This book about a World War II intelligence operation proves once again that truth is stranger than fiction. In the spring of 1943, the Allies hoped to invade a Europe that was firmly in control of the Nazis. The obvious target for an invasion was Sicily, but unfortunately, the Germans knew this all too well. So a few creative members of British intelligence came up with a daring plan, codenamed “Operation Mincemeat”: They would float a dead body wearing a British uniform onto a Spanish beach. This corpse would be carrying top-secret — and totally false — documents stating that the Allies were planning to launch a two-pronged attack against Greece and Sardinia; Sicily would only be a “decoy” target. Since neutral Spain had pro-German sympathies, it was hoped that the Spaniards would turn over these documents to the Germans and thus convince the Axis to rearrange their defensive forces. This book tells the story of this extraordinary plan and its even more extraordinary success.
I’m not normally a big reader of nonfiction, but the premise of this book caught my attention right away, and I’m really glad it did! This is an extremely readable and entertaining account of a plan so farfetched, it couldn’t possibly be true — except it is. The book covers every aspect of Operation Mincemeat with meticulous attention to detail, describing everything from the difficulties of acquiring an appropriate body to the creation of a fictitious identity for the corpse to the various personalities who contributed to the formation of the plan. To me, one of the most astonishing things about the operation was how easily everything could have gone wrong. What if the Spanish authorities had returned the documents to the British immediately (as, indeed, some of them tried to do)? What if the Germans had been skeptical of this intelligence instead of eagerly grasping at a welcome piece of news? In short, this is a well-written account of an absolutely fascinating subject. I definitely plan to read more by Ben Macintrye — Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies is already on my wishlist!