Operation Mincemeat: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory

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Overview

Ben Macintyre’s Agent Zigzag was hailed as “rollicking, spellbinding” (New York Times), “wildly improbable but entirely true” (Entertainment Weekly), and, quite simply, “the best book ever written” (Boston Globe). In his new book, Operation Mincemeat, he tells an extraordinary story that will delight his legions of fans.

In 1943, from a windowless basement office in London, two brilliant intelligence officers conceived a plan that was both simple and complicated— Operation ...

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Overview

Ben Macintyre’s Agent Zigzag was hailed as “rollicking, spellbinding” (New York Times), “wildly improbable but entirely true” (Entertainment Weekly), and, quite simply, “the best book ever written” (Boston Globe). In his new book, Operation Mincemeat, he tells an extraordinary story that will delight his legions of fans.

In 1943, from a windowless basement office in London, two brilliant intelligence officers conceived a plan that was both simple and complicated— Operation Mincemeat. The purpose? To deceive the Nazis into thinking that Allied forces were planning to attack southern Europe by way of Greece or Sardinia, rather than Sicily, as the Nazis had assumed, and the Allies ultimately chose.
 
Charles Cholmondeley of MI5 and the British naval intelligence officer Ewen Montagu could not have been more different. Cholmondeley was a dreamer seeking adventure. Montagu was an aristocratic, detail-oriented barrister. But together they were the perfect team and created an ingenious plan: Get a corpse, equip it with secret (but false and misleading) papers concerning the invasion, then drop it off the coast of Spain where German spies would, they hoped, take the bait. The idea was approved by British intelligence officials, including Ian Fleming (creator of James Bond). Winston Churchill believed it might ring true to the Axis and help bring victory to the Allies.

Filled with spies, double agents, rogues, fearless heroes, and one very important corpse, the story of Operation Mincemeat reads like an international thriller.

Unveiling never-before-released material, Ben Macintyre brings the reader right into the minds of intelligence officers, their moles and spies, and the German Abwehr agents who suffered the “twin frailties of wishfulness and yesmanship.” He weaves together the eccentric personalities of Cholmondeley and Montagu and their near-impossible feats into a riveting adventure that not only saved thousands of lives but paved the way for a pivotal battle in Sicily and, ultimately, Allied success in the war.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

This is a World War II story about people saving lives. In early 1943, Great Britain's Operation Mincemeat delivered a masterful plan of deception wrapped in an innocuous name and a recycled corpse that washed up on a Spanish beach. Alongside numerous fake personal effects of "Major William Martin" were fabricated military secret plans designed to mislead the Nazis about the target of the impending Allied Sicilian invasion. Brilliantly executed, this single-shot misinformation worked perfectly: "Mincemeat swallowed whole," crowed British intelligence. (Hand-selling tip: This uplifting story has been told previously in a 1950s book and movie, but never in such detail as in Ben Macintyre's book.)

