Friday, February 14, 2014

“Operation Mincemeat” by Ben Macintyre – The Power of Deception

Operation Mincemeat by Ben Macintyre (Book cover)
Intelligence is perhaps one of the most important aspects of warfare, whether today or in the past. Yes, having greater numbers, better equipment and superior training can certainly lead one to victory, but knowing what to expect, how to react to it, and how to confuse the enemy is just as important in my eyes.

As a matter of fact, it can be argued that much of the Second World War was fought through spies and counter-intelligence officers, with information being one of the, if not the most coveted possession for military leaders.

In Operation Mincemeat Ben Macintyre certainly exemplifies that, as we are treated to a very factual novelization of an operation which eventually allowed the Allies to gain the upper hand on the Axis powers in Europe.

Basically, it is how an MI5 agent and British naval intelligence officers came up with a plan to bait the Nazis into thinking the Allies would invade Southern Europe through Greece or Sardinia rather than Sicily.

In the end, the successful execution of this deception gave the Allies the element of surprise they needed for a successful invasion of that region, dictating the outcome of many coming battles.

I've always enjoyed novels which dealt with the idea of waging war through intelligence, and Operation Mincemeat is, in my opinion, right up there near the top. Macintyre doesn’t sacrifice fidelity for entertainment, and ensures that all the facts from real life are respected and discussed in the book.

Now, does he spruce things up with his own imagination from time to time? It would certainly seem so, though I would argue that ultimately, such modifications are negligible as they do not distort the history of the operation.

We get to learn more than just about the planning and execution of Operation Mincemeat. We are taken deep into the lives of its participants on both sides of the fence. We are shown how the Allies devise and prepare the whole operation, how two mismatched agents go through hell and back to make it all work, how the German spies tentatively took the bait, what they were preparing themselves, and a lot more.

The book is filled with all types of characters, and if it wasn’t for some of the war stories I have read, I would not think such people could exist.

We are introduced to fearless rogues, charming spies, cunning double agents, the traditional war heroes, and of course, the one cadaver that played a greater role in the whole thing than most.

Operation Mincemeat by Ben Macintyre (Book cover)
I guarantee that if you like espionage during the Second World War, you are going to adore Operation Mincemeat; it has everything you would want out of such a novel, from factual accuracy all the way to an engrossing and intelligent writing style that can convey the importance of it all, even though it is already in the past.

Ben Macintyre (Author)

Ben Macintyre

Personal site

Ben Macintyre is a British author, columnist and historian who is currently also a writer for The Times newspaper. He touches on all topics from current affairs in the world of politics to controversies in our history, and he is the author of numerous novels, including The Napoleon of Crime and The Man Who Would be King.

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