Operation Mincemeat The True Spy Story That Changed the

Operation Mincemeat The True Spy Story That Changed the Course of World War II In 1943 from a windowless London basement office two intelligence officers conceived a plan that was both simple complicated—Operation Mincemeat Purpose To deceive the Nazis into thinking the Allies were planning to attack Europe by way of Greece or Sardinia rather than Sicily as the Nazis had assumed the Allies ultimately chose Charles Cholmondeley of MI5 the British naval intelligence officer Ewen Montagu were very different Cholmondeley was a dreamer seeking adventure Montagu was an aristocratic detail oriented barrister A perfect team they created an ingenious plan euip a corpse with secret but false papers concerning the invasion then drop it off the coast of Spain where German spies would hopefully take the bait The idea was approved by British intelligence officials including Ian Fleming 007's creator Winston Churchill believed it might ring true to the Axis help bring victoryFilled with spies double agents rogues heroes a corpse the story of Operation Mincemeat reads like an international thriller Unveiling never before released material Macintyre goes into the minds of intelligence officers their moles spies the German Abwehr agents who suffered the “twin frailties of wishfulness yesmanship” He weaves together the eccentric personalities of Cholmondeley Montagu their improbable feats into an adventure that saved thousands paved the way for the conuest of Sicily

10 thoughts on “Operation Mincemeat The True Spy Story That Changed the Course of World War II

  1. David David says:

    I feel I ought to have liked this book than I did Lord knows the author did his research in commendable detail But did he really have to include everything he learned in the final book? At some point the level of detail provided went for me beyond interesting and started to become stultifying MacIntyre is a decent writer but I think he falls into the trap that bedevils many non fiction authors all the time and energy spent doing the research causes him to lose perspective The story is endlessly fascinating to him but he forgets that some pruning of the details is needed in order to shape the narrative for the reader But pruning is something that MacIntyre seems incapable of even the most peripheral actor is this tale gets at least two pages of backstory which often does little to advance the real story Every chapter of the book is stuffed with irrelevant detail Ewen Montagu one of the main protagonists came from an extremely wealthy family a fact which is largely irrelevant to the story but which nonetheless gets about 8 pages of text as MacIntyre gushes on about the number of family servants the decor in the family mansion their glittering social contacts etc etc Discussion of the difficulties in acuiring a cadaver that can be used to fool the Germans is expanded bloated by inclusion of completely irrelevant biographical information on everyone consulted in the process what everyone ate or drank at any given meeting the temperature of the sherry the mood of Montagu's stepmother a digression on the history of grave robbing and any other random tidbit that showed up in MacIntyre's notebooks apparently This kind of thing will either charm you or drive you up the wallOperation Mincemeat was an important and fascinating episode from the second world war but it surely could have been told in fewer than 400 pages That said the book is not a bad read and the occasional lapses into grandiosity of the kind that single hotel register entry could have changed the course of World War II are mercifully rare My inner pedant finds it necessary to point out that the correct term for what MacIntyre refers to as champagne de mousse the white froth around the mouth that is characteristic of drowning victims is actually champignon de mousse

  2. Jason Koivu Jason Koivu says:

    When a dead man becomes a highly effective spy fools the enemy and helps win a war with the world in the balance well that sounds like something James Bond writer Ian Fleming would concoct Oh wait he did To be specific and correct Operation Mincemeat a plan devised by Britain's intelligence agency MI5 to convince Germany that a southern attack on Europe via the Mediterranean by Allied forces was signed off on by Fleming one of many in Britain's spy ring Though Fleming may not have been top dog he was what drove me to this bizarre tale Certainly there was an interest in the story itself but I also wanted to hear about those familiar names of history literature and even the culinary arts even tv chef Julia Child did her bit for secret service during WWII that had a hand underhandedly in taking down the Axis powers Ben Macintyre provides plenty of background information on these shadows With the declassification of files writer's like Macintyre are able to cast light on the actions of agents for both sides and some of it is as exciting as any fiction you'll ever readThose of you into WWII spy craft may be familiar with Macintyre's other relatively popular work on the subject Agent Zigzag As of the writing of this review I haven't gotten around to reading that one yet but if it's as competently and enticingly written as Operation Mincement I'll be on it like a tail that can't be shaken

