 1 month ago by Geoff Jackson
5.0 out of 5 stars You couldn't make it up!
An amazing and very readable book for anyone interested in the wartime intelligence services. Like Double Cross by the same author it paints a picture of fact that is stranger... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Up to the author's usual standard
A most gripping true story that is similar in approach to his other works on wartime themes.
The characters are finely drawn & the complicated situations are clearly... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Y. K. Autie
5.0 out of 5 stars great story well written
amazing story which the writer has given life by obvious detailed research and a passion for the subject, captures the personalities of those involved and the magnitude of the... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Andhewittscores
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping
Very well written, very well researched with all details along with photos. Macintyre tells this story with great style that keeps you wanting to read more, couldnt put the book... Read more
Published 2 months ago by J K RYan
4.0 out of 5 stars Mincemeat
A fascinating story and having seen the film I do like the book as well. It was well worth it
Published 3 months ago by alan dennis berridge
5.0 out of 5 stars Great present
Elderly, male friend enjoyed this book. He states it is well written and a very interesting read. He would recommend it to others.
Published 3 months ago by JR
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