Top positive review
AN excellent, informative book. Recommended
on 16 September 2014
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.