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

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In his celebrated bestsellers Agent Zigzag and Operation Mincemeat, Ben Macintyre told the dazzling true stories of a remarkable WWII double agent and of how the Allies employed a corpse to fool the Nazis and assure a decisive victory.  In Double Cross, Macintyre returns with the untold story of the grand final deception of the war and of the extraordinary spies who achieved it.

   On June 6, 1944, ...

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

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In his celebrated bestsellers Agent Zigzag and Operation Mincemeat, Ben Macintyre told the dazzling true stories of a remarkable WWII double agent and of how the Allies employed a corpse to fool the Nazis and assure a decisive victory.  In Double Cross, Macintyre returns with the untold story of the grand final deception of the war and of the extraordinary spies who achieved it.

   On June 6, 1944, 150,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy and suffered an astonishingly low rate of casualties.  D-Day was a stunning military accomplishment, but it was also a masterpiece of trickery. Operation Fortitude, which protected and enabled the invasion, and the Double Cross system, which specialized in turning German spies into double agents, deceived the Nazis into believing that the Allies would attack at Calais and Norway rather than Normandy. It was the most sophisticated and successful deception operation ever carried out, ensuring that Hitler kept an entire army awaiting a fake invasion, saving thousands of lives, and securing an Allied victory at the most critical juncture in the war.

   The story of D-Day has been told from the point of view of the soldiers who fought in it, the tacticians who planned it, and the generals who led it. But this epic event in world history has never before been told from the perspectives of the key individuals in the Double Cross System. These include its director (a brilliant, urbane intelligence officer), a colorful assortment of MI5 handlers (as well as their counterparts in Nazi intelligence), and the five spies who formed Double Cross’s nucleus: a dashing  Serbian playboy, a Polish fighter-pilot, a bisexual Peruvian party girl, a deeply eccentric Spaniard with a diploma in chicken farming and a volatile Frenchwoman, whose obsessive love for her pet dog very nearly wrecked the entire plan. The D-Day spies were, without question, one of the oddest military units ever assembled, and their success depended on the delicate, dubious relationship between spy and spymaster, both German and British. Their enterprise was saved from catastrophe by a shadowy sixth spy whose heroic sacrifice is revealed here for the first time.

   With the same depth of research, eye for the absurd and masterful storytelling that have made Ben Macintyre an international bestseller,  Double Cross is a captivating narrative of the spies who wove a web so intricate it ensnared Hitler’s army and carried thousands of D-Day troops across the Channel in safety.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

The successful D-Day landing of 150,000 Allied troops on the beaches of Normandy encompasses tens of thousands of compelling stories, but none of them perhaps is more significant than the history of the MI5 plan called Double Cross. That brilliantly executed deceit convinced Hitler and German military leaders to mass their defenses hundreds of miles from the actual assault. In this new book, Ben Macintyre (Operation Mincemeat; Agent Zigzag) not only goes beyond earlier accounts; he renders this intricate, risky undertaking with compelling suspense and narrative skill. Now in trade paperback and NOOK Book.

The Washington Post
In Double Cross, Macintryre tells a tale that will be broadly familiar to those with an interest in military or intelligence history. But he does so with such lively writing, and with access to so many interesting new documents, that the story comes alive again in all its stupendous, unimaginable duplicity…A spy novelist couldn't invent characters as colorful as these, and Macintyre wisely lets newly declassified documents, private letters and personal recollections tell the story.
—David Ignatius
Publishers Weekly
“Any method of seeking the truth can also be used to plant a lie.” Therein lies the root of the brilliantly dangerous Allied plan (which MI5 called Double Cross)—recounted by Macintyre with the same skill and suspense he displayed in Operation Mincemeat and Agent Zigzag—to throw off the Germans and launch an assault at Normandy on June 6, 1944. The key to the plan—convincing Germany that the impending attack would come either at Pas de Calais or in Norway—was the careful manipulation of five double agents, each feeding misinformation back to their German handlers. Polish zealot Roman Czerniawski volunteered his services to his German captors, only to defect to Britain and become “Agent Brutus.” Serbian playboy Dusan Popov (“Agent Tricycle”) became one of MI5’s most prized assets. Failed Catalan chicken farmer Juan Pujol (“Agent Garbo”) badgered both German and British intelligence services into accepting him, eventually becoming the linchpin of the D-Day ploy. Lily Sergeyev (“Agent Treasure”), a high-strung Frenchwoman, had the opportunity to blow the whole operation with a single punctuation mark, while Elvira de la Fuente Chaudoir (“Agent Bronx”) transformed from a gambling Peruvian society girl to solid double agent. Macintyre effortlessly weaves the agents’ deliciously eccentric personalities with larger wartime events to shape a tale that reads like a top-notch spy thriller. Photos, map. Agent: Ed Victor, Ed Victor Ltd. (July)
From the Publisher
“Gripping stories from the perspective of a remarkable ragtag group of spies who tricked the Nazis in an astounding D-Day deception.  Puts other spy tales to shame.” – People

