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Double Cross

Cover of Double Cross

Double Cross

The True Story of the D-Day Spies
Borrow Borrow

In his celebrated bestsellers Agent Zigzag and Operation Mincemeat, Ben Macintyre told the dazzling true stories of a remarkable WWII double agent and of how the Allies employed a corpse to fool the Nazis and assure a decisive victory. In Double Cross, Macintyre returns with the untold story of the grand final deception of the war and of the extraordinary spies who achieved it.

On June 6, 1944, 150,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy and suffered an astonishingly low rate of casualties. D-Day was a stunning military accomplishment, but it was also a masterpiece of trickery. Operation Fortitude, which protected and enabled the invasion, and the Double Cross system, which specialized in turning German spies into double agents, deceived the Nazis into believing that the Allies would attack at Calais and Norway rather than Normandy. It was the most sophisticated and successful deception operation ever carried out, ensuring that Hitler kept an entire army awaiting a fake invasion, saving thousands of lives, and securing an Allied victory at the most critical juncture in the war.

The story of D-Day has been told from the point of view of the soldiers who fought in it, the tacticians who planned it, and the generals who led it. But this epic event in world history has never before been told from the perspectives of the key individuals in the Double Cross System. These include its director (a brilliant, urbane intelligence officer), a colorful assortment of MI5 handlers (as well as their counterparts in Nazi intelligence), and the five spies who formed Double Cross's nucleus: a dashing Serbian playboy, a Polish fighter-pilot, a bisexual Peruvian party girl, a deeply eccentric Spaniard with a diploma in chicken farming and a volatile Frenchwoman, whose obsessive love for her pet dog very nearly wrecked the entire plan. The D-Day spies were, without question, one of the oddest military units ever assembled, and their success depended on the delicate, dubious relationship between spy and spymaster, both German and British. Their enterprise was saved from catastrophe by a shadowy sixth spy whose heroic sacrifice is revealed here for the first time.

With the same depth of research, eye for the absurd and masterful storytelling that have made Ben Macintyre an international bestseller, Double Cross is a captivating narrative of the spies who wove a web so intricate it ensnared Hitler's army and carried thousands of D-Day troops across the Channel in safety.


From the Hardcover edition.

In his celebrated bestsellers Agent Zigzag and Operation Mincemeat, Ben Macintyre told the dazzling true stories of a remarkable WWII double agent and of how the Allies employed a corpse to fool the Nazis and assure a decisive victory. In Double Cross, Macintyre returns with the untold story of the grand final deception of the war and of the extraordinary spies who achieved it.

On June 6, 1944, 150,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy and suffered an astonishingly low rate of casualties. D-Day was a stunning military accomplishment, but it was also a masterpiece of trickery. Operation Fortitude, which protected and enabled the invasion, and the Double Cross system, which specialized in turning German spies into double agents, deceived the Nazis into believing that the Allies would attack at Calais and Norway rather than Normandy. It was the most sophisticated and successful deception operation ever carried out, ensuring that Hitler kept an entire army awaiting a fake invasion, saving thousands of lives, and securing an Allied victory at the most critical juncture in the war.

The story of D-Day has been told from the point of view of the soldiers who fought in it, the tacticians who planned it, and the generals who led it. But this epic event in world history has never before been told from the perspectives of the key individuals in the Double Cross System. These include its director (a brilliant, urbane intelligence officer), a colorful assortment of MI5 handlers (as well as their counterparts in Nazi intelligence), and the five spies who formed Double Cross's nucleus: a dashing Serbian playboy, a Polish fighter-pilot, a bisexual Peruvian party girl, a deeply eccentric Spaniard with a diploma in chicken farming and a volatile Frenchwoman, whose obsessive love for her pet dog very nearly wrecked the entire plan. The D-Day spies were, without question, one of the oddest military units ever assembled, and their success depended on the delicate, dubious relationship between spy and spymaster, both German and British. Their enterprise was saved from catastrophe by a shadowy sixth spy whose heroic sacrifice is revealed here for the first time.

