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A Genius for Deception: How Cunning Helped the British Win Two World Wars
     

A Genius for Deception: How Cunning Helped the British Win Two World Wars

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by Nicholas Rankin
 

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In February 1942, intelligence officer Victor Jones erected 150 tents behind British lines in North Africa. "Hiding tanks in Bedouin tents was an old British trick," writes Nicholas Rankin. German general Erwin Rommel not only knew of the ploy, but had copied it himself. Jones knew that Rommel knew. In fact, he counted on it—for these tents were

Overview

In February 1942, intelligence officer Victor Jones erected 150 tents behind British lines in North Africa. "Hiding tanks in Bedouin tents was an old British trick," writes Nicholas Rankin. German general Erwin Rommel not only knew of the ploy, but had copied it himself. Jones knew that Rommel knew. In fact, he counted on it—for these tents were empty. With the deception that he was carrying out a deception, Jones made a weak point look like a trap.

In A Genius for Deception, Nicholas Rankin offers a lively and comprehensive history of how Britain bluffed, tricked, and spied its way to victory in two world wars. As Rankin shows, a coherent program of strategic deception emerged in World War I, resting on the pillars of camouflage, propaganda, secret intelligence, and special forces. All forms of deception found an avid sponsor in Winston Churchill, who carried his enthusiasm for deceiving the enemy into World War II. Rankin vividly recounts such little-known episodes as the invention of camouflage by two French artist-soldiers, the creation of dummy airfields for the Germans to bomb during the Blitz, and the fabrication of an army that would supposedly invade Greece. Strategic deception would be key to a number of WWII battles, culminating in the massive misdirection that proved critical to the success of the D-Day invasion in 1944.

Deeply researched and written with an eye for telling detail, A Genius for Deception shows how the British used craft and cunning to help win the most devastating wars in human history.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"A delight-filled account...as much an entertainment as history."—Wall Street Journal

"A fascinating new book about British intelligence s deception operations against the Axis powers. —Washington Post SpyTalk

Rankin's page-turner makes the most of the gifted amateurs, eccentrics, and professional illusionists responsible for the imaginative schemes of the British military and details the care and seriousness with which they were implemented. —Foreign Affairs

"There isn't a dull page — not even a dull sentence — in Nicholas Rankin's fantastic wunderkabinet of wartime revelations. It is all here — colonels in drag, midget submarines, corpses with stashed secrets, a black radio station called Aspidistra and more inventions than James Bond's Q could ever conceive — and is endlessly fascinating in consequence. No better book about the mad arcana of belligerence has ever been written."—Simon Winchester

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780199769179
Publisher:
Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date:
04/08/2011
Pages:
480
Sales rank:
348,804
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author

Nicholas Rankin is the author of Telegram from Guernica and Dead Man's Chest. He lives in London.

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A Genius for Deception: How Cunning Helped the British Win Two World Wars 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Man_Of_La_Book_Dot_Com More than 1 year ago
A Genius for Decep­tion: How Cun­ning Helped the British Win Two World Wars by Nicholas Rankin is a non-fiction book which tack­les the his­tory of cam­ou­flage, lies, bluffs and tricks which helped the British win World War I and World War II. A Genius for Decep­tion by Nicholas Rankin is a fun and fas­ci­nat­ing account of British mil­i­tary his­tory in decep­tion. As a fan of trivia, I espe­cially enjoyed this book due to lit­tle known facts which were kept secret out of polit­i­cal or cul­tural neces­sity (for exam­ple, British offi­cer Dud­ley Clarke was respon­si­ble for nam­ing the SAS, British Com­man­dos and US Army Rangers). Those who work in the decep­tion field didn’t talk about what they did, or if they did talk made up sto­ries and any­way, who would have believed the truth anyway. Mr. Rankin cov­ers a wide range of sub­jects: cam­ou­flage, counter intel­li­gence, fab­ri­cated sto­ries in news­pa­pers and radio, the man­u­fac­tur­ing of spe­cial units and whole armies. The sto­ries are not always those of suc­cess, but not nec­es­sar­ily of defeat as well, the lines blur when it comes to decep­tion and some­times the out­come, while not as suc­cess­ful or as intended is still valuable. The nar­ra­tive style is con­ver­sa­tional, as if talk­ing to an uncle who remem­bers events as he ram­bles along. But don’t let the style fool you, the book is full of infor­ma­tion and large in scope. The author man­ages to nar­rate amaz­ing and secre­tive mil­i­tary oper­a­tions with­out going too deeply into tech­ni­cal details. The book is divided into sec­tions (World War I and World War II) and within those sec­tions the author sep­a­rates the chap­ters either chrono­log­i­cally or log­i­cally (radio, etc.). Some of the con­clu­sions are at the end of each chap­ter, but a very poignant con­clu­sion the author makes at the end of the book: it seems coun­tries diverted from deceiv­ing their ene­mies to deceiv­ing their own people. This is an excit­ing book about mil­i­tary decep­tion and cam­ou­flage from a British per­spec­tive dur­ing the two great wars. If you love, or even inter­ested in, mil­i­tary his­tory you will find this book fascinating.