“It should be said loud and clear that Macintyre is a supremely gifted storyteller. He spins quite a yarn. His books are absurdly entertaining. I would kill for his keen wit. He takes us into a world of bounders, spivs, roués, and men (and women) on the make….Double Cross is a blast.” – Boston Globe

“Forget fiction when you are buying beach reading this summer. Ben Macintyre’s factual account is more gripping than what you will find anywhere else. It is a story unsurpassed in the long history of intelligence.” – Washington Times

“Macintyre at once exalts and subverts the myths of spycraft, and has a keen eye for absurdity” – New Yorker

“[A] complex, absorbing final installment in his trilogy about World War II espionage….Macintyre is a master storyteller.  Employing a wry wit and a keen eye for detail, he delivers an ultimately winning tale fraught with European intrigue and subtle wartime heroics.” – San Francisco Chronicle

“Superb….the story comes alive again in all its stupendous, unimaginable duplicity.…intensely readable” – Washington Post

“A wonderfully entertaining story of deception and trickery that is told with verve and wit….Macintyre’s early books about espionage in World War II have been bestsellers, and this will be no exception.” – Christian Science Monitor

“Macintyre revels in the surreal aspects of his story, writing with a breezy, almost tongue-in-cheek style. But the author is also adept at communicating the seriousness and the stakes of the underlying game….Nail-biting and chuckle-inducing reading.” – Columbus Dispatch

“Another captivating, improbably fresh story of World War II….Double Cross is ennobling, invigorating and, above all, entertaining. Macintyre's research is impressive, as is his ability to shape disparate facts into a breathless page-turner….Throw in nail-biting suspense and the occasional decadent Nazi (fickle mistress optional) and, with Macintyre in charge, you're virtually guaranteed a history book that reads like a spy novel.” – Richmond Times-Dispatch

“It is the riveting tales of these agents on which Ben Macintyre focuses, to full advantage, in Double Cross….Macintyre makes good use of the material. He knows how to let the high drama unfold on its own.” – Wall Street Journal

“London Times writer Macintyre (Agent Zigzag, Operation Mincemeat) concludes his WWII espionage trilogy with the tantalizing tale of an oddball, ‘Dirty Dozen’-like group of double agents who fool the Nazis into believing the Allied D-Day attack would come at Calais, not Normandy.” – New York Post, Required reading

A tale of smarts, personal courage and — even knowing what happened on June 6, 1944 — suspense.  Where would we be if these troubled, eccentric and hang-it-all characters hadn't known how to lie, and lie well?” Seattle Times

“As in his earlier best-sellers about WWII-era spycraft, Agent Zigzag and Operation Mincemeat, Macintyre writes with novelistic flair.” – Entertainment Weekly

“The story of D-Day – when 150,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy – as it’s never been told before….this amazing story shows how double agents and spies tricked the German army and saved thousands of Allied lives.”
New York Post

“Only with author Ben Macintyre’s scintillating account has this complex human drama, with all its tortuous twists and turns, finally received the cinematic treatment it deserves….This is edge-of-the seat stuff.” – WWII Magazine

“Macintyre does a fine job depicting this extraordinary cast and exposing the ambiguous world of espionage....compelling.” – MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History

“With the same skill and suspense he displayed in Operation Mincemeat and Agent Zigzag….Macintyre effortlessly weaves the agents’ deliciously eccentric personalities with larger wartime events to shape a tale that reads like a top-notch spy thriller.” – Publishers Weekly (starred)

“Macintyre has written a tense, exciting real-life spy story that illuminates a largely obscure aspect of WWII.” – Booklist

“With his latest book, Double Cross, Ben Macintyre tells the astonishing true story of a bizarre group of misfit spies who played a critical role in the success of D-Day.  The stories in this book, many of which have never before been told, are nothing short of incredible.  Skillfully woven together, they form one of the most gripping narratives I have ever read.” – Candice Millard, author of The River of Doubt and Destiny of the Republic

“Ben Macintyre and I work in the same period, and I should be reading him because he is such a scrupulous and insightful writer – a master historian. But, with Double Cross and his other excellent works, I always wind up reading him for pleasure.  Double Cross may be his best yet, falling somewhere between top-class entertainment and pure addiction.” – Alan Furst, author of A Mission to Paris

"Ben Macintyre’s spellbinding account features an improbable cast of characters who pulled off a counter-intelligence feat that was breathtaking in its audacity. Their deceptions within deceptions—known as the Double Cross—were critical to the success of the D-Day invasion, and continued to mislead the Germans long after Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy. A truly bravura performance, as is Macintyre’s fast-paced tale." — Andrew Nagorski, author of Hitlerland: American Eyewitnesses to the Nazi Rise to Power

"How on earth, in 1944, did we dupe Berlin that we would attack the coast of France in completely the wrong place?  It was a deception that saved tens of thousands of Allied lives.  In Double Cross, Ben Macintyre ingeniously explains exactly how it was done." – Frederick Forsyth
"Never before revealed facts about the workings of the Intelligence Service in the build up to D-Day in the Second World War.  Ben Macintyre's remarkable book is a gripping revelation." – Jack Higgins

