The English have always appreciated, even treasured, eccentricity, and nowhere was this more evident than in the staffing of the British Secret Service during WW II. In particular, a motley band of men and women located in Room 13 in the basement of the Admiralty building successfully launched one of the most bizarre deceptions of the entire war—Operation Mincemeat.
Based loosely on the ancient wartime strategy of the Trojan horse, the gang of room 13 outfitted a corpse as a British officer, stuffed his pockets with secret but misleading papers concerning the Allied invasion of southern Europe, and floated his body off the coast of Spain in hopes that the corpse’s false information would reach the Nazi command. The plan was quite simple, but devilishly difficult to execute. Stumbling blocks included finding a corpse, transporting the corpse, creating a persona for the corpse (including a girlfriend, family, and service record), composing the fake papers, monitoring the corpse’s journey, and not the least, getting the Nazi’s to take the bait.
At times the entire exercise resembles a Judy & Mickey movie (“Let’s put on a show!”), but the dangers were very real if the Germans discovered the deception.
This is a remarkable true story, which includes all the ingredients of great spy fiction. I wouldn’t necessarily call it “beach” reading, but that is where I read it—in 2 days!