AFRH Book Club on “Double Cross, The True Story of the D-Day Spies


Dear Literary Pals,


Our current read, "Double Cross, The True Story of the D-Day Spies," written by Ben Macintyre, both intrigued me and baffled me. Therefore, I am choosing to write about this skillfully woven together book in one big swoop. From the very onset of Macintyre's storytelling, he sets the stage introducing his cast of characters one by one in such a way that it becomes a challenge to put aside this spellbinding account that led up to D-Day, June of 1944. It is noted in "Double Cross," that while at the Tehran Conference in November 1943, the first of the "big three" meetings bringing together Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin, Winston Churchill turned to Joseph Stalin and uttered a typically Churchillian remark that has become a sort of myth: "In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies." Stalin, who had little time for metaphor, replied: "This is what we call military cunning." The D-Day invasion would be protected and supported by a comprehensive, worldwide deception campaign, a body of lies to shield the truth. It was code-named "Bodyguard." And, the pivotal element in the deception of Operation Bodyguard was named "Fortitude." It is Operation Fortitude that author Ben Macintyre reveals in his gripping narrative, "Double Cross."


Webster's Dictionary defines the word spy as "a person who watches the movement or actions of others especially in secret. A person who tries secretly to get information especially about a country or organization for another country or organization." The D-Day spies, Elvira Concepcion Josefina de la Fuente Chaudoir(Bronx), Roman Czerniawski(Brutus), Lily Sergeyev(Treasure), Dusko Popov(Tricycle), and Juan Pujol Garcia(Garbo), accomplished their missions of deception with words, drama, and make-believe. Together, they and their British handlers(another outlandish cast of characters) would save thousands of Allied lives as they helped divert attention from Normandy, and in turn tie up German troops in the Pas de Calais. The D-Day spies who deceived the Germans into believing that the D-Day invasion in 1944 would take place not in Normandy but in the Pas de Calais, a faraway region to the northeast, where a completely fictitious "First United States Army Group" was believed to land. To be noted with the utmost importance: D-Day was a brutal struggle. Allied casualty rates averaged 6,674 a day for the seventy-seven days of the Normandy Campaign. Those numbers would have been much higher, had it not been for the band of men and women fighting their secret battle in 1944.


Author, Ben Macintyre is a riveting storyteller. His introduction of characters is clear, compelling, and brilliant. In particular, the history and personal stories of each of the five D-Day spies was extraordinarily unique. I found myself in the beginning of reading "Double Cross," taking lots of copious notes about not only the "five," but of the likes of Tar Robertson of the British Security Service and of others. It would have taken me weeks to "rewrite" Macintyre's already entertaining and well researched book. Therefore, I have chosen to highlight one of the five D-Day spies to reflect on-Lily Sergeyev(Treasure).


Following Lily Sergeyev's escapades throughout the book was intriguing and nail-biting at the same time. Lily was a French journalist of Russian extraction that was recruited in occupied Paris by the Germans, and sent to Madrid with instructions to make her way to Britain. Instead, she handed herself over to the British who flew her to London and set her up in a Kensington flat. By April of 1944, she was transmitting dozens of deceptive messages using a radio set German intelligence gave to her. Needless to say, Lily delighted her British controllers.


Lily(Treasure), had a very unpredictable and twisty side to her. Three weeks before D-Day, MI5(British Security Service) discovered she had not told them of a code that she could use to warn the Germans if her messages were at the command of MI5. Lily Sergeyev refused point-blank to reveal it, leaving Tar Roberson's team in an extremely compromised situation-had she used her code or not? "Treasure's" near triple-cross was driven by the love of her life, Babs, her small terrier-poodle. When Lily flew to London, Babs did not meet Britain's strict quarantine laws. Lily was promised that her beloved pet would follow her, but Babs was almost certainly disposed of by an over-worked MI6 agent in Madrid. "Treasure" was furious, and the code was a potentially lethal weapon of revenge. Fortunately for the Allies, she never used her code; except, Lily required expert attention. Lily Sergeyev was dismissed of her duties once the Allied troops were ashore in Normandy. She lived the remaining years of her life in Detroit, never becoming a mother; however, Lily cared for many dogs.


"Double Cross," is a story of war. It is a story about the subtle qualities of psychology, character, truth and falsehood and personality; the thin line between fidelity and treachery; and most definitely the strange idiosyncrasies of the spy.


Glenna


ARMED FORCES RETIREMENT HOME VETERANS’ RESPONSES:


From Christine Baldwin (Librarian, AFRH): An interesting beginning to this book, with the introduction of two of the main characters. Further reading shows that counter espionage IS complicated! Our author has obviously done a lot of research and has found the code names of all of these people. At this point they are being introduced and shown how they are going to work together for the end, which will be D-Day. I hope everyone is just flowing with the story. I’ve written down all the names (just like Glenna does when she is in charge) and it’s a lot of people. I relaxed on the last 2 chapter of the 8 we are reading because I was getting caught up on names, code names, etc. and losing the point of the tale. I’m enjoying it more that way. We’ll read through Chapter 16 for next week, which will be the Wednesday before the anniversary of D-Day. By the way, I’ve put up the D-Day display of books in the library!

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