“[Macintyre] has excelled himself with a cast of extraordinary characters and in his storytelling abilities....Double Cross is an utterly gripping story.” – Antony Beevor, The Telegraph

“Enthralling....Macintyre is a master at leading the reader down some very tortuous paths while ensuring they never lose their bearings. He’s terrific, too, at animating his characters with the most succinct of touches....gripping.” — London Evening Standard

Library Journal
D-Day, June 6, 1944. Some 150,000 Allied troops land successfully on the beaches of Normandy, sustaining only 5000 casualties. How did they manage it? Through a vast act of deception called Operation Bodyguard aimed at persuading the Germans that attacks would come at Calais and Norway, where German armies then massed. The spies drafted to perpetuate this trickery ranged from a Polish pilot to the wild daughter of a Peruvian diplomat to a Serbian playboy code-named Agent Tricycle. Actually, sounds like a great movie; meanwhile, best-selling author Macintyre (Operation Mincemeat) should turn in an absorbing read about a little-acknowledged facet of the war.
Kirkus Reviews
Newly declassified intelligence files flesh out the intricately interwoven network of World War II spies who formed the Double Cross British espionage system. Unlike the narrower focus of Stephen Talty's Agent Garbo (2012), veteran espionage writer and Times (London) journalist Macintyre (Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory, 2010, etc.) fashions a more expansive, ambitious tale of five double agents with dubious credentials but certain loyalties employed by the British to "cook up a diet of harmless truths, half-truths and uncheckable untruths to feed to the enemy." Double Cross was a pun on the Twenty (XX) Committee formed in January 1941 by British intelligence agencies, led by John Masterman and aimed at coordinating the work of a new strain of double agents. These included the Serbian playboy Dusko Popov (aka Tricycle), who creatively worked the Berlin-Lisbon circuit, though he failed to create an American counterpart to Double Cross because of FBI distrust (and his wild expenditures); Polish patriot Roman Czerniawski, exposed by the Germans in Nazi-occupied France and compelled to infiltrate the British spy system; the bored Peruvian gambler Elvira de la Fuente Chaudoir, known as Bronx, employed by MI6 to "coat trail" some influential Germans while larking about Vichy France; the former Spanish chicken farmer and Franco refugee Juan Pujol (aka Garbo), who managed by his confounding literary flourishes to hoodwink the Germans utterly regarding the Normandy landings; and Lily Sergeyev (aka Treasure) who cultivated her charm on Maj. Emile Kliemann of the Abwehr. While the spies were highly effective in deflecting interest in the Torch landings, and later Fortitude, the run-up to Normandy proved disastrous. Moreover, the dangers of getting picked up by the Gestapo and tortured for information was a constant danger, as in the case of Johnny Jebsen (aka Artist). Invisible ink, double-agent homing pigeons and a Hollywood double for Gen. Monty--nicely woven tales of stealth, brashness and derring-do.
The Barnes & Noble Review

Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies is Ben Macintyre's third expedition into the surreal fourth dimension of the Second World War, the counterfeit reality concocted by Britain's virtuosos of deceit, the Twenty Committee and MI5's Section B1A. The declassification of a large body of British wartime intelligence files and Macintyre's own evident appetite for chancers, oddballs, and high-spirited mischief makers has resulted in three brilliant works of diabolical intrigue, each one a miracle of plot and pacing. Five years ago, Agent Zigzag told the astounding story of Eddie Chapman, safecracker, womanizer, and jailbird who was recruited by the Germans from a Channel Islands lockup, trained as a spy, and dropped into an English celery field, whereupon he became a double agent for the British so effective in deceit that he was awarded the Iron Cross by the Germans. Three years later, in Operation Mincemeat, Macintyre set out the full story of the ghoulish ruse involving the supposed corpse of Major William "Bill" Martin, "the man who never was," whose briefcase of fraudulent top-secret documents convinced the German high command that Allied forces meant to invade Sardinia and the Balkans in the summer of 1943, masking the real target, Sicily.

Many familiar figures from the earlier works appear again in Double Cross, and Macintyre presents them with undiminished relish. Here again are Thomas Argyll "Tar" Robertson, handsome, amiable spinner and detector of lies — also called Passion Pants in appreciation of his tartan trousers; monocled Robin "Tin-eye" Stephens, "xenophobic, rude, manipulative, ruthless, and brilliant"; Ewen Montagu, the mastermind behind Operation Mincemeat; Johnny Bevan, "cricket-playing, workaholic, stockbroker of rare intelligence" said to have "the most highly polished shoes in the British army"; and John Masterman, Oxford don, detective novelist, and fanatical cricketer, who saw intelligence operations as an extension of the sport. Back again too is the Twenty, or XX, Committee, formed to direct the Double Cross system, with Masterman as home captain. That committee, "the first and only government body named with a Roman numeral pun," wove the tissue of lies, distorted facts, and harmless truths purveyed to the enemy by double agents whose day-to-day operations were handled by MI5's discreetly labeled Section B1A.

