Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Review of "The Double-Cross System: In the War of 1939 to 1945," by J. C. Masterman

 Review of

The Double-Cross System: In the War of 1939 to 1945, by J. C. Masterman

Five out of five stars

The wartime double agent spy system

 It is a fact of the world that nations spy on each other. In peacetime, it is lower key in the sense that there is little in the way of urgency or violence. That changes when nations are at war, the stakes are higher, and the consequences of success and failure magnified. No area of spying is more challenging that that of the double agent, a person that is recruited by one side but ends up working for the other. Sometimes, when they are the best, they work for both sides.

 This book is about some of the double agents that the British ran during World War II. It is not full of wild and dangerous exploits, the author lists many of the more prominent agents based on their code names and their operations. Running a double agent working for your side is very much a difficult operation. It is necessary for the agent to send useful information on occasion so their handlers on the other side don’t get suspicious that they have turned.

 Furthermore, there are times when elaborate ruses have to be organized and executed. In World War II, the most significant such operation was when the Allies worked to confuse the Germans regarding where the Allies would land when they invaded Europe in 1944. The landings were so problematic that even the movement of a German division, specifically an armored one, away from the landing point could make the difference between success or failure.

 While it is not loaded with wild spy action, this book is nevertheless fascinating. For it shows the double-cross spy game for what it is, a duplicitous game where it is necessary to pass along some truth in order to maintain the credibility of your spies. All the while saving your main actions of deception for when it is really needed.

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