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on 19 April 2011
A thoroughly entertaining book on a subject which, like the 'Ultra' secret of the breaking of the German 'enigma' code, was kept under wraps for many years after the war. The deception carried out on the Germans to make them believe that the main assault on N.W. Europe would not be in Normandy but at the Pas de Calais was an overwhelming success and Joshua Levine tells the story admirably. There are other, more detailed, books on the subject, notably Roger Hesketh's 'Fortitude' and Tomas Harris's 'Garbo - The spy who saved D-Day', but being more detailed does not necessarily make a book better. Levine's book is aimed at the general reader and as such makes absorbing reading.

The D-Day deception itself is not dealt with until about half way through the book. The opening chapters are concerned with the Double Cross system, i.e. the capture, 'turning' (and sometimes hanging) of German spies together with the recruitment of foreign volunteers who offer to become double agents. The most famous of these, of course, was the Spaniard Juan Pujol, code named Garbo who, at the end of the war, received medals from both the duped Germans and the grateful British (the Iron Cross from the Germans and the MBE from the British). It was years before the Germans found out how they had been conned.

Levine's book is an enjoyable and well-researched read for anyone interested in this fascinating subject. Highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon 26 August 2011
for anyone who enjoyed operation mincemeat by macintyre then this is a book for you. it is written in a very similar style and cover many of the same themes if in fact covering 1944 instead of 1943 objectives. its basically the story of the double cross system. using double agents to convince the Germans the invasion will come where they think it will...Calais. for such a small book I thought it would be thin on information but it holds its own, and delivers the material in an interesting way. my only qualms are it seemed to be rushed at the end and knowing that so much has been written on this I cant help but feel there has to be large swathes not included that might have been essential. however great starting place for anyone just looking to breeze through the subject of strategic deception.
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on 22 April 2011
This excellent book gives a new angle on the planning and operations before D-Day. Detailing the deception plan developed to confuse the Germans about where the Allied landing was going to take place and how strong it would be, the author carefully pieces together this complicated and fascinating story in a well written and gripping narrative. So much of this operation was reliant on the use of double agents, German spies who had been "turned" by the British security services, and a great deal of the book is given over to describing how this came about - starting with the early years of the war and the development of these agents, with their particular strengths and foibles, before going on to show how they managed to put across the false information that kept the German armoured divisions pinned down in the wrong locations and gave the Allies a chance for victory in Normandy. It then details the complex planning that went into the D-Day landings and deception plan before revealing how it all turned out - along with the many scares and slip ups along the way. This fascinating new look at D-Day is highly recommended.
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on 1 November 2011
I confess to being a little disappointed as only the latter half of the book specifically details the events close to and surrounding the D Day deception. The first half deals with the spy catching and setting up of the agents who made Operation Fortitude possible. It is a little as though there is not enough specific Operation Fortitude material to fill a whole book so it has been filled out with supporting material. Having said that I recognise that without spending 4 years setting things up the actual events of Operation Fortitude would not have been possible.
An OK read but not in the Max Hastings class!
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This is the story of the Allied effort to persude Germany that the major European invasion was to occur in the geographically closest point of mainland Europe and to many the most obvious, namely the area of and around Calais. In fact, as is now well-known, the chosen location was that of Normandy which, although more distant, offered several logistical advantages.

The deception was complex and involved many agents planting misinformation over time, creating fake armies and air forces and a huge variety of other schemes over a period of a year or more. Bit-by-bit and day-by-day something new was added to the pile until Germany was totally convinced that Calais was to be used. Heavy bombing of strategic sites around Calais was undertaken but about as many similar locations around Normandy and elsewhere were planned and undertaken, sufficient to suggest a random targeting without necessarily disclosing the truth.

Even when the landings were taking place, Germany was so convinced that they were a ploy and fake that they did not react for several days, by which time Allied forces were many miles inland and advancing, and the beach-head was strong and reinforced daily. Germany's retreat had begun and the eventual outcome all but guaranteed at a very early date.

