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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Double Cross
Anyone who has read anything by Ben Macintyre before will know that they are in for a treat. He is a wonderful storyteller and, in this book, he is on territory he seems to understand brilliantly and relish. The Allied military planners were working on the the great assault on Nazi Occupied Europe - the D-Day invasion would decide the outcome of the war. In order to...
Published on 13 April 2012 by S Riaz

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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Double, double, toil and trouble
Ben McIntyre can spot a good yarn and tell it compulsively - I never tire of recommending Josiah the Great. The author's dabblings in the behind-the-scenes stories of World War II have also been rewarding, but Double Cross is something of a disappointment.

No doubting that the five double agents (who never met) portrayed here were brave, audacious people; no...
Published on 21 May 2012 by G. M. Sinstadt


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37 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Double Cross, 13 April 2012
By 
S Riaz "S Riaz" (England) - See all my reviews
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Anyone who has read anything by Ben Macintyre before will know that they are in for a treat. He is a wonderful storyteller and, in this book, he is on territory he seems to understand brilliantly and relish. The Allied military planners were working on the the great assault on Nazi Occupied Europe - the D-Day invasion would decide the outcome of the war. In order to convince the Germans that the invasion was coming where it was not actually coming, and not coming in the place where it was actually coming, a huge amount of effort was expended. There were dummy planes, tanks and even dummy armies in place to fool the Germans. There were even pigeons masquerading as German carrier pigeons (lots more on pigeons in the book - they play a larger part than you might imagine!). There were impersonators to convince the Germans that military leaders were elsewhere. Counterfeit generals led non-existent armies. Radio operators created a barrage of fake signals. Finally, there were spies. The Allies had a harder task than it appears in hindsight, knowing that it succeeded, as the targer range for a cross-Channel invasion was small. There were only a handful of suitable spots for a massed landing and it was important that the entire might of the German forces were not waiting when the Allies landed.

Tar Robertson created a bodyguard of liars - the "Double Cross System" coordinated by the Twenty (XX) Committee. They specialised in turning German spies into double agents. Every single German agent in Britain was under his control, enabling huge and co-ordinated lies to be told. The task of Operation Fortitude was to bottle up German troops in the Pas de Calais and keep them there - this ability depended on Robertson's spies. These included a bisexual Peruvian playgirl, a tiny Polish fighter pilot, a mercurial Frenchwoman who adored her dog, a Serbian seducer and an eccentric Spaniard with marital problems. These spies never met, but together they created false trails, gave false information and often created totally false networks of sub-spies, including a group of entirely fictional Welsh fascists - all of which the Germans swallowed completely. In some cases, very extensive lies were not even noticed by the Germans, whereas the Allies had much confidential information (courtesy of Bletchly Park) even before the Germans themselves were aware of it. It is astounding to realise the control the Allies had over information sent to the Germans and the inventive ways to which this was put to use.

This then is a great book of subterfuge, downright lies, great ingenuity and often, great courage, for no reward other than a belief in freedom. Many of these individuals had families threatened by the Germans, at least one person connected to the group was arrested, and there was always the risk of being discovered which would undoubtedly have led to many more deaths of Allied troops when D-Day arrived. Nobody could tell this story as Ben Macintyre does, with dry humour, great understatement and a great deal of respect for his subjects.
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113 of 124 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The shadowy world of espionage and counter espionage, 31 Mar 2012
By 
Brian R. Martin (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Double Cross (Hardcover)
At the Tehran conference in 1943, the Allies laid the plans for the invasion of Europe, codenamed Operation Overlord. It was a high-risk strategy, and to maximize the chance of its success it was essential that for as long as possible the Germans should be uncertain where the invasion would take place. To this end, Operation Bodyguard was created. It was an immense undertaking, involving the construction of false tanks and aircraft, sending masses of fake radio signals and even `creating' whole dummy armies, apparently directed at spurious targets on the continent. But within this activity, the most important element of deception was that provided by Operation Fortitude. This was specifically aimed at convincing the Germans that the invasion would take place at the Pas de Calais, rather than the actual site chosen, the Normandy coast. It was hoped that when the invasion started, the Germans would assume it was only a diversion and so would not move their strong tank forces away from the Calais area, thus giving the Allies time to establish themselves on shore.