Publishers Weekly
Attain a corpse, load it with forged secret documents, and drop it off the coast of Spain where Nazi spies would be certain to discover it. These were the bare-bone essentials of one of the most important yet largely unknown Allied missions of WWII, which changed the course of history and saved thousands of lives. John Lee dazzles listeners with his seamless delivery that never ceases to excite; his classically trained tone is assertive and determined, capturing the importance of the mission and the dedication of the men at its helm. His voice shifts slightly to capture various British dialects, each as excellently executed as the last. A rousing listen. A Harmony hardcover (Reviews, Apr. 12). (June)
Publishers Weekly
London Times writer-at-large Macintyre (Agent Zigzag) offers a solid and entertaining updating of WWII’s best-known “human intelligence” operation. In 1943, British intelligence conceived “a spectacular con trick” to draw German attention away from the Allies’ obvious next objective, Sicily. The bait was a briefcase full of carefully forged documents attached to the wrist of “Major William Martin, Royal Marines”—a fictitious identity given to a body floated ashore in neutral Spain. Making the deception plausible was the task given to two highly unconventional officers: Lt. Comdr. Ewen Montagu and Squadron Leader Charles Cholmondeley. Macintyre recounts their adventures and misadventures with panache. The body was that of a derelict. Its costuming included the underwear of a deceased Oxford don. An attractive secretary provided the photo of an imaginary fiancée. The carefully constructed documents setting up the bogus operation against Greece and Sardinia convinced even Hitler himself. The Sicily landings were achieved as almost a complete surprise. And “the man who never was” entered the history and folklore of WWII. Photos. (May)
Library Journal
In 1943, both the Allied and Axis powers knew that an invasion of Europe was imminent. The question was, where? Two British intelligence officers devised an intricate deception dubbed "Operation Mincemeat" to trick the German High Command into believing the invasion would occur in Greece and Sardinia rather than in Sicily. British writer/historian Macintyre describes the origins, planning, implementation, outcome, and aftermath of Operation Mincemeat in this complex narrative voiced clearly and masterfully by multiple Audie Award winner John Lee, who also read the audio edition of Macintyre's 2007 World War II spy history, Agent Zigzag. An exceptional performance of a fascinating account highly recommended for all appreciators of audio nonfiction. [The Harmony hc, published in May, was a New York Times best seller.—Ed.]—Kristen L. Smith, Loras Coll. Lib., Dubuque, IA
Joseph Kanon
Ben Macintyre…is a first-rate journalist who seems to have talked to everyone connected with the operation (or their descendants) and worked his way through recently declassified documents in the National Archives. But—true to the spirit of the operation—his most important source turned out to be the deceased Montagu himself, or more specifically, a dusty trunk he left behind with bundles of files from MI5, MI6 and Naval Intelligence; letters, memos, photographs; original, uncensored drafts; and so on, an intelligence bonanza more genuine than the one foisted on the Germans. Macintyre has made the most of it. Here, finally, is the complete story with its full cast of characters (not a dull one among them), pure catnip to fans of World War II thrillers and a lot of fun for everyone else.
—The Washington Post
Jennet Conant
Macintyre, whose previous book chronicled the incredible exploits of Eddie Chapman, the crook turned spy known as Zigzag, excels at this sort of twisted narrative.
—The New York Times Book Review
Dwight Garner
Operation Mincemeat is utterly, to employ a dead word, thrilling. But to call it thus is to miss the point slightly, in terms of admiring it properly…What makes Operation Mincemeat so winning, in addition to Mr. Macintyre's meticulous research and the layers of his historical understanding, is his elegant, jaunty and very British high style. The major players in this spy story seem to have emerged from an Evelyn Waugh novel that's been tweaked by P. G. Wodehouse. This isn't to say that Mr. Macintyre has embellished his teeming cast of eccentrics. It's to say that he fully appreciates them, and his fondness for them is contagious.
—The New York Times
Kirkus Reviews
The exciting story of the ingenious British ruse that distracted the Nazis from the Allied Sicilian invasion. Although the invasion finally took place July 10, 1943, allowing the Allied forces an initial foothold into the German "Fortress Europe," the trick that kept the Nazis from fortifying Sicily took place months before. The dead body of a British major, "William Martin," had been hauled in on April 30 by fishermen off the port of Huelva, Spain, a pro-German outpost, his briefcase full of top-secret letters by British officers detailing the invasions of Greece and Sardinia and sure to land in the eager hands of the Germans. In fact, the body was a plant, a suicide victim actually named Glyndwr Michael. He had been plucked from a morgue in London, kept on ice for a few months, dressed in a well-used British Navy uniform, stocked with identification, fake official letters and correspondence from his father and fiancee "Pam," and slipped into the Spanish waters by a British submarine. London Times writer at large Macintyre (Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal, 2007, etc.) skillfully unravels this crazy, brilliant plan by degrees. The "corkscrew minds" at British Navy Intelligence, headed by John Godfrey and his assistant, Ian Fleming (yes, of James Bond fame), put forth the germ of the idea, which was then developed to its fantastic implementation by RAF flight officer Charles Cholmondeley and Lt. Commander Ewen Montagu, first under the code name "Trojan Horse," then the more prosaic "Operation Mincemeat." The author's chronicle of how the last two intelligence officers lovingly created an entire personality for "Major Martin" makes for priceless reading.Astoundingly, as Winston Churchill noted exultantly, the Nazis swallowed the bait "rod, line and sinker."Macintyre spins a terrific yarn, full of details gleaned from painstaking detective work.
From the Publisher
Praise for the U.S. edition:

