Friday, April 08, 2011

Recommended -- "The Secret War Against Hitler"

Like most Americans, I love to read a good espionage thriller. Yet one of the most intriguing, enjoyable reading adventures of this type was not found in a Helen MacInnes, John Buchan or Len Deighton novel but in the all-too-real history, The Secret War Against Hitler, a detailed description by William Casey of the Allied espionage efforts directed against Germany during World War II.

The Secret War Against Hitler made for riveting, inspiring and often infuriating reading – maddening because it showed what dire effects upon military strategy can be wreaked by politicians and by misled, egoistic and headstrong military leaders themselves.
Indeed, Casey points out several instances of how the success of Allied military efforts against the Nazi war machine was severely softened because of poor intelligence at the beginning of the war -- poor intelligence that was first due to governments being so ill-prepared and then later by the grossly selfish motives of such men as Josef Stalin and Charles de Gaulle. Casey also tells of devastating mistakes made by blundering bureaucrats, political leaders, and even the military elite. Therefore, what could have been achieved by the inspiring bravery and skill of our fighting men was limited by tragic decisions at the top, making World War II longer and more terrible than was necessary.

Not surprising then that Casey also describes how the post-war scene could have been made much more just and safe as well as more expressive of the ideals that compelled our soldiers and sailors in the first place.

So, as captivating as Casey’s information is, The Secret War Against Hitler will not always be easy, enjoyable reading. But infuriating as some of the events in the book can make you, be assured that it is an excellent and important read. Within its pages you’ll learn about the critical roles played by code-breakers, double agents, the indispensably powerful "paper army," and many superbly deceptive strategies developed by the Allied intelligence corps.

You’ll also see how close the contest was at several junctures, how FDR’s insistence on Germany’s “unconditional surrender” was such a disaster, how Hitler catastrophically misread Allied intentions, how small group and even individual heroism (as in the sabotage success against the Nazi’s atomic bomb hopes) helped save Europe, and much more.

Bill Casey, as many of you will remember, was the director of the CIA under President Ronald Reagan. But Casey’s introduction to intelligence service was in the OSS back in 1943 when he started as a senior clerk in Washington. He ended the war, however, as one of the key leaders in American military intelligence. His work brought this treasured note from the OSS' famous founder, "Wild Bill" Donovan:

It has been the policy of the OSS never to hesitate to assign major responsibility to young men who have what it takes. This policy has been, in my opinion, one of our primary sources of strength. I have been vindicated by the outstanding performances of many, but by none more than your own. You took up one of the heaviest loads which any of us had to carry at a time when the going was roughest, and you delivered brilliantly, forcefully and in good time.

Signed: William J. Donovan, Major-General

The Secret War Against Hitler is an outstanding book written by one of the 20th Century's most interesting and accomplished American patriots. I recommend it without reserve.

(Note too that The Secret War Against Hitler is available in audio form as well. Just take a look right here.)