I am convinced that several senior German officers knew very well that they were being fed false information, and chose to say nothing — some did so out of anti-Nazi convictions, but others played along because it was simply not in their personal interests to make waves. How do you think the Allied invasion of France would have played out without the existence of Double Cross? It is, of course, impossible to quantify how many lives were saved, and how much of an advantage was achieved through the deception.
If just one of the agents were really still acting for Germany, it could have been disastrous for the Allies — even worse than having no double agents working for them at all. Was it worth the risk? It was a huge gamble, but the Allies had one great and unprecedented advantage that loaded the dice in their favor. Through the decoding of Abwehr wireless messages at Bletchley Park , the Double Cross team could tell exactly what the Germans thought of each agent.
The spies themselves were quite unaware they were being monitored in this way; if one or more of them had been playing a triple game, the evidence would have appeared in the intercepts — or so MI5 believed. With hindsight, the risk was worth it, but only because it worked. There are several funny stories in which spies for the Germans bungled their entrance into Britain and were caught.
Do you have a favorite example? My favorite failed spy is one who managed to row ashore in a dinghy, loaded down with explosives and a bicycle, on the rugged east coast of Scotland. He somehow managed to make his way to a train station and asked for a ticket to London. He spent the rest of the war in prison, betrayed by his ignorance of the duodecimal currency. These people were, of course, entirely invented, but the German intelligence service remained convinced that Wales was filled with enthusiastic ultranationalist Nazis plotting to overthrow the government.
Garbo knew this, and told them exactly what they wanted to hear, creating a team of fake Welsh spies to feed false information to Berlin. Indeed it is. The British interrogators were as hard as nails, and uncompromising in their determination to extract the truth, but they established a concrete rule that no spy should ever be subjected to physical coercion.
There was nothing softhearted about this: it was that they believed that information extracted by violence was unreliable, since someone under torture may say whatever he or she thinks the interrogator wants to hear, simply to stop the pain. Is subterfuge a lost art in our age of information saturation? Some elements of Double Cross would be unthinkable in a digital age. On the other hand, digital evidence can also be falsified.
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How easy would it be, for example, to plant a network of fake spies on the Internet, to ensure that when the other side went hunting for confirmation they would find it? If it were fiction one would assume it was too far-fetched but it is all true. Highly recommended and entertaining reading.
May 25, J.
I ran out of gas around page I don't know why I keep picking up spy non fiction books when I know that there is nothing exciting about the life of a real spy. Only James Bond, that Bourne guy and Sterling Archer have exciting lives in espionage and they are fictitious characters; and that Bourne guy wasn't even a spy technically, he was just a crazy assassin who lost his marbles.
Feb 21, Nigeyb rated it really liked it. This belief convinced the Nazi hierarchy to hold troops back which is now recognised as being decisive in allowing the Allies to create a bridgehead into Normandy. Needless to say it is up to the high standards that we Ben Macintyre fans have come to expect.
Once again, truth is stranger than fiction. It's a compelling read and another remarkable slice of previously untold WW2 history. Oct 16, K. Charles added it Shelves: proper-spies , ww2 , non-fiction. I am apparently on a WW2 spy kick. Another fascinating story of unlikely heroism dragged out of the depths of some very dodgy people, as a set of playboys and playgirls, weirdos, cheats and chicken farmers become double agents in the teeth of Nazi Germany, culminating in the grand Operation Bodyguard that allowed Overlord, the D-Day landings, to succeed.
Possibly "ordinary people stepping up to the plate in the teeth of fascism" is why I'm reading all these, in fact. A great story anyway, and on I am apparently on a WW2 spy kick. A great story anyway, and one that deserves telling, in part because of how much of the war apparently was made up of shattering incompetence and pointless interdepartmental bickering. Jan 20, Susan rated it it was amazing. Anyone who has read anything by Ben Macintyre before will know that they are in for a treat.
He is a wonderful storyteller and, in this book, he is on territory he seems to understand brilliantly and relish.
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The Allied military planners were working on the the great assault on Nazi Occupied Europe - the D-Day invasion would decide the outcome of the war. In order to convince the Germans that the invasion was coming where it was not actually coming, and not coming in the place where it was actual Anyone who has read anything by Ben Macintyre before will know that they are in for a treat.