  3. Manny Manny says:

    The basic story is well known but since the appearance of the first book The Man Who Never Was an extraordinary amount of new material has become available Even if you've read The Man Who Never Was I had I can't recommend Operation Mincemeat highly enough This is uite simply the most extraordinary book of its kind that I've ever come across I couldn't put it down and finished it in a little than a dayThe plot in a nutshell in case you aren't already familiar with it It's early 1943 and the Allies have just pushed the Germans off North Africa The next step is use that as a springboard to invade Southern Europe But where? A uick look at a map shows there's only one sensible target Sicily Any sane strategist would be expecting an invasion of Sicily and indeed it's just what the Allies were planningOn the other hand suppose they could confuse the Germans and make them think they were really planning to strike elsewhere say in Greece? It seemed impossible but a few resourceful people in Counter Intelligence thought they could see a way to do it They would take a dead body attach a briefcase to it containing some papers let it wash up on a Spanish beach Spain was neutral and make it look like he was a courier whose plane had crashed while he was on the way to deliver a top secret message If it was done right the Germans might just swallow the baitThey did it and it worked In the earlier book written by one of the people who masterminded the operation it was made to look comparatively easy and he glossed over all the really interesting details Not his fault; he wasn't allowed to reveal them Now 67 years after the event most of the story can finally be told and what an exciting story it is The plan was on a knife edge the whole time it was almost impossible to find a suitable body there were obvious holes in the cover story that the Germans could easily have spotted the Spanish nearly didn't hand over the briefcase to the Germans and the operation's security was compromised from the beginning Even though you know how it's going to end it's a white knuckle rideOne of the most interesting aspects is the analysis of why the plan succeeded The author argues very plausibly that great pieces of deception only work when people want to be deceived If the Abwehr had been doing its job properly they would have spotted the ruse An organisation however is only as good as its people and the people who made the individual judgements all turned out to have reasons for wanting to believe this apparent windfall Some of them were nervous about their jobs and hoped it would put them in better standing with their superiors; some were just lazy and incompetent; one key analyst may well have figured out what was really going on and knowingly passed incorrect information to the German High CommandThe author never says one word about it but I couldn't help thinking of the greatest intelligence failure of our own time In 2003 why did the Americans believe that Saddam Hussein was concealing weapons of mass destruction? For all of the supposedly solid evidence presented to the UN Security Council Saddam's WMDs turned out to be as illusory as the Allies' 1943 plan to invade Greece I still haven't seen anything approaching an explanation of how people could get it so wrong Perhaps in 2070 we'll get to find out what really happened

  4. Ingrid Ingrid says:

    The operation Mincemeat was definitely one of the most important operations of WWII The book was interesting and intriguing with lots of personal details about the people involved also how they fared after the war

  5. Nancy Oakes Nancy Oakes says:

    Briefly I have to say that this is one of the most fascinating books of history I've read in a very long time You don't even need to be a WWII buff to appreciate it I'm not but it's simply amazing The basic story is this it's 1943 and the Allies have plans to invade Sicily to get a foothold in Europe and defeat Hitler But since Sicily is the most obvious place for an Allied landing Ewen Montagu and Charles Cholmondeley it's pronounced Chumley of the Naval Intelligence section of the Admiralty decide to dupe the Germans into thinking that Greece is the actual target and with the help of a fiction writer a plan is born The British Navy will ferry a dead body in the guise of a Navy officer carrying misleading documents to the coast of Spain where the body would be found and the documents leaked to German spies there and hopefully believed The idea is that the Germans will redeploy a large percentage of their military forces currently on Sicily elsewhere saving countless Allied lives How the plan was conceived and how it was put into action is an amazing story in itself but Macintyre does so much he manages to infuse the story with a bit of suspense and delivers human portraits of all those involved including the Germans rounding out this remarkable story The drawback to this one is that often the story gets bogged down with a little too much detail like the description of an entertainer doing his show breaking up the flow of the narrative but otherwise it is definitely one of those stories you won't soon forgetHighly recommended

  6. Mikey B. Mikey B. says:

    A marvellous story of intrigue of actual events during World War II There are a host of wonderful and eclectic characters in England Spain and Germany The author presents all these in readable detailThe seuence of events – and there are several – are well depicted and we are clearly presented with the logical construction of this set up meant to deceive the Germans into believing that the Allies mean to launch a multi pronged invasion in the Mediterranean – instead of just Sicily The author is careful to show all the nuances of the deception – how much embellishment do you do to preserve the initial lie? The author is also forthright to point out that “Mincemeat” was part of an overall package The Germans in Spain pushed their find over enthusiastically and many used it to reinforce their own preconceptions of an Allied invasion of Greece As Mr Macintyre demonstrates if German Intelligence would have probed in any direction such as the ambiguous autopsy from the Spanish coroner the ruse would have been exposed Instead the clientele was an over eager buyerIt is with sadness at the end of the book when we are shown the tombstone of this “unknown civilian” – whose body was used in after life to conjure this grand deceptionThe paperback edition has some useful footnotesThis is just a really fabulous spy story with all the different layers exposed for us to marvel at