The core of Fortitude was the Double Cross system, where enemy spies were `turned' and became double agents acting for Britain. This is the subject of Ben Macintyre's book. It was a system developed by an eccentric, but brilliant, MI5 officer, `Tar' Robinson. By mid 1943, he realized that every German agent in Britain was actually being controlled by MI5 and so he could start feeding misinformation to the German handlers of the turned spies. In practice, the nucleus of Double Cross was just five agents. They were a very exotic bunch: a rich serial-seducing playboy Yugoslav (codename Tricycle), a Polish patriot fighter pilot (Brutus), a bisexual Peruvian playgirl (Bronx), an hysterical Frenchwoman (Treasure), and the most successful of them all, a Spaniard (Garbo) with a wild fertile imagination that proved extremely useful in constructing information to feed the Germans. In addition, there was another key player, a German citizen and friend of Tricycle called Johnny Jebsen. He spent most of his time in Portugal working for the German military secret service, the Abwehr, and did not openly work for the British until late in the war. Their handlers and MI5 officers were almost as strange. For example, Tar's team included John Masterman, whose life revolved around cricket and who referred to agents `making a good innings' and being ready to be `put in to bat'.

Feedback via the decrypts from Blechley Park showed that the deception was working, but tension mounted as D-Day approached, and events occurred that could have destroyed the whole operation. One was the activity of a freelance spy operating from Portugal who had been feeding bogus information to the Germans by purporting to be located in Britain. At one point, by chance, he was close to naming the actual D-Day landing place. Another was the unstable character of Treasure, who was besotted with her dog, and who blamed the British for its death. She seriously considered betraying the double cross operation to the Germans. Even more serious was the arrest of Jebsen in Portugal by the Abwehr and his removal to Berlin. This was done by a group that was part of the plot to kill Hitler, but was worried that if Jebsen defected it would be used as the pretext for Himmler to replace the Abwehr with his own SD security organization, and they themselves would be arrested. Ironically, Jebsen would have been only too willing to help them, but he was quickly transferred to the SD. Despite being tortured, he never revealed any secrets and Fortitude remained intact right up to D-Day and beyond.

Espionage and counter espionage are strange shadowy worlds, full of uncertainty, and where things are frequently not as they appear. For example, could one ever be sure that a double agent was not really a triple agent, working for the Germans? The agents were also difficult characters to control, motivated as they were by mixtures of patriotism, and baser reasons such as simple greed. This was particularly true of Jebsen, who ran lucrative and risky currency scams on the side. This often resulted in difficult relationships between the agents and their handlers. Amid this deadly serious game there was also sometimes humour, such as the utterly mad proposals by Flight Lieutenant Walker to set up an operation using squadrons of pigeons to destroy `incoming enemy pigeons', and later to run a `double cross' system for pigeons, whereby they would be infiltrated into German pigeon lofts! Needless to say there is no evidence that these schemes contributed anything to the war effort.

After the war, agents and MI5 officers went their own varied ways. Most settled quietly: Brutus in London; Garbo in South America, running a bookshop; Bronx in France to run a gift shop; Treasure in Michigan having eventually married an American serviceman. Tricycle continued his flamboyant lifestyle, marrying two 18 yr. olds. Jebsen was presumed killed in the final chaotic days of the collapse of Germany. Tar retired to look after a sheep farm; Masterman became Provost of an Oxford college, wrote detective novels and continued his life-long devotion to cricket. Walker of course spent the rest of his days breeding pigeons.

