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"Operation Mincemeat" by Ben MacIntyre, a Book Review

Discussion in 'ETO, MTO and the Eastern Front' started by George Patton, Jul 26, 2012.

  1. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    This is another one I read recently.

    As the name suggests, its the story of Operation Mincemeat (the deception operation in the run up to the Invasion of Sicily involving "Major Martin"). The book assumes you have very little prior knowledge of the Operation, British Intelligence in WWII and the spy rivalry in Spain; so it explains all of these topics. However, it doesn't do so in a way that is annoying for those already aware of these topics.

    GOOD:
    • Gives a very complete picture of the Operation and doesn't glance over any details
    • Includes photos of the letters and items carried by "Major Martin". I didn't know these existed in the public domain, so I was pleasantly surprised.
    • Flows extremely well. MacIntyre is an historian, yet writes like a novelist -- it keeps you interested throughout, and doesn't get dry.
    • A good mix of cold facts and amusing stories. As you may expect, there are a good number of references to Ian Fleming's eccentric plans, and many of the unique personalities working in intelligence.
    • Provides a good view of British Intelligence in the first half of WW2, even though it is not the book's purpose (the purpose, of course, is to discuss Operation Mincemeat).
    • Everything mentioned in the book is tied directly to the Operation. For example, the book describes the workings of British Intelligence by how it related to the Operation.
    • Provides adequate information about the participants' lives (even post-war). When I'm reading, I always want a to know about of the key participants, not just how they acted in such a time period. Many books don't do this.
    • MacIntyre did quite a bit of research for his book -- he didn't just assemble information that was already out there. Notably, he found out the inspiration for the Operation came from a 1939 Ian Fleming memo. He also confirmed "Major Martin's" identity.
    BAD:
    • MacIntyre does go off on tangents to provide information on the key participants. So you might have 3 or 4 pages dedicated to the life of a participant that doesn't directly discuss the Operation. As I said, I like this, but others may find it irritating and irrelevant. I only thought that one tangent was excessive.

    This is another very good book. I highly recommend it.
     
    brndirt1 and belasar like this.
  2. buk2112

    buk2112 Member

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    Great job on your breakdown of this book. I also enjoyed this book and very much would recommend it.
     
  3. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    I read this book as well. I thought it was a good job, and more thorough than The Man Who Never Was, which I read many years ago.
     
  4. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    Montagu was still secretive about the "Mincemeat" until he died and he took a lot of flak for writing his account of it from the British intelligence services. His partner (Cholmondeley) refused to be identified publicly, and the participants refused to talk about the body of "Major Martin". The original is a good read, but doesn't give all the information -- merely what Montagu felt like and/or was allowed to reveal to the public. Luckily, MacIntyre wasn't dealing with the same circumstances.

    As a side note, I saw in "WWII Magazine" that MacIntyre has a new book out called "Double Cross" (about the D-Day deception operation using double agents). Has anyone read it? I'm considering getting it next time I'm at the store.
     
  5. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    I agree. Reading both books was informative, to say the least.
     
  6. Clementine

    Clementine Member

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    I also read Operation Mincemeat and thought it was excellent.

    They made a movie out of Montagu's book in 1956 starring Clifton Webb as Montagu. Montagu had a small role in the movie.
     
  7. belasar

    belasar Court Jester Staff Member

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    Thanks for another good review!
     
  8. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    I agree with all your review, and like the others who also read the book it is well worth the time it takes to read it. Very good book.
     
  9. George Patton

    George Patton Canadian Refugee

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    Here's the trailer:

    [video=youtube;41EsdWzO-4M]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41EsdWzO-4M[/video]

    At the 8 second mark (group shot around the table) I think the real Montagu is the second man from the right.
     

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