"Here, finally, is the complete story with its full cast of characters (not a dull one among them), pure cathnip to fans of World War II thrillers and a lot of fun for everyone else."
Joseph Kanon, Washington Post Book World

"Brilliant and almost absurdly entertaining…The cast of characters involved in Mincemeat, as the caper was called, was extraordinary, and Macintyre tells their stories with gusto."
Malcolm Gladwell, The New Yorker

"OPERATION MINCEMEAT is utterly, to employ a dead word, thrilling. But to call it thus is to miss the point slightly in terms of admiring it properly….What makes OPERATION MINCEMEAT so winning, in addition to Mr. Macintyre’s meticulous research and the layers of his historical understanding, is his elegant, jaunty, and very British high style."
Dwight Garner, New York Times

"Macintyre, whose previous book chronicled the incredible exploits of Eddie Chapman, the crook turned spy known as Zigzag, excels at this sort of twisted narrative….Great fun."
Jennet Conant, New York Times Book Review

"A nearly flawless true-life picaresque…zeroes in on one of the few times in war history when excessive literary imagination, instead of hobbling a clandestine enterprise, worked beyond its authors’ wildest dream….Almost inedibly rich with literary truffles—doppelgangers, obsession, transgression, self-fashioning….It is hard to oversate how cinematic this story really was."
New Republic

"Another true WWII tale that reads like something by Ian Fleming….the fullest account yet."
Entertainment Weekly

"London Times writer-at-large Macintyre offers a solid and entertaining updating of WWII's best-known 'human intelligence' operation....[and] recounts [the] adventures and misadventures with panache."
—Publishers Weekly

"[An] edge-of-your-seat history....unveiling previously classified files and even unearthing living witnesses to the grand conspiracy."
Kirkus Reviews

"This retelling of a well-known part of World War II espionage history will appeal to military history buffs, especially those new to this particular episode, and to readers of adventure fiction, who will find it hard to put down."
Library Journal

#1 Sunday Times [London] Bestseller

Praise for the UK edition:

"A terrific book….Students of the second world war have been familiar with Mincemeat for many years, but Macintyre offers a mass of new detail, and enchanting pen portraits of the British, Spanish and German participants. His book is a rollicking read for all those who enjoy a spy story so fanciful that Ian Fleming—himself an officer in Montagu’s wartime department—would never have dared to invent it."
Max Hastings, The Sunday Times [London]

"A chillingly good book….Macintyre has taken a well-known story of wartime deception, embellished it, and shown that it was even more ingenious and even more risky than we had all supposed."
—The Spectator

"Fascinating ... The complexities and consequences of the story that Macintyre tells in OPERATION MINCEMEAT are compelling – a tribute to his impressive abilities as a sleuth (ones that we’ve witnessed in his previous books) and to his capacities as a writer. He has the instincts of a novelist rather than a historian when it comes to elision , exposition, narrative and pace, and is depiction of character is vividly alive to nuance and idiosyncrasy. Like the best novelists, he understands that all people are fundamentally individual – odd and unique to themselves – and that stereotypes exist only in bad fiction, whether on the page or on screen."
William Boyd, The Times [London]
 
"Ben Macintyre turns up trumps in this rollicking tale of a second world war mission to dupe the Germans by using a corpse bearing fictional military plans ... The cast of characters is irresistible, and Macintyre’s enthusiasm for them richly merited ... a terrific book with exceptional photographs of everybody, including the corpse. Students of the second world war have been familiar with Mincemeat for many years, but Macintyre offers a mass of new detail, and enchanting pen portraits of the British, Spanish and German participants. His book is a rollicking read for all those who enjoy a spy story so fanciful that Ian Fleming – himself an officer in Montagu’s wartime department – would never have dared to invent it."
Max Hastings, The Sunday Times [London]

"Macintyre has a journalist’s nose for a great story, and a novelist’s skill in its narration. If anything, Operation Mincemeat is 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."
Craig Brown, ‘Book of the Week’, The Mail on Sunday

