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Customer Review

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars READS LIKE A FAST-PACED THRILLER, 6 Feb. 2010
This review is from: Operation Mincemeat (Hardcover)
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? Because there were many who were in love with the Nazi regime.It is a well-known fact that the British agreed to pay huge sums of money to the Spanish leader so that he would not join Hitler's forces.In addition, there were some very rich German families who were ardent supporters of the Nazis and many of them were engaged in the Great Game working for the Germans.These had good connections with the Spanish police and other authorities,therefore Spain would be an excallent place to drop the body.
On the morning of April 30th,1943,a sardine fisherman spotted the corpse of the British fictitious Major floating in the sea off the coast of Spain and set in motion a number of events that would change the course of the war.An autopsy performed by a Spanish doctor confirmed that the corpse "fell in the water while still alive,showed no evidence of bruising,and drowned through asphyxia caused by submersion"(p.205).The body was placed in a wooden coffin and returned to the care of the British vice consul.At this point the rumour about the body was already gaining speed and the Germans in Spain heard about the suitcase which was attached to the body and which contained the forged documents showing the Allies' intentions.This was when the whole process of convincing Berlin that the documents were genuine started.There were some ironies in the whole story:the British were drmined to give the Germans the suitcase.Another irony was that the poor Welsh chap got a funeral which was attended by many, while in his real life he was barely known.The Germans turned for help to one of their most trusted spies,a Spanish air force general officer who had various connections in the military.This was the turning point and nine days after arriving in Spain,the forged documents were in Berlin.Among them were letters addressed to General Alexander and Admiral Cunningham;another addressee was General Eisenhower.
The whole affair spared the lives of perhaps tens of thousands of combatants and of the 160000 soldiers who took part in the invasion of Sicily more than 153000 were still alive at the end.This was the result of the deception, logistics,strength,secrecy and surprise and all these were the result of the fertile imagination of a team of spies led by an English lawyer(whose brother, we are told,was a communist who spied for the Russians.These knew about this web of deception from its inception).
This book is written in a very dynamic style.The characters are extremely well depicted and there is action and intrigue on every page of it.The research invested in this book is excellent and it will definitely be enjoyed by any history buff and professional alike.Five cheers for this superb book!!!!!
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 4 Jul 2010 22:19:33 BDT
Who's written this review? Who's edited it? Until somebody sorts the spelling and grammar it's very likely doing a disservice to a good book.
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