Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory
Operation Mincemeat was a cleverly devised plan concocted by two intelligence officers in 1943 London that sought to deceive the Nazis into thinking the Allies would attack Greece and Sardinia and not the actual-intended Sicily. Their idea was to get a corpse, equip it with secret but false and misleading documents about the invasion, and then drop it on the coast of Spain, hoping that German spies there would take the bait. To make it realistic, they invented a whole identity for the hapless corpse, even giving him a fiancée and love letters to place among his belongings.
Macintyre provides fascinating details about the cast of characters: a German officer with a Jewish grandmother, a myopic British racecar driver who motors a dead body around England in darkness in a souped-up Aston with headlights covered for the blackout, and British submarine crews who adopt American accents to try and fool their French passenger that they are a U.S. vessel.
It is absolutely delightful to read details about how spies opened up sealed envelopes without breaking seals, and curious to learn that perhaps, some Germans weren't so overtly deceived by this plot after all.
But it is Macintyre's ability to see the story from a philosophical perspective that makes this book so masterful. His interpretation of wartime events and spies generates many insightful quotes: "Gossip was currency. Gossip was power," and "Deception is a sort of seduction, " and many more musings, leaving one fascinated with the human intricacies of espionage.
Much of the story takes place in Spain, a hotbed of spies for all sides in the war. After reading the account of the intricate layers of real agents, invented agents, and double agents, it is a wonder that anyone knew who anyone was. And that idea seems to be a thread with which the author sews together his narration. He asks "Is anyone who they seem to be? Are we born into one existence, but live in an imaginary one we hope for?"
Adolf Hitler once said "Any lie will be believed if it is big enough" and Operation Mincemeat was swallowed hook, line and sinker, providing for us, decades later, a marvelous treat of a WWII thriller.
Recommended by Betsy Schroeder