Central to Double Cross is the story of Operation Fortitude, the long, ever-mutating deception that shrouded the Allied invasion of Europe, diverting German attention away from Normandy toward Norway and Pas de Calais. The many-faceted undertaking included the fabrication of phantom expeditionary forces, a British-led one in Scotland and another in southeast England under the supposed command of George Patton — an ideal commission: The unlovely, loudmouthed general was out of favor with Eisenhower but was held in high esteem by Hitler. Dummy tank landing craft and fighter planes were constructed — though the former tended to fly aloft in high winds and the latter to be eaten by cows. Among other theatrical devices, trucks roamed the countryside broadcasting the sound of mighty legions mustering, and a counterfeit Lord Mountbatten popped up in Gibraltar. But the linchpin of the entire scheme was the coordinated group of double agents who fed a stream of artfully tailored misinformation to the German high command and to Hitler himself.

With his characteristic attention to the rigors of British decorum, Macintyre points out that, while the country's history abounded in spies, double agents were considered not quite the thing: "Such creatures were classed as 'agents doubles' — in French, as if to underline that this was typically duplicitous Continental behavior." Six adepts in duplicity — none British, as it happens, and three, at least, of the most dubious virtue — are the leading actors in this book.

There is Serbian high liver and playboy Dusan "Dusko" Popov — Tricycle to the British, Ivan to the Germans. Among his accomplishments was Operation Midas, a dazzling exercise in financial legerdemain that resulted in the Germans paying to be spied upon and, in fact, making Double Cross "self financing" to the tune of £4.5 million. Less successful was Popov's attempt to set up a network of double agents in the U.S., a venture confounded by a ham-fisted, obstructionist FBI, nearly exposing the whole system.

Popov was aided, tacitly at first, then outright, by his Danish-German university chum and fellow carouser Johnny Jebsen, an Anglophile who "would no more go without an umbrella than without his trousers." Jebsen was the Abwehr officer who ran Popov for the Germans and was eventually recruited by the British, gaining the code name Artist. The success of the entire enterprise hung finally on his resolve and courage.

Also at work was the Polish patriot Roman Czerniawski — Brutus to the British, Hubert to the Germans — "fickle, irritating, and meddlesome" — whose loyalty lay with Poland, and only out of expediency with the Allies. Two women were also key in the grand deception. Elvira de la Fuente Chadoir (known variously as Bronx and Dorette), daughter of a Peruvian diplomat and guano tycoon, was a prodigious gambler, an extravagant thrower of wild parties, and a woman who, according to the police, favored "the companionship of women who may not be careful of their virginity." The other, Lily Sergeyev, was the daughter of a tsarist official who had emigrated to Paris with his family after the Revolution. Alternately dubbed Treasure and Solange, she considered herself French and was devoted to her dog, Babs. Chillingly, MI5's highhandedness where Babs was concerned jeopardized the entire invasion.

Finally, we have the arch bamboozler and most famous double agent of all, the Spaniard Juan Pujol García — the British Garbo and German Arabel. Preternaturally fecund in imagination and a prodigy of determination, he eventually ran some twenty-six fictitious sub-agents to feed the Germans a welter of misinformation and redirection. Many of Pujol's activities are covered by Macintyre, but their intricacies, extent, and consequences were so great that they merit an entire book — and here to fill the bill is Stephen Talty's Agent Garbo: The Brilliant Eccentric Secret Agent Who Tricked Hitler and Saved D-Day. It gives a much fuller picture of this particular agent than the one presented Macintyre and is also corrective, especially in the crucial role played by Pujol's wife, Araceli.

Though Pujol had fought with the Nationalists in the Spanish Civil War and spent the last part of it hiding from the Republicans, he hated fascists and wanted, he said, "to start a personal war with Hitler" with his imagination as his weapon. Aiming to become a double agent for the British, Pujol convinced the Germans to enlist him as a spy through a series of ingenious subterfuges and by adopting the persona of a hot-blooded, easily offended, endlessly verbose worshipper of the Führer. From the very start he met German questions about his veracity with withering outrage, high-strung pique, and bombastic paeans to Hitler, a pose that worked wonders then and later. Ordered to Britain by his German handlers, Pujol found it impossible to get there, instead reporting from Portugal as though he were roaming the British Isles, a hoax aided by his wife. As Agent Arabel, Pujol produced reams of waffle on morale, innovations in weaponry and defense, the movement of troops, and much else — baffling MI6, which was intercepting his messages, with such discoveries as Glaswegians who "will do anything for a liter of wine."

Meanwhile, in a tortuous tale, Pujol was taken up by the British secret service and moved to London with his family, at which point three years of brilliant deception commenced, the details of which almost defy belief. Connected as he was with his fantastic network of sub-agents, Pujol, as Arabel, became one of the Germans' and, indeed, Hitler's, most trusted sources and was awarded the Iron Cross.