This is a superb book. Ben Macintyre's convincingly takes us into the topsy-turvy world of espionage and counter espionage. The narrative could have been disjoint, because it is essentially the stories of five double agents who never met, but he links them seamlessly via their roles in the ongoing operation, and gives a real feeling for the characters of the extraordinary players involved in the Double Cross operation and the crucial times in which they worked. It is also well researched and amply documented by references. I strongly recommend it.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Double, double, toil and trouble, 21 May 2012
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G. M. Sinstadt - See all my reviews
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Ben McIntyre can spot a good yarn and tell it compulsively - I never tire of recommending Josiah the Great. The author's dabblings in the behind-the-scenes stories of World War II have also been rewarding, but Double Cross is something of a disappointment.

No doubting that the five double agents (who never met) portrayed here were brave, audacious people; no doubting, either, that the Intelligence staff who manipulated them were bold and imaginative. The games they played almost certainly helped win the war, saving many lives. Equally, they gambled dangerously for the highest stakes.

While Double Cross takes the reader through the various separate stories, the fact that some of this is reworking of previously known material gives the book something of a second-hand feel. Like another reviewer, I wondered how much invention had gone into a long and detailed account of the meeting at which Tar Robertson sacked one of his agents.

Recommended for newcomers to the story but only with reservations for those with previously high opinions of the author.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent but not for the general reader, 20 May 2014
I had been looking forward very much to reading Double Cross as there was so much publicity in the media about the book’s revelations about the effect of the double agents on the outcome of the Second World War.

I was disappointed. The book is very well researched and is a masterpiece from the point of the history of double agents. But for me as the general reader, all that detail took me away from what I had been looking forward to- the work of the double agents and the effects of their work especially on the invasion of Normandy.
Credit has to be given to author for the amount of research done and the way it has been detailed. But for the general reader you cannot see the wood for the trees
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Double agents for Fortitude: For want of a nail and more secrets have been revealed, 22 Jan 2013
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After his successful publications and TV programmes on the greatest con-man Eddie Chapman, and the lead up to the invasion of Sicily Operation Mincemeat: The True Spy Story That Changed the Course of World War II, it is inevitable that Ben Macintyre's interest in the shadowy world of Second World War spooks would eventually lead to the biggest deception plan, "Operation Fortitude" as part of the Allies' overall cross-Channel invasion plan Overlord of N.E. Europe in June 1944.

For years the XX Committee, chaired since 1941 by John Masterman, an Oxford don and cricket fan, was set up to capture and turn German spies as double agents to fight the Nazis. Double Cross is a jigsaw study of the pen-pictures of around six double agents: four men and two women: Dusan Popov, a Serb industrialist , alias "Tricycle" called for his passion for three in the bed sex; his friend "Johnny" Jebsen, or "Artist", a Danish born German, heir to a shipping line, who had been recruited into the German Abwehr by Col Oster, a family friend and deputy to Admiral Canaris, learnt of the German "rocket gun"(the V1) at Peenemünde through pillow talk in 1943 from a glamorous baroness; Captain Roman Czerniawski, a Polish fighter pilot, "Brutus" who had set up Interallié, the most important spy network in occupied France, until it was infiltrated and broken at the end of 1941; Juan Pujol Garcia "Garbo", an eccentric Spaniard with a poultry diploma who disliked chickens; Lily Sergeyev, "Treasure", a White Russian in France, devoted to her terrier-poodle cross "Babs"; and Elvira de Fuente Chaudoir, the bisexual daughter of a Peruvian diplomat, alias "Bronx", concocted after a strong rum based cocktail. They all worked in counter-espionage for MI5, under Guy Liddell's B section, often moving against their overseas colleagues in MI6, unaware that they were being betrayed from within by the Soviet agent "Tony", Anthony Blunt.