"The Times's associate editor, 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 ... In the story of the homeless Welsh vagrant, Glyndwr Michael, whose body proved so much more worthwhile in death than in life, there is enough pathos and tragedy to remind you that you're reading real life-or-death stuff, influencing the outcome of the entire war, rather than enjoying a rollicking novel, rollicking though the book often is. There's romance, and glamour, and even the splendidly named Sir Bentley Purchase, the cheerfully black-humoured coroner of St Pancras who (illegally) colluded in the procurement of the body. It's hard not to feel, sometimes, that you are reading of impossibly distant times, when men, even dead men, were real men, rather than overgrown toddlers ... The shock is not that this all happened, but that it wasn't so very long ago."
—The Observer [London]

"Ben Macintyre skilfully breathes life into the diverse cast of characters involved in the plan, imaginatively fleshing out the colourful personalities on both sides ... a diverting account of a pivotal moment in history."
—Metro

The Barnes & Noble Review

Ben Macintyre's exuberant, impious account of Operation Mincemeat puts on record again the debt British intelligence once owed to an upper-class infatuation with detective fiction. The scheme was nothing less than a glorious red herring: setting a body adrift kitted out as a British officer carrying false war plans to mislead the Germans. It was, as it happens, a ruse almost certainly suggested by Ian Fleming, assistant for a time to Admiral John Godfrey, head of British Naval intelligence. And it was eventually implemented by, among others, John Masterman, the chairman of the disinformation-disseminating Twenty Committee: an Oxford don in civilian life and author of detective novels. Until now the venture has been best known from the 1956 movie, The Man Who Never Was, itself based on the book of the same title by Ewen Montagu, one of the men involved in setting it up. But opened archives and Macintyre's penchant for questioning accepted versions of practically everything, have produced a brilliant revisionist history, one abounding in eccentrics, rum characters, and over-grown boys.

Macintyre begins by providing entertaining sketches of the "high-powered spooks" who combined to create the remarkable fiction of Major William "Bill" Martin, supposedly drowned off the coast of Spain in April 1943, while transporting top-secret documents revealing that the Allies meant to invade Sardinia and the Balkans instead of Sicily, the actual target. In addition to Fleming, Masterman, and Montagu already mentioned, we meet Charles Christopher Cholmondeley (pronounced "Chumly," of course), a gangling 25-year-old with a bravura waxed mustache, huge feet, and "a strange, loping gait"; Johnny Bevan, who had "that rare English ability to achieve impressive feats with a permanent air of embarrassment"; and Dudley Wrangle Clark, "unmarried, nocturnal, and allergic to children," a man who would, on occasion, dress up as a woman. Among the others involved were a laughing coroner, Bentley Purchase, who "loved Gilbert and Sullivan operas, toy trains, boiled eggs, and his model piggery in Ipswich" and Sir Bernard Spilsbury, senior pathologist of the Home Office, an unlovely, arrogant man who "looked like a lizard in a lab coat, and smelled permanently of formaldehyde."

And then there's the corpse. In his book, Montagu spun a patriotic tale of a grieving father giving consent to the employment of the body of his son, dead of exposure, for a clandestine mission. The truth, in contrast, is a bleakly ironic commentary on British society, for the body, procured quite illegally, was that of a working-class Welshman, Glyndwr Michael, who, indigent and starving, had killed himself in January 1943 by eating rat poison. "They gave him a hometown, a rank, a regiment, and a love of fishing," writes Macintyre. "He would be furnished with a watch, a bank manager, a solicitor, and cuff links. They gave him all the things that Glyndwr Michael had lacked in his luckless life, including a supportive family, money, friends, and love."

