Friday, November 06, 2015

Review: Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies

After reading the magnificent A Spy Among Friends, I checked out Double Cross from the library, hoping for repeated success. I was disappointed.

This is not to say that it's not a good story. The problem is that it's not comparable in importance to the story behind Bletchley Park (referred to as "Most Secret" throughout the book). Essentially, the book describes the operation (known as Operation Fortitude) to fool Hitler and his command staff that the attack on Normandy on D-Day was a distraction for bigger invasions in Norway and to the South.

To feed fake intelligence into the German military, the M.I.5 created a bunch of double agents, and was so successful that it essentially controlled every German agent that the Nazis had sought to place in the country. So effective was this system that not only did the Germans fall for Operation Fortitude, they actively funded the double agents who were feeding them misinformation.

While all this was important, mid way through the book what you realize is that M.I.5 could not have even attempted a deception with this magnitude without the constant feedback provided by Bletchley Park. Essentially, M.I.5 could see the information it had fed into the system pass through the German chain of command, and map out how effective the deception was.

Furthermore, later on in the book we see that the reason for this incompetence wasn't that M.I.5 was all that great, it was because the Nazi intelligence service was filled with people who were lining their pockets and siphoning money from the German agents. In the end, you get a story full of the essentials of James Bond: seduction, gambling, lots of liquors, and even parachuting behind enemy lines. But none of it would have been possible without Bletchey Park.

It's a fun read, but ultimately I felt empty at the end of the book.

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