Odder, it is likely that Stalin read more secret British documents than Churchill, though little of relevance seems to have been noted because no Soviet believed the British were so stupid to hire so-many Communists in senior intelligence positions (besides Blunt, there was Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, and John Cairncross), unless they too were double-agents all in league to deceive Mother Russia. Stranger still, it is likely that up to "Operation Barbarossa", the invasion of the USSR in June 1941, some of secret files on turned agents had been passed on to Berlin. It was fortunate for Britain, that German intelligence was always split between more distinct rival Nazi Party-State bodies through the Party led SS-SD, together with the Gestapo, and the more anti-Nazi Abwehr. Interestingly, the author shows that far from Berlin, in Paris, Madrid, and Lisbon, lived many idle Abwehr operators and handlers of the same six who happily feathered their wartime and post-war nests with scandalously rich lifestyles, and hoped to keep their superiors in the dark from their personal indiscretions for as long as possible.

From all the conflicting evidence collected from these wild characters, Macintyre's account grips readers with incredible mission impossible tales which almost failed and might have made counter-histories and historical fiction virtual fact. The success-failure was as close as the old proverb "for want of a nail a shoe was lost"; it showed how small insignificant actions can trigger off larger unexpected consequences.

How could the presence of an actor such as Miles Mander in Billy Wilder's Five Graves to Cairo Five Graves to Cairo (1943) ( 5 Graves to Cairo )bring a double to make a swift tour of the Mediterranean (but not experience the same adventures in Casablanca as Lt James of the Pay Corps did in I was Monty's Double I Was Monty's Double [DVD]) and convince the Germans that the prospective invasion would commence much later; why might the death of the dog "Babs" cause the angered "Treasure" to almost reveal to her German handlers that she was being compromised; how could members of the Abwehr allow their trusted informer "Artist", who had just been decorated with the Nazi War Merit Cross (KVK), be kidnapped, taken to Berlin and savagely interrogated for weeks by the Gestapo except to save themselves and the famous plot against the Führer in July 1944, so requiring the vital link from "Tricycle" to be shut down; and why was it essential for "Garbo" to tip off the enemy about the time of the landings on the eve, only for the German wireless operator to be found asleep during the call, and to have only woken up and reported for duty five hours later when the invasion had already started (the author jokingly rewrites the incident that the Germans or one German had been caught napping!). This last act of treachery - earning "Garbo" an Iron Cross, was enough to give faith back about the details and the reasons why the phantom forces of the British Fourth Army heading for Norway, and the First US Army Group (FUSAG) for the Pas de Calais seemed so slow in arriving in June 1944. Indeed, the change in the weather for ten days, and the US break through at St Lô appeared a plausible reason for FM Jodl in 1946 why the original plans may have been changed and why he still thought the Normandy landings were really a sideshow rather than the real full monty. It was after seven weeks before four Divisions were finally released southwards from the 15th German Army to halt the Allies march. "Garbo", "Brutus", and all the rest had thus succeeded in making the deception of Fortitude a reality, though some on the ground thought it was a close run thing.

In the intervening weeks "Brutus" had time to build up the phantom army by suggesting that the Germans be lured into launching an attack on FUSAG GHQ, at Wentworth, and killing Gen Eisenhower - an idea killed off as unnecessary. Such a scheme was hardly original, already circulated in a book by Graham Greene for two years, but still of great interest much later by Jack Higgins when the victim to be kidnapped by a commando unit was none other than Churchill The Eagle Has Landed.

The greatest sea invasion in 400 years had worked after years of preparation with a lot of luck, some help from unexpected enemies: from German and the Japanese, as well as the willingness of certain adventurers happy to spend their war carrying out what others deemed impossible. As in all stories there were victims: "Artist" in particular disappearing without trace, and a real traitor, who may have died knowing something about "Johnny"s fatal exit for being too informed, influential and dangerous for Russia in a divided post-war Europe.