In order to convince the Germans that the invasion was coming where it was not actually coming, and not coming in the place where it was actually coming, a huge amount of effort was expended. There were dummy planes, tanks and even dummy armies in place to fool the Germans. There were even pigeons masquerading as German carrier pigeons lots more on pigeons in the book - they play a larger part than you might imagine!
There were impersonators to convince the Germans that military leaders were elsewhere. Counterfeit generals led non-existent armies. Radio operators created a barrage of fake signals. Finally, there were spies. The Allies had a harder task than it appears in hindsight, knowing that it succeeded, as the targer range for a cross-Channel invasion was small. There were only a handful of suitable spots for a massed landing and it was important that the entire might of the German forces were not waiting when the Allies landed.
They specialised in turning German spies into double agents. Every single German agent in Britain was under his control, enabling huge and co-ordinated lies to be told. The task of Operation Fortitude was to bottle up German troops in the Pas de Calais and keep them there - this ability depended on Robertson's spies.
These included a bisexual Peruvian playgirl, a tiny Polish fighter pilot, a mercurial Frenchwoman who adored her dog, a Serbian seducer and an eccentric Spaniard with marital problems. These spies never met, but together they created false trails, gave false information and often created totally false networks of sub-spies, including a group of entirely fictional Welsh fascists - all of which the Germans swallowed completely. In some cases, very extensive lies were not even noticed by the Germans, whereas the Allies had much confidential information courtesy of Bletchly Park even before the Germans themselves were aware of it.
It is astounding to realise the control the Allies had over information sent to the Germans and the inventive ways to which this was put to use. This then is a great book of subterfuge, downright lies, great ingenuity and often, great courage, for no reward other than a belief in freedom. Many of these individuals had families threatened by the Germans, at least one person connected to the group was arrested, and there was always the risk of being discovered which would undoubtedly led to many more deaths of Allied troops when D-Day arrived.
Nobody could tell this story as Ben Macintyre does, with dry humour, great understatement and a great deal of respect for his subjects. View all 6 comments. Sep 05, John Frazier rated it really liked it. I doubt I'll live long enough to fully appreciate the innumerable stories that continue to publish almost 70 years after the end of World War II, and this is just one more example of what makes most of them so engaging, so captivating, so essential.
You don't get labeled as a "World War" without involving a good portion of the globe and, although it involves perhaps the most chronicled event of the war in D-Day and the Normandy Invasion, "Double Cross" is the riveting story of a handful of behin I doubt I'll live long enough to fully appreciate the innumerable stories that continue to publish almost 70 years after the end of World War II, and this is just one more example of what makes most of them so engaging, so captivating, so essential. You don't get labeled as a "World War" without involving a good portion of the globe and, although it involves perhaps the most chronicled event of the war in D-Day and the Normandy Invasion, "Double Cross" is the riveting story of a handful of behind-the-lines soldiers who never engaged in traditional combat but who had as much influence, if not more, over the outcome as any pilot, sailor or soldier.
While few were rewarded with any monies nearly commensurate with their responsibilities and risks, none of them did what they did for fame, which is the last thing any double agent wants or needs. Were it not for public information acts that made public their involvement years after the fact, author Ben Macintyre would've had to file this one under "fiction," in which case much of this would simply not be believed.
Playboys, loyalists and people whose lives had otherwise been irreversibly impacted by the spreading German occupancy eventually found themselves as members of a team whose primary responsibility was to lead the Nazi leadership into thinking that the D-Day assault would take place in any number of places other than Normandy, whose proximity to Britain's coastline made it an obvious choice. Among the misdirected targets were the Mediterranean, Norway and the northern coast of France.
While Macintyre adroitly focuses on the day-today machinations of this band of seeming misfits, what makes them even more fascinating is the personal life each leads in secret. A couple are bon vivants who seem tailor-made for lives of espionage; another is a middle-age woman whose attachment to her dog threatens to unravel her cover and story at virtually every turn. These, as we learn, are exactly the kind of people whom the rest of us least suspect of gleaning and transmitting secrets that could impact and affect the course of wars. All seem at one point capable of turning from a double spy to a triple spy or even a quadruple spy , yet ultimately each makes the decisions and takes the actions required to mislead the Germans on June 6, , and none should be viewed as anything less than heroic, their contributions impossible to overestimate.