The story has been told many times, in many forms and by many authors. This book's author has had a number of careers including some time spent as a barrister and later as an actor. Also a TV historian, he has written other books on WW1 and WW2.

The book is very easy to read and not overly detailed. Some of the better-known Operations and ideas are included but some have been excluded, not because they were unimportant but probably for reasons of space. The book offers the reader an insight into events leading up to D-Day and just how much needed to be planned months or even years in advance.
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on 28 September 2014
A very readable and engaging retelling of the story of the British run espionage network known as the Double-Cross system.

Much if not all of the story has been told before as it emerged in the 1970s and 80's (and in parts earlier). Many operations are mentioned only briefly, such as Operation Mincemeat, subject of several books, but given only a couple of pages here. This then is a 'popular history' concentrating on telling the story in an engaging and entertaining manner.

The heart of the book concerns Operation Fortitude South, which aimed to convince the German High Command that the Anglo-American-Canadian invasion of Europe would be in the Pas de Calais - largely through allowing German intelligence to 'discover' a much inflated order-of-battle for the Allied forces and persuading them that much of that force was situated across the channel from Calais and ready to strike the German forces engaged in Normandy in the rear. The purpose of this was to fix powerful German forces in the Pas-de-Calais, away from the real invasion.

The agent who comes out of the novel as having the most success is Spaniard, Juan Pujo Garcia, more commonly known as ‘Garbo’, who was thought by the Germans to be their best spy in Britain and to have a huge network of informers, but was in reality a double-agent working under British control.

As a 'popular history' Operation Fortitude's human interest stories and readability are in contrast to more in-depth, but drier, history books such as The Defence of the Realm.

The author retains a certain amount of scepticism about the Double-Cross system, pointing out failures, such as Operation Fortitude North (which created a fictitious threat to Norway that went almost unnoticed by Germany) and the human costs for the many agents 'burnt' or even killed, but concludes that the core Fortitude South operation was a success and in fact remained undetected by the Germans even after the war's conclusion.

In summary: a very readable overview of the Double-Cross system in general and Operation Fortitude in particular, with enough information for the casual reader and pointers for those seeking more in depth information.
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on 14 December 2011
This is a 300 page read, but you get to page 180 before it starts going into operation Fortitude itself. And even when it does, it shoots off into tangents, such as a 4 page recap on General Patton's career (he slapped one of his men, I know already and why is it in this book?)

If I was just looking for a general Ben Macintyre-style espionage read, I'd probably up my review to 3 or 4 stars, becuase it's not badly written. But I was particularly interested in Fortitude and 2/3rds of this book is just a general history of British counterintelligence.
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on 30 May 2013
A bit of a disappointment to me.
The book goes into great detail on persons involved from all kind of countries and their story.
What I miss (and was looking for) is the master-plan.

I think that the overall story is not shown well enough due to the overflow of personal details and names.
A piity.
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on 13 April 2012
Most people who've read about WW2 know that Hitler held back a large part of his army during D-Day and the weeks after because he feared an attack on Calais. This excellent book goes into detail about how the Allies fooled the Nazis into believing that entire phantom armies existed, the lives and motivations of the double agents and their handlers who pulled it off and how the whole thing had an unlikely beginning.

I picked up this book as an impulse buy and enjoyed every page of it. It shows how the origins of Double Cross and Fortitude were both brilliant planning and amazing dumb luck. A fascinating and occasionally hilarious read.
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on 11 April 2013
I had read elsewhere about Bodyguard and Fortitude but this account is the most engrossing I have encountered. Although much of the deceit went unnoticed by the OKW, the operation mode than succeeded. This account complements my thesis that the WSC who commanded Fortitude was very different from the cavalryman who charged the Dardanelles and that the difference is almost entirely due to his discovery of John Churchill. We owe the success of the Normandy landings as much to Marlborough as to Pujol.
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