"Bomber" Harris believed that only by flattening Germany would she surrender. At the time when Germany was being pounded certain plotters were becoming more active. Among the Abwehr Artist reported that a joke was doing the rounds: "During an air raid Hitler, Goering, Goebbels and Himmler took refuge in the same air raid shelter. The shelter received a direct hit. Who was saved? Germany." If such "defeatist" talk was actually being muttered in certain quarters it signified that the War for them was already lost for Nazi Germany. These "patriots" believed that as long as they could obtain a separate peace in the West and bring Britain and US over against the "Bolsheviks" German could still live on. "Artist" was doing well as a spy by reporting the state of feelings; but nothing would really change in Britain among the decision-makers if around the operators moved cunning Soviet informers like Philby or Blunt. As the Soviets never trusted the wicked capitalist West, it was essential for their moles to keep Britain on their side Germany was defeated for their own sakes otherwise any change in policy and the idea behind "for want of a nail" would quickly turn against them.

Parts of Ben Macintyre's amazing, most enjoyable volume Double Cross seems more out of the realms of Ian Fleming, and James Bond - something which Popov claimed too in his own autobiography. It could help re-write the history of the Second World War. To succeed spies must be born actors and capable to lie, and if only half of what Popov maintains is true of his life: of punch ups with Nazis, naked girls in his hotel bedrooms, and staking of thousands on the turn of a card, a time when life was lived to the full for the day as one's tomorrow might never dawn, then the dashing figure of Bond was a pretty realistic person. The work of the six, including the two women, sounds very credible because Bletchley Park repeatedly showed they were always producing small dividends in the larger picture both at home and abroad. With this book another piece of the secret jigsaw has finally come out of the darkness and of the fog of war.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Incredible exploits of the Few to help save the Many, 10 April 2012
This review is from: Double Cross (Hardcover)
This extraordinarily well researched book is an absolute winner. Ben Macintyre has put together, in an immensely readable form, some of the most fascinating stories of the spies who did so much to help our Country. His style is easy to read and yet, allows the stories to be told in such a way that one almost feels that one knows each of the characters he explores - and what characters they are!
There are some very interesting titbits such as how each Agent was given their code name, and why. I suspect that this book will
appeal to a wide cross-section of the Public and whether you are a serious Historian or someone with just an interest in WWII stories, you cannot fail to be both entertained and enlightened.
Buy it and enjoy, you won't regret it.Double Cross
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Double Cross - Worth the effort, 22 Oct 2012
By 
A. J. S. White (Newmarket England) - See all my reviews
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I found this book quite hard to follow - the double (or up to quintuple) agents are referred to at various times by their spy name and by their real names, which was often confusing. There is a considerable amount of detail - perhaps more than I needed as a general reader. However, the story is rivetting and well worth the effort. Some of the agents were clearly extremely brave, some had less honourable motives but what impressed me most was how few of them there were and what a profound effect they had on the war.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Double Cross Agents did not all survive., 28 May 2012
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The expert on the Double Cross Agent writes another book on the subject, of which much is familiar. But the account of the Agent who was betrayed in Germany, but who withstood the inevitable torture, before his death in a concentration camp, deserves to be remembered
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5.0 out of 5 stars AN excellent, informative book. Recommended, 16 Sep 2014
By 
Andy_atGC (London UK) - See all my reviews
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Ben MacIntyre is a master when writing about what appears to be a favourite topic, espionage and related activities during WW2. He has authored several books within this field.

Rather than a book that is primarily about an individual or a specific 'Operation', the subject here is the longer term and loose project known as XX which was a short way of writing 'Double Cross' and which dominated Allied efforts from 1943-45.

It was long understood by both sides that there would at some point in time be an invasion of mainland Europe. When it was to happen and where would depend on a number of factors but it was first deemed essential that the number of successes that Hitler's Germany was to see would diminish and that Allied strengths and capabilities would have to be much greater than during the first three years of the War. The turning point came in 1943 when the Allies won at Tobruk, Sicily was successfully invaded and offered a foothold in Italy and, by no means least, when Germany was losing more submarines than they were sinking merchant vessels and the disaster of Stalingrad put paid to Germany's plan to link up with Japanese troops.