Both Talty's and Macintyre's works are awash in secret ink and steeped in chicanery; both are electric with suspense, even though we know the general outcome. But how much of D-Day's success was the result of the Double Cross system? A great deal: Field Marshal Rommel, for one, believed that the Germans' "decisive mistake" — perhaps in the whole war — was leaving troops in Pas de Calais instead of deploying them to Normandy. Well then, how risky was the Double Cross operation? Macintyre asserts that "if the Double Cross deception had backfired,?if the great defensive net of lies had unraveled and the Germans had been ready and waiting in Normandy, reinforced and alert, then the invasion would have failed, and D-Day would have ended in a massacre of Allied troops."

It takes nothing away from the resourcefulness, daring, and courage of the agents who risked their lives and those of family members living in German- controlled territory, to note that the success of the Double Cross system depended on critical advantages held by the British over the enemy. Macintyre covers them all with telling, sometimes amusing detail. German intelligence had been tardy in setting up a spy network in Britain, with the result that all the operatives they did manage to land were immediately captured (and executed or imprisoned) or turned, becoming double agents and conduits for disinformation. In addition, the incentives for an Abwehr officer turning a blind eye to possible duplicity in one of his agents were great: Those who ran the spies were skimming gratifyingly large sums of money from the operation; but more to the point, a deadly rivalry existed between the somewhat dozy Abwehr and the SD, the intelligence agency of the SS, which was not in the least dozy. An Abwehr officer who exposed an agent he had been running as working for the Allies could expect to be sent to the Eastern Front — if not something more immediately fatal.

Furthermore, as the war progressed, which is to say, deteriorated for the Germans, increasing numbers of German officers simply wanted it over, especially if it could be ended in a separate peace with Britain and the United States, with the hope of forming a future united front against the Soviet Union. It is not certain in the case of Operation Fortitude — or indeed in Operation Mincemeat — how much silent acquiescence on the part of some key Germans was in play. In one terrible instance of irony, one of the agents — whose identity I leave you to discover — was seized, imprisoned, tortured, and done away with because he presented a threat to the success of the July 1944 attempt to assassinate Hitler, a project he would have been happy to further.

But the crucial advantage held by the British was that they had cracked the Enigma Code, with the result that the Germans themselves were briefing the British as to whether or not they were swallowing the lies fed to them, as well as alerting B1A about operatives suspected of treachery. It is doubtful that double agents would have been given such an important role in Allied strategy without what amounted to a cheat sheet. You might say, pace John Masterman, that the game played by the Twenty Committee was not quite cricket. On the other hand, the Double Cross System wasn't a game; it was war.

Katherine A. Powers reviews books widely and has been a finalist for the Nona Balakian Citation for Excellence in Reviewing from the National Book Critics Circle.

Reviewer: Katherine A. Powers

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307888778
  • Publisher: Crown/Archetype
  • Publication date: 5/14/2013
  • Pages: 416
  • Sales rank: 60,971
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Ben Macintyre is a writer-at-large for The Times of London and the bestselling author of Operation MincemeatAgent ZigzagThe Napoleon of Crime, and Forgotten Fatherland, among other books.

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Read an Excerpt

1. Raw Recruits

Dusko and Johnny were friends. Their friendship was founded on a shared appreciation of money, cars, parties, and women, in no particular order and preferably all at the same time. Their relationship, based almost entirely on frivolity, would have a profound impact on world history.

Dusan “Dusko” Popov and Johann “Johnny” Jebsen met in 1936 at the University of Freiburg in southern Germany. Popov, the son of a wealthy Serbian industrialist from Dubrovnik, was twenty-five. Jebsen, the heir to a large shipping company, was two years older. Both were spoiled, charming, and feckless. Popov drove a BMW; Jebsen, a supercharged Mercedes 540K convertible. This inseparable pair of international playboys roistered around Freiburg, behaving badly. Popov was a law student, while Jebsen was taking an economics degree, the better to manage the family firm. Neither did any studying at all. “We both had some intellectual pretensions,” wrote Popov, but “[we were] addicted to sports cars and sporting girls and had enough money to keep them both running.”

Popov had a round, open face, with hair brushed back from a high forehead. Opinion was divided on his looks: “He smiles freely showing all his teeth and in repose his face is not unpleasant, though certainly not handsome,” wrote one male contemporary. He had “a well-flattened, typically Slav nose, complexion sallow, broad shoulders, athletic carriage, but rather podgy, white and well-kept hands,” which he waved in wild gesticulation. Women frequently found him irresistible, with his easy manners, “loose, sensual mouth,” and green eyes behind heavy lids. He had what were then known as “bedroom eyes”; indeed, the bedroom was his main focus of interest. Popov was an unstoppable womanizer. Jebsen cut a rather different figure. He was slight and thin, with dark blond hair, high cheekbones, and a turned‑up nose. Where Popov was noisily gregarious, Jebsen was watchful. “His coldness, aloofness, could be forbidding, yet everyone was under his spell,” Popov wrote. “He had much warmth too, and his intelligence was reflected in his face, in the alertness of his steel-blue eyes. He spoke abruptly, in short phrases, hardly ever used an adjective and was, above all, ironic.” Jebsen walked with a limp and hinted that this was from an injury sustained in some wild escapade: in truth it was caused by the pain of varicose veins, to which he was a secret martyr. He loved to spin a story, to “deliberately stir up situations to see what would happen.” But he also liked to broker deals. When Popov was challenged to a sword duel over a girl, it was Jebsen, as his second, who quietly arranged a peaceful solution, to Popov’s relief, “not thinking my looks would be improved by a bright red cicatrix.”

