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on 9 October 2010
 A great story, well researched and well told. However...

This is my second Kindle book (ignoring free books) and I must admit to be slightly disappointed. The photographs, showing three to a page, are too small. I would have thought it possible to make each photograph full page in the e-book version. Also, there are occ-asional odd hyph-enation of words which makes read-ing ra-ther odd. I suspect this is an artefact from the conversion process.

Other than that, recommended.
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on 4 March 2011
It really is a pity that instead of delivering a an obective narrative about a very clever piece of spy-craft the author allows himself to get carried away by his own preconcieved prejucides, this narrative abounds with condescending remarks about the opposition and praise for the home side. I found his constant reference to the "Nazis" when he was refering to the Germans rather tedious to say the least.

The book abounds with errors two examples may suffice:

i)He refers to the resident German agent in Huelva, Adolf Clauss using a telescopic lens with a Minox camera to take pictures of Allied shipping! I would like to know how Claus managed that...
ii) In the run up to Operation Husky HMS Seraph almost gets spotted by a German Scnellboot, which he states was armed with 20mm cannon , torpedo tubes(correct), however once again, he has to try and make a good story better, and adds depth charges (incorrect) to the armament !

These and other stupid fallacies in book begs the question, how much of the so-called "new facts" uncovered by the author has been invented by his fertile imagination?, he could take a few lessons in objectivity by reading books about WWII written by German authors...

We all know that the Allies won WWII, there is certainly no need for the hubris and jingoism that one finds in this book ...
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on 27 August 2010
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.

Some interesting questions are asked about why the Germans swallowed Mincemeat (and later, deception ops related to D-Day) whole; and the answer might be that the Abwehr, the German Army's military intel, was quite strongly anti-Hitler. Sadly the potential role of Admiral Canaris as Abwehr head is only hinted at here.

There are then a look at Operation Husky itself - the invasion of Sicily which Mincemeat went to so much trouble to mask - and a recap of the lives after the event of the various principals, which is interesting and provides a little closure. The case is argued that Mincemeat was a hinge in the development of WWII, and if the case is not quite made, then doubtless an entire book could delve into the military impact of the success of Husky on WWII.

What can be said, is that rarely can so little "total cost 200 pounds" have saved so many, who might otherwise have died on the beaches of Sicily.

We know how the story ends, but you don't read history for a twist in the tale. Like Agent Zigzag, this book is an enthralling read, full of fun facts about spycraft, military deception, and the multitude of characters - real characters, from adventurers to cross-dressing colonels, table tennis aficionados to Jewish Nazis - who were not perhaps, fit to fight a war with their fists, and so settled for using their wits instead.

If you are are interested in WWII history or spycraft, then this is a must read
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 30 December 2010
I like reading about espionage and World War II every once in a while, so based on some favorable review I read somewhere, I picked this up. Unfortunately, like all too many popular nonfiction books I seem to encounter these days (such as The Tiger and In the Heart of the Sea, to name the two most recent examples I read), the book is overstuffed with extraneous detail and (to my mind at least) vastly overstates the importance of the topic it covers. The title refers to a British intelligence operation designed to misdirect the German High Command into believing that the impending Allied invasion of southern Europe in 1943 would take place in Sardinia instead of Sicily, and thus lead the Germans to concentrate their forces in the wrong place. The scheme involved planting a corpse in the coast off of Spain with documents that could be interpreted to indicate the false invasion location so that the Spanish would pass the information along to the Germans.

While this was certainly a colorful ruse (so colorful indeed, that this is one of two books published this year about it: see also Deathly Deception: The Real Story of Operation Mincemeat), it's pretty well worn territory. You can learn about all you need to know from chapters in recent books such as The Deceivers: Allied Military Deception in the Second World War or Deceiving Hitler: Double-cross and Deception in World War II. Moreover, the plan's principal engineer, Ewen Montague, wrote his own self-aggrandizing account of the whole affair (The Man Who Never Was: World War II's Boldest Counter-Intelligence Operation) some fifty years ago, which itself was turned into a passable film of the same title. I suppose this new book is best regarded as an updated and expanded look at the operation, but one that really seems all to intent on following every possible thread and injecting every single piece of research into the text. In short, it reads like a long magazine essay or book chapter inflated to book-length.

