The wonderfully entertaining story of the spies who made D-Day possible is both improbable and true.
The invasion of Western Europe by Allied troops in June 1944 was one of the central events of the Second World War. The invasion itself was not a surprise – the Germans knew it was coming. But they had no idea where it would occur – potential landing zones ranged from Norway to the South of France. This set up one of the great intelligence battles of the war: the Allies were desperately anxious to keep the exact location a secret while the Germans were equally intent on finding out.
These complex, multifaceted efforts are the subject of English author Ben Macintyre’s latest book Double Cross. Like "Agent Zigzag" and "Operation Mincemeat," his earlier books about World War II espionage and counterespionage, this is a wonderfully entertaining story of deception and trickery that is told with verve and wit. What makes it even better is that the story is both improbable and true.
The effort to keep the Germans guessing had two basic elements. First, the establishment of the First United States Army Group (FUSAG) based in southeast England near Dover. The entire army group was a ruse – complete with fake barracks, tanks, airplanes, and landing craft – designed to lead the Germans to believe that the attack would come directly across the channel near Pas de Calais. Even after the invasion, the allies maintained the FUSAG fiction to let the Germans think that Normandy landing was a diversionary tactic. It worked – the Germans kept an entire Army Group at Pas de Calais awaiting the second wave. By the time they realized there would be no second landing, the Allies were firmly established in Normandy.
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