The Double Cross project involved a great many ideas each of which was intended to mislead and confuse the enemy, create doubts and weaknesses and otherwise gain whatever advantage was possible. Operation Mincemeat, the subject itself of another book by this author, was just one part and the use of double agents and using Germany's own methods of turning agents and radio operators against their own country was used with great success and without any suspicion ever being raised. The book covers many of the different ideas that were employed. It also includes some of the Enigma story, without which it would have been impossible to assess and understand German reactions to the various events.

Due to its wide coverage, it provides an excellent retrospective on the ideas, their implementation and execution and sometimes the problems that were to be encountered. There is a degree of summarisation in order to cover those parts of the overall plan which the author believes best delivers the concept; 'Agent Zigzag' another of MacIntyre's books relating a specific agent's part in the overal scheme is of almost similar size to this which provides an indication of the degree of compression applied.

An excellent read which covers much of the Intelligence-led Allied actions of the last half of the War.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Truth is often much much weirder than fiction, 2 Aug 2014
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Ben Macintyre, who rather seems to have cornered the market in factual books about espionage in this country, both during the Second World War and then later, during the period of the Cold War, has here written a complex account of the part that not just spies, but those who were double agents, or even triple agents, turned, and turned again - or always firmly on the Allied side, but convincing Germany they were her spies.

At times, this engagingly written but dizzying book - I struggled to keep track of the agent, their British code name, their German code name, plus the fact that code-names sometimes got revamped and changed - read almost like a comedy, as the subterfuges dreamed up got wilder and wilder. In fact, the `game' of course was deadly, and the double agents were dangerously playing not only with their own lives, but the lives of thousands of others.

Macintyre concentrates on a handful of agents, who were employed, so their German handlers thought, to provide information about Britain and her military plans. In fact, these agents - flamboyant, hedonistic, larger-than-life to a man and woman, were feeding their German handlers misinformation, and as the plans for the Allied offensive which became the Normandy landings progressed, a complex structure of legerdemain was taking place, in order to get the German Secret Service, and the military, to be looking in the wrong direction, convinced that the Allied attack would happen elsewhere.

To that end, one of the double agents created a completely fictitious cohort of spies, including a mythical group of disaffected Welsh Nazi sympathisers, and several of the non-existent spies were also `minders' for still more spies. And to stretch the joke still further, it was the Abwehr (German Military Intelligence) which ended up paying for the Double Agents whom they thought were spying for Germany, to feed them this disinformation.

Not only was every active agent which the Abwehr thought they had planted in Britain in fact a double agent working FOR Britain, but the Allies even had planted `'Double Agent Pigeons' in Occupied France, as homing pigeons were employed as couriers. (You have to read the book!) Massed dummy tanks at a location to confuse spyplanes about where landings would start from, in order to divert attention to a false destination, an actor impersonating Monty and seen in a neutral country, to disguise the fact that the real Monty was elsewhere, preparing invasion, and even a beloved small dog whose possibly planned smuggle into Britain, going astray, nearly jeopardised the whole effort

In amongst the brilliant games being played, to achieve deadly ends, win or lose, and amongst the self-congratulation about British intelligence, and the extraordinary personalities of the double agents and their handlers, there is much evidence of pettifogging accountancy bureaucracy, and even extraordinary meanness, showed by a book-keeping mentality, and what at times seemed like a real lack of appreciation showed by those within the British Civil Service who were responsible for meeting expenses claims, from those often profligate, overblown, histrionic, but remarkably brave double agents, who risked not only their own lives, but the lives of many others, within their hands. Had the war of `misinformation' not been the success it was, the already horrific loss of life on the D-Day landing would have been immeasurably higher, and Allied failure here would have led to a very different outcome, and no doubt prolonged the war.

Behind the derring-do, lies of course, the horror which that derring-do was designed to end.
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Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies
Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies by Ben Macintyre (Audio CD - 31 July 2012)
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