Jebsen’s parents, both dead by the time he arrived in Freiburg, had been born in Denmark but adopted German citizenship when the shipping firm Jebsen & Jebsen moved to Hamburg. Jebsen was born in that city in 1917 but liked to joke that he was really Danish, his German citizenship being a “flag of convenience” for business purposes: “Some of my love of my country has to do with so much of it actually belonging to me.” A rich, rootless orphan, Jebsen had visited Britain as a teenager and returned a committed Anglophile: he affected English manners, spoke English in preference to German, and dressed, he thought, “like a young Anthony Eden, conservatively elegant.” Popov remarked: “He would no more go without an umbrella than without his trousers.”

Preoccupied as they were with having fun, the two student friends could not entirely ignore the menacing political changes taking place around them in the Germany of the 1930s. They made a point of teasing the “pro-Nazi student intelligentsia.” The mockery, however, had a metal strand to it. “Under that mask of a snob and cynic and under his playboy manners,” Jebsen was developing a deep distaste for Nazism. Popov found the posturing Nazi Brownshirts ridiculous and repulsive.

After graduation, Popov returned to Yugoslavia and set himself up in the import-export business, traveling widely. Jebsen headed to England, announcing that he intended to study at Oxford University and write books on philosophy. He did neither (though he would later claim to have done both). They would not meet again for three years, by which time the world was at war.

In early 1940, Popov was living in Dubrovnik, where he had opened his own law firm, and conducting affairs with at least four women, when he received a telegram from his old friend summoning him to Belgrade: “Need to meet you urgently.” Their reunion was joyful and spectacularly bibulous. They went on a bender through Belgrade’s nightspots, having enlisted “two girls from the chorus of one of the clubs.” At dawn, all four sat down to a breakfast of steak and champagne. Jebsen told Popov that in the intervening years, he had become acquainted with the great English writer P. G. Wodehouse. With his monocle and silk cravat, Jebsen now looked like an oddly Germanic version of Bertie Wooster. Popov studied his old friend. Jebsen wore the same expression of “sharp intelligence, cynicism and dark humour,” but he also seemed tense, as if there was something weighing on his mind. He chain-smoked and “ordered his whiskies double, neat, and frequently. In style, his clothes still rivalled Eden’s, but his blond hair was no longer so closely trimmed and he had a neglected moustache, reddened by tobacco.”

A few days later, the friends were alone at the bar of a Belgrade hotel, when Jebsen lowered his voice, looked around in a ludicrously conspiratorial manner, and confided that he had joined the Abwehr, the German military intelligence service, “because it saved him from soldiering, of which he was very much afraid as he is a heavy sufferer from varicose veins.” Jebsen’s recruiter was a family friend, Colonel Hans Oster, deputy to Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, the chief of the Abwehr. He now had the formal but vague Abwehr title of “Forscher,” meaning researcher or talent scout, with the technical rank of private, attached to a four-hundred-strong special detachment of the Brandenburg Regiment. This unit was in reality “a wangle by Canaris to keep a number of young men out of the clutches of compulsory service.” Jebsen was a freelance spy on permanent leave from the army, with a personal assurance from Canaris that he would never wear a uniform, never undergo military training, and never be sent to war. He was free to spend his “time travelling throughout Europe on his private business and financial affairs, so long as he held himself available to help the Abwehr when called upon to do so.”

“Hitler is the undisputed master of Europe,” Jebsen declared. “In a few months’ time, he’ll probably finish off England, and then America and Russia will be glad to come to terms with him.” This was pure Nazi propaganda, but Jebsen’s expression, as usual, was glintingly ironic. “Would you dine with a friend of mine,” Jebsen asked suddenly, “a member of the German embassy?” The friend turned out to be one Major Müntzinger, a corpulent Bavarian and the most senior Abwehr officer in the Balkans. Over brandy and cigars, Müntzinger made his pitch to Popov, as subtle as a sledgehammer. “No country can resist the German army. In a couple of months, England will be invaded. To facilitate the German task and to make an eventual invasion less bloody, you could help.” Müntzinger shifted to flattery. Popov was well connected. His business was the ideal cover for traveling to Britain, where he must know many important and influential people. Why, did he not know the Duke of Kent himself? Popov nodded. (He did not admit that he had visited Britain only once in his life and had met the duke for a matter of minutes at Dubrovnik’s Argosy Yacht Club.) Müntzinger continued: “We have many agents in England, quite a number of them excellent. But your connections would open many doors. You could render us great service. And we could do the same for you. The Reich knows how to show its appreciation.” Jebsen drank his whiskey and said nothing. Müntzinger was somewhat vague about the kind of information Popov might gather: “General. Political.” And then, after a pause: “Military. Johnny will introduce you to the proper people when and if you accept.” Popov asked for time to think the offer over, and in the morning he accepted. Jebsen had recruited his first spy for German intelligence. He would never recruit another.