Their work didn't end then. That their duplicity was required and, in fact, extended well beyond that date is testament to just how effective they were. Well-researched and well-written, "Double Cross" moves along at a very brisk pace and, in the end, is well worth your time. Dec 30, Geza Tatrallyay rated it really liked it Shelves: history. An excellent, gripping tale of the efforts in MI5 to turn and use 5 spies as double agents, who end up playing a key role in deceiving the Germans about the time and place of the D-Day attack.
It really brings home what a slim margin the Allied victory in WW II hung on, and the key roles that a handful of unsung individuals played in making it happen. Well worth a read. After visiting the International Spy Museum in D. Which relates how British double agents ensured the success of D-Day by fooling the Germans into believing that the Normandy invasion would actually be occurring in several other locations.
Two things become very clear after listening to this book.
One, the British were very good at being spies but it is still a miracle that this worked given the various individuals involved. Two, the Germans were so bad at being spies. So bad. So very, very, very bad. My fucking God. At one point this point is proven by the fact that the British come up with a particularly ingenious method of screwing with pigeon spies excuse me, Pigeon spies and the Germans just Here's another thing.
Eventually every single German spy in Britain was a double agent. Let me repeat that. The Germans were so bad at being spies they were paying people to lie to them. Ben Macintyre's greatest strength is his extensive research and sourcing that allows him to find the humanity in all of these people, giving us scenes where someone notices the color of someone's eyes or two spies unintentionally recreate a scene from A Star Is Born.
He never loses sight of who these people are, and many of them are colorful, memorable characters like Serbian playboy Dusko Popov one of the inspirations for James Bond , who is clearly one of the most competent and entertaining spies in the whole operation; Peruvian playgirl Elvira de la Fuente Chaudoir, who sadly does not actually get a lot of screentime but is always a delight because her being a Lesbian so confounded her employers; Spaniard Juan Pujol, who created an entire fake network of spies; and Frenchwoman Lily Sergeyev, whose entire story revolves around the fact that she loves her fucking dog so fucking much that she becomes a huge liability that could have brought the whole operation down.
And that's only three of, like.. Ben Macintyre's greatest weakness is his understandable inability to knead the intricate complexities of this story involving so many different characters who don't even interact most of the time into something resembling a coherent narrative. Life doesn't conform to narrative expectations, of course, so even though I wanted to see way more of Elvira, it's not Macintyre's fault that she was really good at sending letters but that was basically all she did so we just check in with her occasionally. Which is how this book essentially operates.
We check in with various spies throughout, sometimes meandering over here to some other subplot, sometimes checking back on this other minor spy Macintyre does helpfully continue to remind the reader of real names and codenames and sometimes even epithets , sometimes providing a holistic look at the operation and bringing Churchill in. It's a The book is slow going at first because it takes quite a while to recruit all these spies, but once the Double-Cross System truly kicks into gear, it is so much fun to watch all these machinations, and Macintyre absolutely delights in how hilariously hoodwinked the German Abwehr was, rarely missing an opportunity to rub their noses in it.
John Lee conveys that delight well in his reading, and he's also excellent at reading quoted material in differently accented voices. Plus he can convey the difference between "lesbian" and "Lesbian," which is fantastic. Double Cross is extremely dense, packed with information, and while it can be hard to follow, it's a thorough tribute to the men and women and pigeons who put their lives at risk for the sake of this war, a true testament to the power of clever collaborative spycraft.
Aug 13, Mal Warwick rated it really liked it Shelves: nonfiction.
Even today, more than half a century after the war ended, we tend to believe that it was our ingenuity and industrial might and the sheer guts and persistence of American soldiers and sailors that defeated Nazi Germany -- and, to borrow a phrase from the preceding Great War, "made the world s A New Spin on Why the Normandy Invasion Succeeded Americans' views of the Second World War have been dominated by films, books, and television specials about the role that U. Even today, more than half a century after the war ended, we tend to believe that it was our ingenuity and industrial might and the sheer guts and persistence of American soldiers and sailors that defeated Nazi Germany -- and, to borrow a phrase from the preceding Great War, "made the world safe for democracy.