With the same depth of research, eye for the absurd and masterful storytelling that have made Ben Macintyre an international bestseller, Double Cross is a captivating narrative of the spies who wove a web so intricate it ensnared Hitler's army and carried thousands of D-Day troops across the Channel in safety.


From the Hardcover edition.

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    1. Raw Recruits

    Dusko and Johnny were friends. Their friendship was founded on a shared appreciation of money, cars, parties, and women, in no particular order and preferably all at the same time. Their relationship, based almost entirely on frivolity, would have a profound impact on world history.

    Dusan "Dusko" Popov and Johann "Johnny" Jebsen met in 1936 at the University of Freiburg in southern Germany. Popov, the son of a wealthy Serbian industrialist from Dubrovnik, was twenty-five. Jebsen, the heir to a large shipping company, was two years older. Both were spoiled, charming, and feckless. Popov drove a BMW; Jebsen, a supercharged Mercedes 540K convertible. This inseparable pair of international playboys roistered around Freiburg, behaving badly. Popov was a law student, while Jebsen was taking an economics degree, the better to manage the family firm. Neither did any studying at all. "We both had some intellectual pretensions," wrote Popov, but "[we were] addicted to sports cars and sporting girls and had enough money to keep them both running."

    Popov had a round, open face, with hair brushed back from a high forehead. Opinion was divided on his looks: "He smiles freely showing all his teeth and in repose his face is not unpleasant, though certainly not handsome," wrote one male contemporary. He had "a well-flattened, typically Slav nose, complexion sallow, broad shoulders, athletic carriage, but rather podgy, white and well-kept hands," which he waved in wild gesticulation. Women frequently found him irresistible, with his easy manners, "loose, sensual mouth," and green eyes behind heavy lids. He had what were then known as "bedroom eyes"; indeed, the bedroom was his main focus of interest. Popov was an unstoppable womanizer. Jebsen cut a rather different figure. He was slight and thin, with dark blond hair, high cheekbones, and a turned‑up nose. Where Popov was noisily gregarious, Jebsen was watchful. "His coldness, aloofness, could be forbidding, yet everyone was under his spell," Popov wrote. "He had much warmth too, and his intelligence was reflected in his face, in the alertness of his steel-blue eyes. He spoke abruptly, in short phrases, hardly ever used an adjective and was, above all, ironic." Jebsen walked with a limp and hinted that this was from an injury sustained in some wild escapade: in truth it was caused by the pain of varicose veins, to which he was a secret martyr. He loved to spin a story, to "deliberately stir up situations to see what would happen." But he also liked to broker deals. When Popov was challenged to a sword duel over a girl, it was Jebsen, as his second, who quietly arranged a peaceful solution, to Popov's relief, "not thinking my looks would be improved by a bright red cicatrix."

    Jebsen's parents, both dead by the time he arrived in Freiburg, had been born in Denmark but adopted German citizenship when the shipping firm Jebsen & Jebsen moved to Hamburg. Jebsen was born in that city in 1917 but liked to joke that he was really Danish, his German citizenship being a "flag of convenience" for business purposes: "Some of my love of my country has to do with so much of it actually belonging to me." A rich, rootless orphan, Jebsen had visited Britain as a teenager and returned a committed Anglophile: he affected English manners, spoke English in preference to German, and dressed, he thought, "like a young Anthony Eden, conservatively elegant." Popov remarked: "He would no more go without an umbrella than without his trousers."

    Preoccupied as they were with having fun, the two student friends could not entirely ignore the menacing political changes taking place around them in the Germany of the...

About the Author-
  • Ben Macintyre is a writer-at-large for The Times of London and the bestselling author of Operation Mincemeat, Agent Zigzag, The Napoleon of Crime, and Forgotten Fatherland, among other books.

Reviews-
  • AudioFile Magazine Ben MacIntyre's DOUBLE CROSS is a story of the unsung heroes of WWII, British spies who posed as agents for the Third Reich. It's a true story, based on documents only recently released, and a must for history buffs. John Lee does an expert job narrating the book, which is complicated by dozens of ethnic characters, each with a particular dialect and peculiar mannerisms. The story can be appreciated as an audiobook, but a WWII aficionado will need the actual book to keep track of all the characters. Lee's performance emphasizes that double agents were not the square-jawed patriots seen in movies. They had strange motives and psychological compulsions and were a petty odd lot, yet responsible for the Allies' victory. M.S. © AudioFile 2012, Portland, Maine
  • People

    "Gripping stories from the perspective of a remarkable ragtag group of spies who tricked the Nazis in an astounding D-Day deception. Puts other spy tales to shame."