The plotters fussed zealously over their creation's attire and personal effects, including love letters, bills, and theatre tickets. They made him an officer in the Royal Marines, for whom battle dress was standard, in order to circumvent the ghoulish problem of furnishing a custom-made dress uniform for a top-secret corpse. Most of the wardrobe and its accouterments were purchased by Cholmondeley who then wore the outfit for three months to give it some wear while Major Martin lay in cold storage. For his part, John Masterman took on the task of supplying underwear, finding personal satisfaction in pressing into service the wooly undergarments of his arch-rival at Oxford, the distinguished historian H. A. L. Fisher, "a figure of ponderous grandeur and gravity" who had been run over and killed by a truck. In addition to such pleasant mischief, the project also gave rise to "one of the oddest love affairs imaginable," as Ewen Montagu became smitten with the young woman who contributed her photo to serve as "Pam," the Major's fiancée, writing letters to her under that name and signing himself "Bill."

But for all this foostering about with props and persona -- of which there was plenty more -- Major Martin's handlers were chillingly aware that many thousands of British, Canadian, and American lives would be lost if the German secret service saw through the ruse. The fraudulent information contained in the planted papers had to be subtly conveyed and absolutely convincing or it would confirm that Sicily, presented as a decoy, would be the actual target. Producing the documents -- a letter from General Nye to General Alexander and another from Lord Mountbatten to General Cunningham -- turned into an imbroglio of debate and review with everyone, from the Twenty Committee to the Chiefs of Staff, getting involved. "It is doubtful," says Macintyre, "whether any documents in the war were subjected to closer scrutiny or more revisions."

Macintyre's account of the plan's refinement, execution, and remarkable success is fast-paced, witty, and quite as filled with plot twists and suspense as any novel. For one thing, the papers had a devil of a time getting themselves into German hands thanks to the unlooked-for integrity and anti-German sentiments of certain Spanish authorities who tried to return the Major's documents to the British before the Germans could examine them. It took further machinations on the part of the British secret service and its fantastical network of bogus German informers to finally outmaneuver Spanish honor. What is more, it is quite certain that Major Martin would not have accomplished his mission had he actually been in a detective novel and subject to the scrutiny of one of the sleuths his creators so admired. Evidence of poisoning, his state of decomposition, and some solecisms in his personal effects would never have escaped the notice of one of those prodigies of observation and deduction. But Martin's handlers had luck on their side -- and something else too.

That Mincemeat was "swallowed rod, line and sinker" -- to quote a telegram sent to Winston Churchill -- owed a great deal to what Admiral Godfrey had identified as the two essential weaknesses of the German secret service: "wishfulness" and "yesmanship," that is, their agents' tendency to skew and even manufacture intelligence that flattered the preconceptions of Hitler and his top advisors. But beyond this, as Macintyre shows, there is compelling evidence that at least one high-ranking German was not duped, that he hated Hitler and his war to such a degree that he connived at the operation's success. That's a real stunner, but only one of several Macintyre lays before us.

This is a terrific book written with intelligence and story-telling brio. Marked by enormous research and a taste for the incongruous, the unlikely, and the just plain funny, it is generously embellished with any number of tributary stories and peopled by bizarre minor players. Ben Macintyre has achieved what one might have thought was impossible, he has written a book that surpasses even his last one, the once peerless Agent Zigzag.

--Katherine A. Powers

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307453273
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/4/2010
  • Pages: 416
  • Product dimensions: 9.54 (w) x 6.58 (h) x 1.35 (d)

Meet the Author

BEN MACINTYRE is writer-at-large and associate editor of the Times of London. He is the author of Agent Zigzag, The Man Who Would Be King, The Englishman’s Daughter, The Napoleon of Crime, and Forgotten Fatherland. He lives in London with his wife, the novelist Kate Muir, and their three children.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Sardine Spotter

José Antonio Rey María had no intention of making history when he rowed out into the Atlantic from the coast of Andalusia in southwest Spain on April 30, 1943. He was merely looking for sardines.

José was proud of his reputation as the best fish spotter in Punta Umbria. On a clear day, he could pick out the telltale iridescent flash of sardines several fathoms deep. When he saw a shoal, José would mark the place with a buoy and then signal to Pepe Cordero and the other fishermen in the larger boat, La Calina, to row over swiftly with the horseshoe net.

But the weather today was bad for fish spotting. The sky was overcast, and an onshore wind ruffled the water's surface. The fishermen of Punta Umbria had set out before dawn, but so far they had caught only anchovies and a few bream. Rowing Ana, his little skiff, in a wide arc, José scanned the water again, the rising sun warming his back. On the shore, he could see the little cluster of fishing huts beneath the dunes on Playa del Portil, his home. Beyond that, past the estuary where the rivers Odiel and Tinto flowed into the sea, lay the port of Huelva.

The war, now in its fourth year, had hardly touched this part of Spain. Sometimes José would come across strange flotsam in the water- fragments of charred wood, pools of oil, and other debris that told of battles somewhere out at sea. Earlier that morning, he had heard gunfire in the distance, and a loud explosion. Pepe said that the war was ruining the fishing business, as no one had any money, and he might have to sell La Calina and Ana. It was rumoured that the captains of some of the larger fishing boats spied for the Germans or the British. But in most ways the hard lives of the fishermen continued as they had always done.

José had been born on the beach, in a hut made from driftwood, twenty- three years earlier. He had never traveled beyond Huelva. He had never been to school or learned to read and write. But no one in Punta Umbria was better at spotting fish.

It was midmorning when José noticed a "lump" above the surface of the water. At first he thought it must be a dead porpoise, but as he rowed closer the shape grew clearer, and then unmistakable. It was a body, floating, facedown, buoyed by a yellow life jacket, the lower part of the torso invisible. The figure seemed to be dressed in uniform.

As he reached over the gunwale to grab the body, José caught a gust of putrefaction and found himself looking into the face of a man, or, rather, what had been the face of a man. The chin was entirely covered in green mold, while the upper part of the face was dark, as if tanned by the sun. José wondered if the dead man had been burned in some accident at sea. The skin on the nose and chin had begun to rot away.

José waved and shouted to the other fishermen. As La Calina drew alongside, Pepe and the crew clustered to the gunwale. José called for them to throw down a rope and haul the body aboard, but "no-one wanted to touch it." Annoyed, José realized he would have to bring it ashore himself. Seizing a handful of sodden uniform, he hauled the corpse onto the stern, and with the legs still trailing in the water, he rowed back to shore, trying not to breathe in the smell.

On the part of the beach called La Bota-the boot-José and Pepe dragged the body up to the dunes. A black briefcase, attached to the man by a chain, trailed in the sand behind them. They laid out the corpse in the shade of a pine tree. Children streamed out of the huts and gathered around the gruesome spectacle. The man was tall, at least six feet, dressed in a khaki tunic and trench coat, with large army boots. Seventeen-year-old Obdulia Serrano spotted a small silver chain with a cross around his neck. The dead man must have been a Roman Catholic.

Obdulia was sent to summon the officer from the defense unit guarding this part of the coast. A dozen men of Spain's Seventy-second Infantry Regiment had been marching up and down the beach earlier that morning, as they did, rather pointlessly, most mornings, and the soldiers were now taking a siesta under the trees. The officer ordered two of his men to stand guard over the body, in case someone tried to go through the dead man's pockets, and trudged off up the beach to find his commanding officer.

The scent of the wild rosemary and jacaranda growing in the dunes could not mask the stench of decomposition. Flies buzzed around the body. The soldiers moved upwind. Somebody went to fetch a donkey to carry the body to the village of Punta Umbria four miles away. From there, it could be taken by boat across the estuary to Huelva. The children dispersed.

José Antonio Rey María, perfectly unaware of the events he had just set in motion, pushed his little boat back into the sea and resumed his search for sardines.

Two months earlier, in a tiny, tobacco-stained basement room beneath the Admiralty building in Whitehall, two men had sat puzzling over a conundrum of their own devising: how to create a person from nothing, a man who had never been. The younger man was tall and thin, with thick spectacles and an elaborate air-force mustache, which he twiddled in rapt concentration. The other, elegant and languid, was dressed in naval uniform and sucked on a curved pipe that fizzed and crackled evilly. The stuffy underground cavern lacked windows, natural light, and ventilation. The walls were covered in large maps and the ceiling stained a greasy nicotine yellow. It had once been a wine cellar. Now it was home to a section of the British Secret Service made up of four intelligence officers, seven secretaries and typists, six typewriters, a bank of locked filing cabinets, a dozen ashtrays, and two scrambler telephones. Section 17M was so secret that barely twenty people outside the room even knew of its existence.

Room 13 of the Admiralty was a clearinghouse of secrets, lies, and whispers. Every day the most lethal and valuable intelligence-decoded messages, deception plans, enemy troop movements, coded spy reports, and other mysteries-poured into this little basement room, where they were analyzed, assessed, and dispatched to distant parts of the world, the armor and ammunition of a secret war.

The two officers-Pipe and Mustache-were also responsible for running agents and double agents, espionage and counterespionage, intelligence, fakery, and fraud: they passed lies to the enemy that were false and damaging, as well as information that was true but harmless; they ran willing spies, reluctant spies pressed into service, and spies who did not exist at all. Now, with the war at its height, they set about creating a spy who was different from all the others and all that had come before: a secret agent who was not only fictional but dead.

The defining feature of this spy would be his falsity. He was a pure figment of imagination, a weapon in a war far removed from the traditional battle of bombs and bullets. At its most visible, war is fought with leadership, courage, tactics, and brute force; this is the conventional war of attack and counterattack, lines on a map, numbers and luck. This war is usually painted in black, white, and blood red, with winners, losers, and casualties: the good, the bad, and the dead. Alongside that conflict is another, less visible species of war, played out in shades of gray, a battle of deception, seduction, and bad faith, of tricks and mirrors, in which the truth is protected, as Churchill put it, by a "bodyguard of lies." The combatants in this war of the imagination were seldom what they seemed to be, for the covert world, in which fiction and reality are sometimes enemies and sometimes allies, attracts minds that are subtle, supple, and often extremely strange.

The man lying in the dunes at Punta Umbria was a fraud. The lies he carried would fly from London to Madrid to Berlin, traveling from a freezing Scottish loch to the shores of Sicily, from fiction to reality, and from Room 13 of the Admiralty all the way to Hitler's desk.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Table of Contents

Preface 11

Chapter 1 The Sardine Spotter 15

Chapter 2 Corkscrew Minds 21

Chapter 3 Room 13 39

Chapter 4 Target Sicily 59

Chapter 5 The Man Who Was 78

Chapter 6 A Novel Approach 97

Chapter 7 Pam 117

Chapter 8 The Butterfly Collector 145

Chapter 9 My Dear Alex 172

Chapter 10 Table-Tennis Traitor 199

Chapter 11 Gold Prospector 218

Chapter 12 The Spy Who Baked Cakes 241

Chapter 13 Mincemeat Sets Sail 257

Chapter 14 Bill's Farewell 282

Chapter 15 Dulce et Decorum 323

Chapter 16 Spanish Trails 344

Chapter 17 Kühlenthal's Coup 364

Chapter 18 Mincemeat Digested 384

Chapter 19 Hitler Loses Sleep 408

Chapter 20 Seraph and Husky 430

Chapter 21 A Nice Cup of Tea 451

Chapter 22 Hook, Line, and Sinker 465

Chapter 23 Mincemeat Revealed 483

Chapter 24 Aftermath 502

Appendix 529

Acknowledgments 538

Notes 541

Select Bibliography 631

Picture Index 637

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 113 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(43)

4 Star

(32)

3 Star

(17)

2 Star

(11)

1 Star

(10)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 114 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 21, 2010

    As engaging as the best fiction....

    You can't make this stuff up, and this book about a plan to fool the Nazis into believing the Allies would attack Greece instead of Sicily, was more gripping than well-written murder mysteries, and all the more so for being true. Mr. Macintryre clearly loves his subject, an ingenious deception plot employed during WWII by the Allies, and his enthusiasm is deliciously contagious. It almost seems inappropriate to have enjoyed this story as much as I did, dealing as it does with life and death issues on an enormous scale. Some of the real life characters who played roles in Operation Mincemeat are fascinating, and fleshed out very well, such as the German intelligence officer who, because of his Jewish ancestry, was overly anxious to please his superiors and was only too happy to believe the incredible. Others I would have liked to hear more about, especially the man whose creative spark was the genesis of the project, Chomedeley.