However, serious historical studies have long since established the truth that Stalin's Soviet Union carried a much larger burden than ours. It was the German defeat at the monumental Battle of Stalingrad July - February that was the true turning point in the European war.
Ben Macintyre’s World War II Espionage Files
That victory alone cost the Red Army more than 1. And research in more recent years, as hitherto secret archives have been opened to the public, has revealed the seminal role of the British Secret Intelligence Services, both MI5 counterespionage and MI6 foreign intelligence that made possible the success of the U. In their own way, these six European double agents who were "turned" or recruited by the British played roles as large as those of any American general in the success of the invasion that opened up the Western Front. Because British intelligence, working through these six extraordinary individuals in the Double Cross System, managed to mislead the Germans about the date and place of the invasion, McIntyre writes, it "was a military sucker punch.
Senior German commanders were not only unprepared but positively relaxed. As we all know, of course, the real Normandy invasion was a desperate and bloody battle nonetheless, anything but a certain victory for the Allies. Eisenhower and Montgomery, who led the invasion force, later acknowledged that if the Germans hadn't been fooled, if they had reinforced their troops on the line in Normandy, the invasion might well have ended in a massacre of Allied troops.
They included a bisexual Peruvian playgirl [who was heir to a guano fortune], a tiny [and fanatically patriotic] Polish fighter pilot, a mercurial Frenchwoman [who loved her little dog Babs more than any person], a Serbian seducer,. What is most astonishing about the highly unlikely stories McIntyre tells in this detail-filled account is that they're all true. His previous books -- Operation Mincemeat and Agent Zigzag -- relate equally improbable exploits, which are nonetheless also completely true.
The earlier books, both bestsellers, were fascinating to read, filled with all the tension of superior thrillers. In Double Cross, McIntyre attempts to tell a vastly more complex tale, encompassing a veritable army of characters, both British and German, and a bewildering sequence of interconnected events. He comes up short. There's simply too much going on for any but the most retentive reader to follow all six threads. I was nearly two-thirds of the way through the book before I could even keep all the spies straight, let alone the ever-changing cast of their handlers on both sides.
Although Double Cross is a little difficult to follow at times, it's still a thoroughly enjoyable and often surprising read. You can be the life of any party for months, retelling the story of the British carrier pigeons who played a special role in Operation Double Cross, or the one about the Spanish chicken farmer working for MI5 who fabricated the identities of an army of sub-agents, fed the Abwehr with thousands of pages of entirely fictitious reports -- and received a German Iron Cross for his courageous and resourceful efforts to defend the Fatherland.
From www. Mar 27, Lisa McAuliffe added it. Zero stars. I never bail on books, even when I am not loving them. But this one literally was just a guy reading off names. Oct 02, Mary rated it it was amazing Shelves: espionage , history , how-to , war , psychology , wwii. One of the greatest stories ever pieced together! Macintyre assembles a complex, nearly incomprehensible story into an amusing Mercedes Benz of a book. Truth is indeed stranger than fiction. He transforms a clearly tremendous effort of preparation on his part into a suspenseful, informative spy story.
This is a helluvan example of a British-lead One of the greatest stories ever pieced together! This is a helluvan example of a British-lead triumph when we all worked together to beat the bad guys using our brains, dedication and imagination. No drones for these guys! It seems like the only way to mostly get rid of our contemporary bad guys. There is a current commentator and author in the US who writes under his name and the XX Committee name who, I believe, has suggested the same. Get ISIS to self-immolate by nudging along a paranoid, hysterical bloodbath! ISIS demonstrates over and over that they want to kill and die.
This is a theory presented by others about Ed Snowden. How good was the XX Committee? The tricked Germans mostly died thinking they dominated the wartime intel coming from the UK. Those that figured out the truth claimed, bogusly, that they knew their spies were doubles all along. The double agents even received Nazi military honors, including the Iron Cross. Another twist: The Cambridge 5 provided Stalin with the whole true story of Double Cross in real time.
