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

Bee Wilson writes:

‘In June 1943,’ Ben Macintyre writes, the spymaster Tar Robertson ‘reached the startling conclusion that every single German agent in Britain was actually under his control. Not some, not most, but all of them.’ This changed the game of counter-espionage. As well as using their double agents defensively, to monitor German intelligence or to dupe the enemy into a false sense of security, the British were now in a position where they could actively feed lies to the Germans. Operation Fortitude was a complicated ruse performed by a troupe of eccentric spies, some real and some imaginary, to give the impression that the British cross-Channel invasion would happen in the Pas de Calais, rather than Normandy, so that German troops would cluster in the wrong place. The plan extended to undercover pigeons and a fake Montgomery played by a ‘boozy’ Australian actor with dyed sideburns, who made himself visible in Gibraltar to give the impression that Monty was on his way to North Africa. Were it not for this ‘web of deception’, as Macintyre puts it, the Normandy landings might have ended ‘in a massacre’. The question you keep asking yourself, as you read Macintyre’s enjoyable account, is how the Germans could have been so stupid.

(LRB 19 July 2012)

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