In which I encourage you to read the first of five non-fiction books that caught my fancy (#87).
I knew the bare bones about this intelligence plot from watching The Man Who Never Was and learning a bit of background in a class my junior year of college. The details sound fantastic: British intelligence officers in World War II created a plot in which a dead man was given a new identity and falsified secret documents, then dropped off the coast of neutral Spain, all to deliver false intelligence back to the Axis powers about a pending Allied invasion.
No wonder James Bond books have such great plots and gadgets.
This story was originally told in a book by one of the key players, also entitled The Man Who Never Was, which served as the basis for the movie. But secrecy restrictions and personal hubris obscured some of the facts, and then Hollywood artistic license further muddied the waters.
I would recommend the movie, but I loved reading the book. I encourage you to give it a try — the writing bears no resemblance to a dry history, and the events read like a fictional spy caper. The people who took part in the plan are all dynamic characters that could have stepped out of any spy novel, and whose characteristics have probably been incorporated into more than one by the likes of Ian Flemming.
I think this was enough to set me onto a bit of a WWII intelligence tear. I’m looking at you, Agent Zigzag and A Man Called Intrepid.
Interested in Operation Mincemeat, but not willing to commit to the book? Check out this feature in the New Yorker for more details on the book.