Flights of fancy were integral to the system…. Things seem better. After studying the issue, how do I feel about interrogation? Apr 18, Moira rated it liked it Shelves: war , history , ww2-holocaust. The beginning is 5 stars, the middle is 1 star and the last 75 pages are 4 stars. I started out enjoying this book immensely. The midsection just drags on and on — I got tired of the details and started skimming.
The last 75 pages are much more interesting. And I can see that I've fallen into the bad habit of expecting stories that are neatly packaged by Hollywood to be short, punchy and non-stop thrills - for those with limited attention spans. Real life is usually more complicated and requires some actual brain work. Sometimes the author tries to make the characters come to life a bit too much for my taste. Most of the book is taken up with how each agent came into the fold and was developed, their idiosyncracies and quirks, and how the British spymaster team moved from simply supplying wrong information or correct information too late , to distributing information that was methodically misleading and potentially destructive, culminating in Operation Fortitude: the fictitious invasion of Calais, which tied up the mighty German 15th army division and kept them away from the real invasion at Normandy on D-Day.
I was impressed by the sheer fantastical nerve of the schemes dreamed up by the British spymasters and some of the spies themselves. One British double agent creates a fictional network of 27 subagents across Britain, and, year after year, writes messages for each of them — in character — to send back to his German spymaster. And never gets found out. The insight into the character of British and Germans is fascinating. Oct 23, Scottnshana rated it really liked it.
This book is certainly about history and espionage; but it is also certainly about management--both project and personnel. Macintyre goes off onto tangents--for example the British attempts to sabotage the German carrier pigeon network--but that only adds panache to this bizarre and quirky narrative on the campaign to deceive the Axis into dispersing their military units to places the Allies were NOT conducting amphibious landings.
Someone really should write a screenplay, because there is no wa This book is certainly about history and espionage; but it is also certainly about management--both project and personnel. Someone really should write a screenplay, because there is no way to make these details and unusual personalities up out of thin air. The fact that British analysts were reading German encrypted ENIGMA transmissions provided a feedback loop that enabled MI6's leap from passing information from the Encyclopedia Britannica to deliberately misleading 'intelligence' to the Abwehr via their double agent network.
Further, it developed "into a genuine system in which the misleading information from one double agent could be bolstered by all the others, an intricate, self-reinforcing structure that could 'fill the German files with what we want. These double agents, however, were not James Bond; in fact, many were genuine pains in the ass. Sometimes the greedy, horny, lazy, petulant, alcoholic and just plain weird are the human capital you get for a job, and Macintyre documents the extraordinary measures the handlers took to fulfill the strategic goals here.
Exhibit A, from Chapter "Britain was preparing for battle on an epic scale, and MI5 was seriously considering whether to deploy a navy submarine to fetch a small dog, illegally, in order to placate a volatile double agent. What engineers and self-declared managers may never grasp is the human variable in the tasks--one that demands the most control and care, and Macintyre deftly clarifies that.
I am becoming a big ol' fan of this author. Apr 07, Beattie rated it liked it Shelves: radio-4 , spring , spies , published , nonfiction , history , wwii , fradio. This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. But it was also a triumph for a different kind of operation: one of deceit, aimed at convincing the Nazis that Calais and Norway, not Normandy, were the targets of the ,strong invasion force. But at its heart was the 'Double Cross System', a team of double agents controlled by the secret Twenty Committee, so named because twenty in Roman numerals forms a double cross.
The key D-Day spies were just five in number, and one of the oddest military units ever assembled: a bisexual Peruvian playgirl, a tiny Polish fighter pilot, a Serbian seducer, a wildly imaginative Spaniard with a diploma in chicken farming, and a hysterical Frenchwoman whose obsessive love for her pet dog very nearly wrecked the entire deception.