  • Boston Globe
    "It should be said loud and clear that Macintyre is a supremely gifted storyteller. He spins quite a yarn. His books are absurdly entertaining. I would kill for his keen wit. He takes us into a world of bounders, spivs, roués, and men (and women) on the make....Double Cross is a blast."
  • Washington Times "Forget fiction when you are buying beach reading this summer. Ben Macintyre's factual account is more gripping than what you will find anywhere else. It is a story unsurpassed in the long history of intelligence."
  • New Yorker "Macintyre at once exalts and subverts the myths of spycraft, and has a keen eye for absurdity"
  • San Francisco Chronicle "[A] complex, absorbing final installment in his trilogy about World War II espionage....Macintyre is a master storyteller. Employing a wry wit and a keen eye for detail, he delivers an ultimately winning tale fraught with European intrigue and subtle wartime heroics."
  • Washington Post "Superb....the story comes alive again in all its stupendous, unimaginable duplicity....intensely readable"
  • Christian Science Monitor "A wonderfully entertaining story of deception and trickery that is told with verve and wit....Macintyre's early books about espionage in World War II have been bestsellers, and this will be no exception."
  • Columbus Dispatch "Macintyre revels in the surreal aspects of his story, writing with a breezy, almost tongue-in-cheek style. But the author is also adept at communicating the seriousness and the stakes of the underlying game....Nail-biting and chuckle-inducing reading."
  • Richmond Times-Dispatch "Another captivating, improbably fresh story of World War II....Double Cross is ennobling, invigorating and, above all, entertaining. Macintyre's research is impressive, as is his ability to shape disparate facts into a breathless page-turner....Throw in nail-biting suspense and the occasional decadent Nazi (fickle mistress optional) and, with Macintyre in charge, you're virtually guaranteed a history book that reads like a spy novel."
  • Wall Street Journal "
    "It is the riveting tales of these agents on which Ben Macintyre focuses, to full advantage, in Double Cross....Macintyre makes good use of the material. He knows how to let the high drama unfold on its own."
  • New York Post, Required reading
    "London Times writer Macintyre (Agent Zigzag, Operation Mincemeat) concludes his WWII espionage trilogy with the tantalizing tale of an oddball, 'Dirty Dozen'-like group of double agents who fool the Nazis into believing the Allied D-Day attack would come at Calais, not Normandy."
  • Seattle Times "A tale of smarts, personal courage and -- even knowing what happened on June 6, 1944 -- suspense. Where would we be if these troubled, eccentric and hang-it-all characters hadn't known how to lie, and lie well?"
  • Entertainment Weekly "As in his earlier best-sellers about WWII-era spycraft, Agent Zigzag and Operation Mincemeat, Macintyre writes with novelistic flair."
  • New York Post "The story of D-Day -- when 150,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy -- as it's never been told before....this amazing story shows how double agents and spies tricked the German army and saved thousands of Allied lives."
  • WWII Magazine "Only with author Ben Macintyre's scintillating account has this complex human drama, with all its tortuous twists and turns, finally received the cinematic treatment it deserves....This is edge-of-the seat stuff."
  • MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History "Macintyre does a fine job depicting this extraordinary cast and exposing the ambiguous world of espionage....compelling."
  • Publishers Weekly (starred) "With the same skill and suspense he displayed in Operation Mincemeat and Agent Zigzag....Macintyre effortlessly weaves the agents' deliciously eccentric personalities with larger wartime events to shape a tale that reads like a top-notch spy thriller."
  • Booklist "Macintyre has written a tense, exciting real-life spy story that illuminates a largely obscure aspect of WWII."
  • Candice Millard, author of The River of Doubt and Destiny of the Republic
    "With his latest book, Double Cross, Ben Macintyre tells the astonishing true stor
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