  7. Caroline Caroline says:

    It's a rare gem when history is unfolded for us in such a detailed and thrilling form In 1943 Ewan Montagu of the British Naval Intelligence and Charles Cholmondeley of MI5 came together in collaboration of a complex plan of deception The plan that was ultimately approved was to take a suitable corpse dress it in a suitable military uniform place certain well planned personal items attach to it a chained briefcase containing fake official documents and personal letters and then drop it the ocean close to Huelva in Spain where German agents and sympathizers were known to work The objective? To deceive Hitler and his army that the Allies were going to use Sicily as a cover but that they were going to attack Greece and Sardinia instead If the plan was successful Hitler would move his troops away from Sicily thus leaving this underbelly of Italy vulnerable to the British armada and air attacks Sicily was identified as being the pivotal point at which a successful Allied attack could destroy Germany's hold over Italy Secret agents and double agents were seemingly living cheek by jowl in Spain and both Great Britain and Germany built an impressive network of spies in Spain What makes this a fascinating read is the attention to the cast of characters that had any part at all in this particular secret operation both on the British side as well as on the German side The personalities of all characters their background before during and after the war and the parts they played both in the development and the witting and unwitting execution of Operation Mincemeat are carefully detailed And this includes the life of the person who took the central spotlight in this play the corpse who never in his living days thought he'd be serving his country in such a dramatic fashionThe unfolding of Operation Mincemeat once the corpse was released into the water was a non stop thrill There were so many opportunities for the plan to go pear shaped but the way in which the British spymasters manipulated their network was sheer genius and eventually led to the successful invasion of Sicily wrenching away Germany's control and the toppling of Mussolini There is a reference to a similar outline of a plan to use a corpse by Ian Fleming and indeed it could have given the duo the idea but credit must be given to both Cholmondeley and Montagu for crafting and thinking of all angles to this plan and then being instrumental in executing it so successfully

  8. Amy Amy says:

    You can't make this stuff up Or precisely you can which is what makes this story of espionage and deception so much fun It is almost hard to believe it is all true When I first began the book I didn't think Ben Macintyre had enough material to make an interesting story I presumed he would be repetitive or worse insert his own personal 'journey' into the narrative I was proved decidedly wrong in both cases So many uniue colorful characters pepper the story of Operation Mincemeat that it might even have been longer I laughed out loud on several occasions and thoroughly enjoyed each new person introduced Macintyre explains a little at the beginning what inspired him to pursue writing about Mincemeat but he never returns to the subject It actually left me wanting to know about him as the author something that rarely happens for me The only complaint I have with this book is with the audiobook I was listening to It was actually a very good reading However the author has a British accent and can do a Russian accent but that is about it Every other nationality German Italian etc sounded Russian Even the American accent was a little wobbly An interesting incredible book about the men and women who fooled the Germans with a dead body and some fake documents and helped save thousands of lives during the invasion of Italy

  9. John McDermott John McDermott says:

    Operation Mincemeat by Ben Macintyre was truly excellent A true story told with all the verve and pace of a top notch thriller This was a truly British caper full of eccentric characters such as the cross dressing spy masteran RAF intelligence officer who hated locusts with a passion and a myopic former racing driver turned MI5 operative who drove straight over a roundabout because he couldn't see it Also we mustn't forget Derek Levertonthe undertaker who became an officer in the Royal Artillery His first act after landing on the beach in Sicily while under heavy German artillery fire was to make a cup of tea These are just some of the remarkable people that played their part in what was an incredible feat of deception that even fooled Hitler himself Ben Macintyre delivers a brilliant and fitting tribute to all those involved which I greatly enjoyed especially with today being the 75th anniversary of VE Day If you liked Agent Zigzag then I can highly recommend this book as I thought it was better Highly recommended

  10. Dana Stabenow Dana Stabenow says:

    An almost picaresue story about Royal Marine Major William Martin who was lost at sea in an aircraft accident carrying important dispatches about future Allied plans in the Mediterranean His body washed ashore in Spain and by nefarious means the dispatches were copied and forwarded to Abwehr German intelligence Except that that major was no major and those dispatches were fake It was all an elaborate plot cooked up by British Intelligence to deceive the enemy and which disinformation Abwehr and Hitler himself swallowed whole to the extent that the Germans moved a vitally significant portion of their forces from Sicily where as Macintyre puts it anyone with an atlas knew the Allies would invade to Greece and Sardinia where the British hoped to fool the Germans into thinking they would Operation Mincemeat was to put it mildly successful The British Eighth Army had expected some ten thousand casualties in the first week of the invasion; just one seventh of that number were killed or wounded The navy had anticipated the loss of up to three hundred ships in the first two days; barely a dozen were sunkThe Allies had expected it would take ninety days to conuer Sicily The occupation was completed on August 17 thirty eight days after the invasion beganFurther Operation Mincemeat began a cascade of other events Mussolini's downfall Italy's surrender the abandonment of the German siege of Kursk and pretty much the beginning of the end of the European war Macintyre writes The Third Reich never recovered from the failure of Operation Citadel and from then until the end of the war the German armies in the east would be on the defensive as the Red Army rolled inexorably toward BerlinThe cast of characters has to be read to be believed There's the British Jewish nobleman I didn't even know there was such a thing his unbelievable brother I won't spoil the submarine driver with comprehensive powers of seduction I'm thinking of the car with the doors that wouldn't open the crazy commando who kept refusing promotion and went on to be portrayed in film by James Garner the undertaking brothers one in the front lines and the other not but still part of the story and so many But One of the things I particularly love is that at least three possibly four I lost count of the men engaged in kerflummoxing the Germans so completely werewriters A rollicking story all the exuisite because it's all true Don't pick up this book until you've got a few days with nothing else to do because you won't be able to put it down Highly recommendedSee also A Presumption of Death by Jill Paton Walsh Dorothy L Sayers the second of Walsh's continuation of Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey series Walsh uses the Official Secrets Act as a motive for murder Also recommended

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *