The Ariadne Objective: The Underground War to Rescue Crete from the Nazisby Wes Davis
In the bleakest years of World War II, when it appeared that nothing could slow the German army, Hitler set his sights on the Mediterranean island of Crete, the ideal staging ground for/b>
The incredible true story of the World War II spies, including Patrick Leigh Fermor and John Pendlebury, who fought to save Crete and block Hitler's march to the East.
In the bleakest years of World War II, when it appeared that nothing could slow the German army, Hitler set his sights on the Mediterranean island of Crete, the ideal staging ground for German domination of the Middle East. But German command had not counted on the eccentric band of British intelligence officers who would stand in their way, conducting audacious sabotage operations in the very shadow of the Nazi occupation force.
The Ariadne Objective tells the remarkable story of the secret war on Crete from the perspective of these amateur soldiers – scholars, archaeologists, writers – who found themselves serving as spies in Crete because, as one of them put it, they had made “the obsolete choice of Greek at school”: Patrick Leigh Fermor, a Byronic figure and future travel-writing luminary who as a teenager had walked across Europe in the midst of Hitler's rise to power; John Pendlebury, a swashbuckling archaeologist with a glass eye and a swordstick, who had been legendary archeologist Arthur Evans's assistant at Knossos before the war; Xan Fielding, a writer who would later produce the English translations of books like Bridge over the River Kwai and Planet of the Apes; and Sandy Rendel, a future Times of London reporter, who prided himself on a disguise that left him looking more ragged and fierce than the Cretan mountaineers he fought alongside.
Infiltrated into occupied Crete, these British gentleman spies teamed with Cretan partisans to carry out a cunning plan to disrupt Nazi maneuvers, culminating in a daring, high-risk plot to abduct the island’s German commander. In this thrilling untold story of World War II, Wes Davis offers a brilliant portrait of a group of legends in the making, against the backdrop of one of the war’s most exotic locales.
From the Hardcover edition.
British officers, Cretan guerrilla fighters, a Polish baronesses, and both good and bad Germans are among the diverse cast of characters that fill this exciting historical account of when WWII came to the island of Crete. The narrative focuses on an eccentric group of British amateur Special Forces officers lead by Major Patrick Leigh Fermor, who perpetrate the Cretan guerrilla bands against the Germans in a full throttle, fierce attempt to block Nazi domination in the Middle East. Over several years Fermor and his companions gather intelligence, raid and harass the German occupation from caves and huts deep in the foreboding Cretan mountains. Constantly on the move to avoid searching German forces, the guerrillas gain steady strength until ultimately they take on their most daring mission in the summer of 1944 when they attempt to kidnap the German general commanding the island. Already thrilling in premise, Davis's execution of this previously untold war story is spot on especially when he colors in history with intricate descriptions of the exotic locale. (Nov.)
"Pendlebury and Fermor are just two of the extraordinary characters in Wes Davis' The Ariadne Objective: The Underground War to Rescue Crete From the Nazis…Many of the heroes in Davis' book are so literary that they merit a seemingly oxymoronic designation: swashbuckling men of letters…Drawing on letters, diaries, and long reports to headquarters, he reconstructs their escapades and espionage with incredible, novelistic detail. The story unfolds with the rich characterization and perfectly calibrated suspense of a great novel. It can be hard at points to remember the book is actually a work of nonfiction." –Christian Science Monitor
“Exciting stuff, to be sure, but what really sets the book apart from the host of look-alikes is Davis’s dedication to fleshing out the eccentricity of the main players…. It is surely is a good thing that we no longer associate war with adventure; if it were always as appealing as Davis has made it here, we would grow to love it too much.”–The Daily Beast
"Fascinating." –New York Post
“Already thrilling in premise, Davis's execution of this previously untold war story is spot on especially when he colors in history with intricate descriptions of the exotic locale.”–Publishers Weekly
“An exciting, tense narrative that unfolds like an espionage novel.”–Booklist
"History both crucial and swashbuckling." –Library Journal
"An exciting, earnestly narrated World War II story."–Kirkus Reviews
“Wes Davis's brilliant chronicle of the battle for German-occupied Crete is doubly rich in its description of character and of the perilous varieties of combat. This story tells how classically literate and well nigh fearless Britons allied with brigandish locals to confound, confuse and finally defeat the Nazi occupiers.” –Robert Stone, author of Dog Soldiers
“Meticulously researched and gracefully narrated. The Ariadne Objective shows close-up the final gaudy flowering of the imperial swashbucklers—indifferent to discomfort, fluent in many languages, reckless, eccentrically decadent mischief-makers, never unintentionally ill-mannered—who made their home in the world, before George Smiley took over his grudging service to the Empire.” –Geoffrey Wolff, author of A Day at the Beach
"In the grand tradition of John LeCarre, Wes Davis has created a thrilling tale of espionage in the face of great peril. This is gripping history, masterfully told." –McKay Jenkins, author of The Last Ridge
“The Ariadne Objective is a ripping yarn, and Wes Davis is the perfect person to spin it. Ariadne will appeal to fans of Ben Macintyre's books like Double Cross and Operation Mincemeat and, in fact, to anyone who enjoys a good story well told. This book kept me up well past my bedtime: I couldn't go to sleep until I finished it.” –Ben Yagoda, author of About Town: The New Yorker and the World It Made and How to Not Write Bad
Davis (editor: An Anthology of Modern Irish Poetry, 2010) tells the story of the Cretan soldiers who struck a blow to German morale during World War II. Highlighted in a recent biography by Artemis Cooper, the life of Patrick Leigh Fermor was romantically restless, as he demonstrated early on when he resolved to walk across Europe at age 18. With the breakout of World War II, his knowledge of Greece landed him in a special-ops mission to the German-invaded Crete in order to carry out British espionage. Leigh Fermor cooked up the plot to abduct the occupying German Gen. Friedrich-Wilhelm Müller from the bath; he and his fellow agents had been deeply distraught by the crisis of Cretan occupation, brutally carried out by Müller. After being dropped by parachute on a plateau near the village of Kritsa in 1944, Leigh Fermor rendezvoused with the Cretan patrols and fellow British agent Billy Moss, after many setbacks, and waited for the opportune moment. Even though Müller had been replaced as general, the plan went forward by April. Wearing smuggled German military police uniforms, the two Englishmen, along with a ragtag group of locals, took up position on the route taken by the new general, Heinrich Kreipe, from his residence at Villa Ariadne, near Knossos, to his headquarters near Heraklion. As the two mock Germans stopped the car as part of a routine checkpoint, with Leigh Fermor speaking solid German, the general was seized, the driver knocked out and the car commandeered. After a long trek through goat trails in the mountains, hiding out from the enraged Germans, the group was finally picked up and conveyed to Cairo. It was an amazing abduction and rescue, offering the valiant Cretans renewed hope for liberation. An exciting, earnestly narrated World War II story.
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Meet the Author
WES DAVIS served for two years as an assistant to the director of excavations at Kavousi in Eastern Crete, not far from the plateau where Patrick Leigh Fermor parachuted onto the island during WWII. He holds a Ph.D. in English Literature from Princeton University and is a former assistant professor of English at Yale University. Editor of the Harvard University Press Anthology of Modern Irish Poetry, he has written for publications that include the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and The Nation.
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The Ariadne Objective is an excellent addition to the literature of World War II. Wes Davis takes us into the events of World War II that occurred on the island of Crete. It is a little known battlefield between the British and Germans. It also gives us a look at the role of the Cretans in the guerilla warfare that took place on Crete. This is the story of how British intelligence and in particular John Pendlebury an archaeologist and Patrick Leigh Fermor whom the author follows as a young man in his foot tour of Europe from the Netherlands to Greece before war breaks out. This trip prepared Fermor for working with the Cretans because he merged himself into the various cultures that he passed through as a young man traveling in Europe. At least it prepared him for all of the hiking or walking that he would later do in the mountains of Crete. It is a story of wanting to hurt the German war effort, but at the same time protect the citizens of Crete, which at times suffered at the hands of the occupiers when the guerrilla forces would strike them in some way. The British officers working on Crete were accepted and in many cases hidden by the Cretan population. The story finale builds up to the audacious plan to kidnap a German officer. I would like to have seen a map of Crete in the book so that the reader could trace the routes that the British and Cretan used in the mountains. It is a very good look at a battle area that most histories of World War II overlook. It gives a glimpse of the working of the British intelligence service in the war and the unsung heroes of unknown battles.
This is wonderfully written must read for any war or spy aficionado !!!