Popov, meanwhile, had begun to develop what he called “a little idea of my own.”

In 1941, the Interallié was the most important spy network in Nazi-occupied France. Indeed, as one British intelligence officer remarked, it was virtually the only one, “our sole source of information from France” in the early part of the war. The network consisted of scores of informers, agents, and subagents, but ultimately the Interallié was the creation of one spy, a man to whom conspiracy and subterfuge were second nature, who regarded espionage as a vocation. His French collaborators knew him as Armand Borni; he also used the code name “Walenty,” or Valentine. His real name was Roman Czerniawski, and in a very short time, through sheer energy, conviction, and a soaring sense of his own worth, he had become the most valuable British spy in France.

Czerniawski was a Polish patriot, but that phrase cannot do justice to his essential Polishness and the depths of his attachment to his motherland. He lived for Poland and was perfectly prepared (at times almost anxious) to die for it. “His loyalty is entirely to his own country, and every problem he sees is bound up with the destiny of the Polish people,” wrote one of his fellow spies. He loathed the Germans and Russians with equal intensity for carving up his country, and dreamed only of restoring the Polish nation. Every other loyalty, every other consideration, was secondary. He stood just five foot six inches tall, with a thin face and intense, close-set eyes. He smiled readily and spoke at machine-gun speed.

The son of a well-to-do Warsaw financier, Czerniawski had trained as a fighter pilot before the war, but a serious crash had left him partially sighted and deskbound. The German invasion of Poland in September 1939 found Captain Czerniawski at air force headquarters in Warsaw, a specialist in military intelligence and the author of a well-received treatise on counterintelligence. Czerniawski was a professional, “a man who lives and thinks spying,” as one colleague put it. He regarded the spy trade as an honorable calling “based on the highest ideals of human endeavour.” As the Polish army crumbled beneath the German onslaught, Czerniawski escaped to Romania and then, using forged documents, made his way to France, where Polish forces were regrouping. When France fell in 1940, his division was disbanded, but rather than join his compatriots in Britain to continue the fight from there, Czerniawski went underground. He persuaded a young French widow, Renée Borni, to lend him her late husband’s identity. As German troops began their occupation, a peasant whose papers identified him as Armand Borni wobbled along beside them on a borrowed bicycle, taking mental notes and already congratulating himself. “Every signpost, every sign on a truck, every distinguishing mark of any sort, meant far more to me than to anybody else.” Here were the seeds of what he would grandly refer to as his “vision.” While the Polish government-in-exile in London fought one kind of war, he would mount another. He imagined “small cells of resistance, multiplying with great speed, joining together and forming one screen of eyes.”

Czerniawski made his way to the unoccupied south of France, where he made contact with the Polish secret service and obtained formal approval for his plan to establish a network in the occupied zone. A few nights later, he was dining alone at La Frégate, a restaurant in Toulouse, when a young woman asked if she might occupy the empty seat at his table. “She was small, in her thirties. Her pale, thin face, with thin lips, was animated by very vivid eyes.” Mathilde Carré simultaneously sized up her diminutive and accidental dining companion: “Thin and muscular, with a long narrow face, rather large nose and green eyes which must originally have been clear and attractive but were now flecked with contusions as the result of a flying accident.” Czerniawski introduced himself “in an appalling French accent.” They fell into conversation. After dinner he walked her home.

Mathilde Carré was highly intelligent, overwrought, and, at the moment she met Czerniawski, teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown. The child of bourgeois Parisian parents, she had studied at the Sorbonne, worked briefly in an insurance company, trained as a teacher, and then married a childhood friend before swiftly discovering she could not stand him. The war was the excuse she needed to leave her husband. With the French army in retreat, she found work in a dressing station, treating the wounded. There she met a lieutenant in the French Foreign Legion and made love to him “under the eyes of an enormous crucifix” in the bishop’s cell of a seminary at Cazères sur Garonne. He was gone in the morning, and she was pregnant. She decided to keep the baby and then miscarried. One night, she stood on a high bridge, about to kill herself, but then changed her mind: “Instead of throwing myself into the Garonne, I would fling myself into the war. If I really intended to commit suicide, it would be more intelligent to commit a useful suicide.” To celebrate this decision, she had taken herself out to dinner at La Frégate.