Their enterprise was saved from catastrophe by a shadowy sixth spy whose heroic sacrifice is here revealed for the first time. Under the direction of an eccentric but brilliant intelligence officer in tartan trousers, working from a smoky lair in St James's, these spies would weave a web of deception so intricate that it ensnared Hitler's army and helped to carry thousands of troops across the Channel in safety. These double agents were, variously, brave, treacherous, fickle, greedy and inspired. They were not conventional warriors, but their masterpiece of deceit saved countless lives.
This is their story. Apr 02, Fran rated it liked it Shelves: read-in-thes , non-fiction. I have always loved real life survival stories, especially when dealing with WWII.
Ben Macintyre's World War II Espionage Files - Penguin Random House Education
Their misinformation was known to have made it way to top Nazi eyes and ears, and the resulting sucess of the Normandy Invasion is evidence that the ruses employed was successful. I read this book just after reading "In the Garden of Beasts. In this book, you know I have always loved real life survival stories, especially when dealing with WWII.
In this book, you know the ending is a little better. It focuses on the spies involved in misleading the Germans as to where the D-Day invasion would occur. It worked. How much the double agents information was critical to the success of the operation may never be fully known There are 5 spies in particular on which this book focuses: Tricycle, Garbo, Treasure, Brutus, and Bronx. Other such as Artist, Gelatine, Freak, and Giraffe are mentioned as well. I also enjoyed the little side stories of other spy's escapades, such as the wretched actor who made a magnificent double for Monty, the pigeon fanatic's efforts to infest German carrier pigeons with traitor pigeons, and an frustrated but nevertheless blustering Patton marching around touting his command of military units that did not exist.
One slip, just one slip, one betrayal, one triple agent, could have blown the whole works, and perhaps cost the lives of tens of thousands more.
And it nearly happened when the British spy handlers miscalculated the love of a the spy called Treasure for her little dog, and the bitterness she harbored when they broke their word to her regarding her beloved Frisson. This book is a story of incredible bravery, astounding excesses, betrayal, psychology, strategy, and a look into the minds of those who masterminded the greatest deception in WWII.
I was riveted. Jun 06, Dick Reynolds rated it really liked it. Tar Robertson of the British Security Service aka MI5 is putting the finishing touches on a weapon that will tell a huge lie to Hitler. The aim of this concerted effort was to deceive the Germans into believing the Allied invasion would take place at the Pas de Calais instead of the Normandy area. Even homing pigeons are enlisted in this effort, birds that carry false messages back to their lofts in Germany. The entire scheme almost becomes unraveled when one of the British agents, a French woman named Lily, is transported to England but must leave her pet dog in Gibralter due to British quarantine rules.
Lily puts her feelings of revenge aside and soldiers on, continuing to hide her double agent status from the Germans. Hitler and his intelligence staff swallow the phony information whole and realize only too late that the main Allied invasion at Normandy is the overpowering single blow. The details of this key bit of British counterespionage were kept secret for many years to protect the identities of those double agents who saw the evils of Nazism and committed their lives to combat it by helping England and the Allies defeat Hitler.
Apr 06, Ware rated it really liked it. Any book which features such unlikely heroes as a transvestite British colonel and counterfeit homing pigeons is going to keep my interest, and this witty history of MI-5's wartime counterespionage program does just that. Run out of "Section Twenty" which was the only section of the service to use Roman numerals XX equals Double Cross , the British fed the Germans a stream of fake intelligence to achieve strategic and tactical results.
The real heroes are the spies themselves. In fact long befor Any book which features such unlikely heroes as a transvestite British colonel and counterfeit homing pigeons is going to keep my interest, and this witty history of MI-5's wartime counterespionage program does just that. They were a fascinating bunch. Some were wealthy playboys, one was a Polish patriot, yet another a bisexual femme fatale.
Their work required nerves of steel on their part and the continued gullibility of their German case officers on the other. Even after the Normandy invasion, the Germans kept an entire Panzer division locked up in the Calais region because they so believed the misinformation fed to them that they were convinced the June 6th assault was just a diversion and that Patton and his troops were poised for the real assault. This is an amazing tale, derived from now unclassified documents, of a war fought in the cafes of Lisbon and the bucolic pastures of the English countryside.
It was very effective so measurable results saved many Allied and even German lives Jun 16, Harold rated it really liked it Shelves: wwii.