    11 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 23, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Exciting reading about a little known operation during WWII

    I had seen brief mentions of this in other histories, but not really any information. When I saw this book, I hoped it would give details - and it does. The top secret, almost unknown intelligence group's variety tricks and misinformation operations reads almost like a spy thriller that can be found on the Best Sellers List. The photos included are helpful to follow the story. That this story is true makes it all more exciting. The planning, the problems and the mistakes that almost destroyed the operation kept me on the edge of my seat, even though I knew it succeeded. A fast read, it was hard to put down. Highly recommended for history buffs and spy thriller readers alike.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 29, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    This book was wonderful. It had the read of the best fiction and

    This book was wonderful. It had the read of the best fiction and unfolded at a satisfactory pace, while still giving all the factual background information. I couldn't put it down, and I didn't mind what I might have been missing. 

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 5, 2012

    highly recommend

    As a boy I read "The Man Who Never Was" and was fascinated. What a pleasure it was to read, nearly 60 years later, the full account.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 23, 2011

    Reads like a thriller..

    "Operation Mincemeat" reads like a well written thriller. While extremely entertaining, it is also very enlightening. The story of "The Man Who Never Was" has been written before, but what we find out in Ben Macintyre's account is the rest of the story. The 1953 version written by one of the protagonists, Ewen Montaggu, was an expurgated version approved by the British Secret Services. It was an instant best-seller and the subsequent Hollywood film was a major hit. By serendipitous circumstances Macintyre came across information that opened up this incredible story. What is most interesting in this account is the way Macintyre weaves the stories of the other key players together. Each character has a compelling story individually; put together they provide a fascinating account of one of the Second World War's most successful espionage operations. If you have an interest in the Second World War or espionage this is a must-read book. You will have trouble putting it down until you read the last word.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 26, 2010

    A report, not a book!

    This book is a report, not a story about the events. I found it very disappointing. It would have made such an exciting spy thriller but it reads like a report. I had to stop after 250 pages because I was sooo bored with the report like writing

    2 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 23, 2010

    RECOMMEND

    After all these years the whole story of The Man Who Never Was. I read of this story as a young man and now as an old man. A wonderful story that seems more Hollywood then fact. Interesting how someone who died with so little dignity did so much for the wars outcome. A nice read.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 9, 2013

    Great Book for the serious wwII enthusiast. Great Book for the serious wwII enthusiast. Great Book for the serious wwII enthusiast. Great Book for the serious wwII enthusiast.

    Operation mincemeat is the cover name for a scheme developed by British intelligence agency to deceive Hitler into believing that the Allied forces main attack plan was not Sicily ,but Greece and Sardinia. Knowledge of this ploy comes from records of one of the British Intelligence operators which was just recently found. The story is presented with meticulous detail, describing aspects of the intelligence agency operations that I had no idea existed. The problem I had with the book, may be more of my level of knowledge and interest in world war two activities, than the book but I had difficulty staying with it about half way through because of the in depth analysis and detail. I would definitely recommend this book to war enthusiasts who could appreciate the fine level of analysis and detail.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 7, 2012

    I don't understand the low ratings some have given this book. I

    I don't understand the low ratings some have given this book. I for one found it hard to stop reading and found the material utterly fascinating.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 16, 2012

    True story of courage and luck

    It's amazing that it worked and helped turn the tide of WWII, a little slow at times, but still a good read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 31, 2011

    fantastic book

    reads like a novel. fastidiously researched.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2012

    never gets to the point

    long and plodding

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2013

    Heaven

    She looks at bhp and giggles

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2013

    hi

    anyone here want some sex? ill fuq u hard ladies... ive got a big d.i.c.k. and when i say big i mean BIG. like 12 inches big.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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

    Posted October 26, 2013

    Will

    Ok ill leave after this but i have to s this.ITS A FREE COUNTRY

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2013

    Thomas

    Hey. Dude......

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 1, 2013

    told before and better

    told before and better

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 23, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Sounds great, but it's really, really boring.  So many mundane d

    Sounds great, but it's really, really boring.  So many mundane details that go on and on.  I barely made it through.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2012

    WARRIORS' DEN

    Golddropstar

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 16, 2012

    :-)

    This a great book

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 114 Customer Reviews

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