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Operation Mincemeat: The True Spy Story that Changed the Course of World War II Paperback – 23 Dec. 2021
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**Now a major film, starring Colin Firth, Matthew Macfadyen, Kelly Macdonald, Penelope Wilson, Johnny Flynn and Jason Isaacs**
A RICHARD AND JUDY BOOK CLUB SELECTION
A SUNDAY TIMES NO. 1 BESTSELLER
'Astonishing ... Sheds riveting new light on this breathtaking plan' Daily Mail
'A rollicking read' Max Hastings, Sunday Times
'Brilliant and almost absurdly entertaining' New Yorker
April, 1943: a sardine fisherman spots the corpse of a British soldier floating in the sea off the coast of Spain and sets off a train of events that would change the course of the Second World War.
Operation Mincemeat was the most successful wartime deception ever attempted, and the strangest. It hoodwinked the Nazi espionage chiefs, sent German troops hurtling in the wrong direction, and saved thousands of lives by deploying a secret agent who was different, in one crucial respect, from any spy before or since: he was dead. His mission: to convince the Germans that instead of attacking Sicily, the Allied armies planned to invade Greece.
This is the true story of the most extraordinary deception ever planned by Churchill's spies: an outrageous lie that travelled from a Whitehall basement all the way to Hitler's desk.
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From the Publisher
Now a major film starring Colin Firth
Deception. The Greatest Weapon In War.
1943. The Allies face an impossible challenge; protecting their troops as they plan to break the Reich's grip on occupied Europe with a direct strike on Sicily.
It falls to two remarkable intelligence officers, Ewen Montagu (Colin Firth) and Charles Cholmondeley (Matthew Macfadyen), to dream the most inspired disinformation strategy of the war, centred on the most unlikely of secret agents: a dead man.
The Sunday Times No. 1 Bestseller
"It is a tribute to Macintyre's skill that we never for a moment forget that it is actually all true" Daily Telegraph
Operation Mincemeat was the most successful wartime deception ever attempted, and the strangest. Beginning in April, 1943 with the corpse of a British soldier floating in the sea off the coast of Spain, it set off a train of events that would change the course of the Second World War.
Now a major motion picture starring Colin Firth, Matthew Macfadyen and Kelly MacDonald, Ben Macintyre's Operation Mincemeat is an astonishing true story that reads like a gripping spy thriller.
Astonishing ... Sheds riveting new light on this breathtaking plan ― Daily Mail
Ben Macintyre, also the author of the acclaimed Agent Zigzag, is fast becoming a one-man industry in these updated tales of cunning, bravery and skulduggery. With his mix of meticulous research and a good hack's eye for narrative, it is hard to think of a better guide to keep beckoning us back to that fascinating world ― Observer
Macintyre has a journalist's nose for a great story, and a novelist's skill in its narration ... Even more spellbinding than his previous story of wartime espionage, Agent Zigzag, with a cast-list every bit as dotty and colourful ... Macintyre is a master of the thumbnail character sketch ― Mail on Sunday
With its fantastic plot and its cast of eccentric characters, the book reads like the most improbable of spy stories. It is a tribute to Macintyre's skill that we never for a moment forget that it is actually all true ― Daily Telegraph
Brilliant and almost absurdly entertaining -- Malcolm Gladwell ― New Yorker
- Publisher : Bloomsbury Publishing (23 Dec. 2021)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 432 pages
- ISBN-10 : 1526653559
- ISBN-13 : 978-1526653550
- Dimensions : 0.1 x 0.1 x 0.1 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 2,107 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer reviews:
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Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 19 May 2015
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This story is not an untold story, it is about the transformation of an "unknown" corpse into the fictitious Captain William Martin, whose body turns into a body with a reinvented past life (love letters, hobbies and theatre life) then becomes the carrier of misleading information on the forthcoming invasion of Sicily, was deployed, apparently drowned, into the sea off Spain in 1943 as a "Trojan horse" to find its way back to German intelligence. In this story, the body of the homeless Welsh vagrant, Glyndwr Michael, proved so much more worthwhile in death rather than in life. This part of the story alone is fascinating but further more the book is about strange men, and the strange world they inhabited, behind the planning. In this world there was rivalry and ego which was found in abundance in Whitehall in those days. It is safe to say their egos may have got the better of them if it was not for the shared common enemy.
You need to get this book for yourself to understand just how great it is, you will not be able to put it down.
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And what a marvellously motley crew of eccentrics they were - like Macintyre I was particularly fascinated by the ungainly but self effacing Charles Cholmondeley, who initially came up with the deception. The fearsome Admiral Godfrey ("M" in the Bond books), Ian Fleming himself flitting through the pages, the splendidly fearless Alan Hillgarth, the attache in Madrid, and last but not least Ewan Montagu himself. I'd forgotten that after the war he became Judge Advocate General of the Fleet. I joined as a Wren Stenographer, recording Courts Martial & Boards of Enquiry, and no President of a Board, or Naval Judge Advocate, ever wanted to invite interest in his proceedings by the dreaded Judge Montagu.
Eccentric (some may say difficult, or just plain bonkers) people often rise to the surface during war - their skills which would be hard to match with peacetime mores find an outlet. Despite his race against time interviewing as many of the original team's survivors or their relatives as he could, Macintyre never satisfactorily concluded whether or not Ivor Montagu betrayed not only his country but his own brother. I felt Macintyre was more than generous to this man. Given that out of all of the protagonists, Ewan Montagu was the keenest to let people know how involved he was it does not seem unreasonable that he may have dropped hints to his brother (his letters to his wife certainly seem to bend the rules requiring the strictest security). Generally this was a generation who really took their wartime vows of secrecy seriously and many refused to discuss what they had done right up to their deaths (Cholmondeley, Hillgarth). Montagu on the other hand, seemed to revel in his fame once he had written the book, and pestered for recognition of the success of the deception right up to his own death. The repulsive Philby slithers through the pages occasionally, moaning about the costs in Madrid (was there nothing he would stop at to betray his fellow countrymen?)
Then there's the fascinating cast of spies in the Iberian peninsula, their German counterparts and the various Spanish Naval personnel who nearly caused the whole operation to stall. Really, you couldn't make them up. I enjoyed this book immensely, and the due recognition given by Macintyre to the actual corpse - a Welsh derelict who committed suicide - was an honourable addition to this astonishing piece of deception.