Of course, there's also the issue of just how important Mincemeat actually was. The author makes it out to be absolutely pivotal to all that followed and the eventual Allied victory, but other histories of the war place it as just a component in a much larger plan to misdirect the Germans over Sicily (I forget the codename for the larger plan, maybe Barclay?). Moreover, as the author recounts, it wasn't even that original -- a similar scheme had been tried before (which begs the question of why they thought a second attempt was a good idea). Indeed the whole premise of the operation's importance is somewhat confounded by the author's admission at the end that high-ranking anti-Nazi elements in German intelligence may well have seen through the ruse but chosen to look the other way in an attempt to speed up Hitler's downfall. On the whole, an interesting episode that certainly involved a lot of interesting people, but I'm not sure how many people will really find an entire book on it that fascinating.
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on 8 April 2010
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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on 16 May 2010
You can't fault Ben MacIntyre's research, but this book feels about twice as long as it really needed to be.

It goes into enormous detail on the genealogy and background of dozens of minor characters, details everything from their moustaches to their tennis playing skills.

Every chapter seems to start with another character, introduced at great length. There's even twenty pages at the end telling you what happened to everyone afterwards.
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on 12 August 2010
Tales of the real life James Bonds should always make interesting reading, but this just goes over old ground in tiresome detail. The "new info" in the book is just not that illuminating or interesting.
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on 29 June 2011
I have not read any of this book beyond the contents, the index and the bibliography. Whatever the merits of this book, the apparent failure to even mention, let alone challenge, the convincing theory advanced in J. & N. Steele's [ASIN:190283139X The Secrets of HMS Dasher] first published 1994, 3rd edition 2002 suggests that it is simply a re-hash of the old, old story. The bottom line is "why use an antique tramp" when a tragedy on 27 March 1943 provided a crop of drowned sailors to pick from. If the author of the reviewed book has actually challenged the Steeles' case, no doubt another review will correct my error.
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on 6 February 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? 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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on 6 February 2016
What a 'Wondefrful Book this is'!! Although I was not born until WW2. was over, I have found an interest in the 'What if's' and 'What do you think's', of the War. My parents, and Grand-parents, never spoke about that time, and so it has been through television and books etc. that I have come to understand the horror and brutality of War. So, to read a book, (and to watch the film), of such an Operation, was so exciting, cheeky, and down-right absorbing, that it made me feel as if I were almost there!! The ingenuity of Charles Cholmondeley and Ewen Montagu, and the lengths they were prepared to go to, to ensure that as many lives were saved as possible, is so commendable as to be worth the Highest Accolade's that Society can give. Their actions were so thorough, and convincing, that (although some may claim to have guessed the document's were fake - that is only through the benefit of hind-sight!!) at the time were as completely fooled as they were meant to be!! The most important 'Man' of the Operation, was of course, 'Glyndwr Michael', and I personally feel, that He should have remained 'Un-Known', as He seemed to want to be in life, and the fact that His name later appeared in the report, should have also remained un-known! When the Council Planning Officer came up-on it by accident, it should have been reported, but still regarded by the public as un-know-able. To betray it so long after the succsessful Operation, was almost a stab in the back for the all the brave officers, who had striven so hard at the time, to keep the whole undertaking - 'SECRET'!! and I think he should look back at his 'un-veiling' as a desecration of the bravery of every-one involved!! I would certainly recommend this book to any-one, with a love of 'Intrigue', Spy Novel's, and Genuine 'Boy's Own Stuff', as a 'Fantastic' and above all 'TRUE' story!!
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