Czerniawski’s abundant self-assurance made Mathilde feel instantly secure. “Every time he spoke of the war his eyes flashed. He would not accept that Poland had been defeated. He radiated a kind of confidence and the enthusiasm of youth, an intelligence and willpower which would alternately give place to the airs of a spoilt, affectionate child.” They met again the next night, and the next. “A great bond of friendship was swiftly forged.” Both would later deny they had ever been lovers with such vehemence that the denials were almost certainly untrue.

Three weeks after their first meeting, Czerniawski confessed that he was a spy and asked Mathilde to help him realize his “vision” of a multicelled intelligence network. She said he could count on her; together they would “do great things.” The theatricality of the moment was compounded by Czerniawski’s announcement that he had already selected a code name for his new accomplice: she would be “La Chatte,” the She-Cat, because “you walk so quietly, in your soft shoes, like a cat.” She raised the slim fingers of one hand in a claw: “And I can scratch as well if I wish.” Perhaps it was a warning.

Roman Czerniawski and Mathilde Carré formed a most effective spy partnership. In Paris, they rented a room in Montmartre and set about constructing an entire espionage network. “It will be inter-Allied,” Czerniawski announced. “The boss will be a Pole, the agents mostly French, and all working for the Allies.” The Interallié network was born.

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Table of Contents

Map xi

The Agents and Their Handlers xiii

Preface 1

1 Raw Recruits 11

2 A Bit of an Enigma 41

3 Roman and the Cat 65

4 Coat Trailing 79

5 The Club 89

6 Garbo Takes the Stage 107

7 Popov Goes Shopping 127

8 The Great Game 145

9 The Flock 157

10 True Agent, False Agent, Double Agent 171

11 Cockade 197

12 Discovered Treasure 213

13 The Walk-In 227

14 A Time for Fortitude 243

15 Enriching the Chicken Feed 261

16 Artist Paints a Picture 285

17 Monty's Double 309

18 The Double Dash 323

19 Jebsen's New Friend 343

20 "Am I Not Always Careful?" 361

21 Operation Dora 383

22 Guest of the Gestapo 401

23 Bronx Gets Toothache 419

24 Garbo's Warning 435

25 Second Innings 451

Aftermath 473

Acknowledgments 505

Notes 507

Select Bibliography 545

Index 551

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 55 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 55 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2012

    Fascinating account

    The book is a great accounting of the hidden work of the D-Day invasion! Also, it gives so much evidence regarding the dozens of reasons even one person can have for performing exceptionally, when called on!

    4 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2012

    Stranger than fiction

    Sorting out fhe characters took a little tlme but was so worth it! Once involved, l could not put this down , it read like a thriller I enjoyed learning a good bit of history too

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 28, 2012

    Not Recommend

    Too many spies and not enough about each of them. One of the few books I never finished.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2012

    Although the book reveals loads of research, I found it to be te

    Although the book reveals loads of research, I found it to be tedious, cumbersome, and boring. It's very difficult to keep track of all the individuals involved, and their various movements between/within Europe and US. The book gives interesting insights into the lives and uses of spies, but the knowledge is hard won due to laborious writing.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 28, 2012

    I found it to be rather boring

    The book went into too much detail. There was very little action. Just a lot of information about a lot of spies.

    3 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 6, 2012

    Interesting reading-captures ones imagination!

    Subject matter very well researched and presented in a format that is easy to follow. Anyone reading this book will certainly appreciate the efforts the real life individuals expended to carry out their missions and bring World War II to a successful conclusion for the United States and our Allies. FlyboyRHB

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 12, 2012

    Great Book

    Very well written and thoroughly researched. I have read several books from this author including "Agent Zigzag" and "Operation Mincemeat", and found them all to be very interesting and well written.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2012

    Quick Light Summer Story

    A nice story to read in summer at the beach. Some were dedicated to freedom and democracy, so motivated by money, some were the adventurous type and were just nuts!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 2, 2012



    1 out of 39 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 28, 2013

    more from this reviewer



    0 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 10, 2013

    Great story

    Well written, gripping book. Those 007 fans will love reading about the real deal, and how similar and different it can be.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2013

    Interesting study

    Spies are fascinating folks. How the British were able to manipulate these egos to deceive the Jerrys is a great story from WWII. Highly recommended

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2012


    I love love love this booked because the main thing I like is the stuff about World War II and that there were spies in this book. So if you like history or spies then I recommend this book to you. World War II was a interesting and sad time for people at that time. anyway READ THIS BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2012

    Highly recommended

    I learned many new things from this book. I recommend this book very highly. I wished my father could have read this book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 9, 2012

    overstates importance of spies to d-day. 

    overstates importance of spies to d-day. 

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2012

    definitely check this out

    Very interesting and well-written account of a little-known "project" that helped with the success of D-Day.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 21, 2012

    Stranger than fiction!

    Well written account of some of the most unlikely characters who could ever have been called upon to completely mislead the enemy about the whole plan for the Normandy invasion. It reads like fiction, but the research was done on the facts.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 6, 2012



    0 out of 26 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted July 9, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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