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Bodyguard of Lies by Anthony Cave Brown. Book review by Russell J. Bowen

Allied efforts to deceive Germans in World War II,
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(i.e., dates, titles of offices, descriptions of events, translations of German terms, etc.), based so heavily on secondary references and the oral testimony of individuals long after the events in question-to say nothing of the limitations imposed by security. A number of debatable or controversial matters, however, should be mentioned.
For one thing, the extent of the responsibility of Ultra, deception, and special means for the success of the Normandy invasion is open to at least some question on general principles. The author himself attributes much of the element of tactical surprise to the relaxation of German vigilance because of the unfavorable weather immediately prior to and during the early portion of the invasion. Moreover, intelligence and surprise are generally conceded by military authorities to constitute only a moderate portion of the prerequisites for success in battle, despite the fact that they can be decisive in some cases, as the author would have us believe was true in this instance. While there is little doubt that losses would have been much greater and success would probably have been delayed had there been no Bodyguard, to call it decisive may be journalistic exaggeration.
The tendency of the author to use the terms Ultra and Magic interchangeably is regarded as an oversimplification by American code-breaking specialists, The author tends to excuse use of the term by Bodyguard personnel as a means of cover for the Ultra effort, certainly an understandable justification. Thus, prior to the Anglo-American intelligence collaboration in 1941, the American Magic code-breaking effort against the Japanese had proceeded along quite different lines, largely independent of the British Ultra activity. This was despite the common origins of German and Japanese encoding equipment in early forms of Enigma which were commercially available in Europe in the 1920s. While Cave Brown fails to note the close collaboration between the two efforts that was initiated prior to Pearl Harbor,13 he does pay tribute to American contributions to Bodyguard through signals intercept activity against the Japanese at Asmara, Ethiopia. There, the radio-teleprinter communications of the Japanese ambassador to Germany were being read regularly to reveal high-level German military and political planning information. Presumably, Magic was involved here, rather than Ultra.
The occasional air of condescension about the authors descriptions of the British origins of deception thinking and direction, and the supposed general deterioration of deception efforts when Eisenhower took over the Allied command after the Normandy invasion, is somewhat annoying.14 One receives the distinct impression that the author feels there would have been no coordinated deception activity had the British-and Churchill in particular-not created the magnificent Bodyguard instrument. While perhaps true in terms of the overall concept, tactical deception would certainly have been included in Allied military planning whether or not LCS had ever existed. Debate on this point is bound to be inconclusive and is probably pointless. It would seem to be more a question of degree than of the likelihood of existence or non-existence of deception and special means, had Churchill not introduced the idea.
The author's claim that Cicero,15 the valet of the British ambassador to Turkey who delivered many of that gentleman's secret papers to the Germans, was actually under the control of MI-6 as a deception operation, seems implausible, although there are other indications that this may have been true toward the end of Cicero's tenure. Thus, despite the reported assertion of the former head of MI-6, Stewart Menzies, to
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13Stevenson, op. cit.
14For one thing, deception's greatest role is played prior to the battle.
15The code-name assigned to this spy by German intelligence.
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Posted: May 08, 2007 08:46 AM
Last Updated: Aug 10, 2011 02:34 PM