Cover image for Behind the lines : the oral history of Special Operations in World War II
Title:
Behind the lines : the oral history of Special Operations in World War II
Author:
Miller, Russell.
Personal Author:
Edition:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St.Martin's Press, 2002.
Physical Description:
xii, 287 pages ; 22 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780312266424
Format :
Book

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D810.S7 M478 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
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Summary

Summary

This is the story of special operations in the second world war as it has never been told before-directly by those who took part.

Compiled from interviews, diaries, letters and contemporaneous first-person accounts-many unpublished until now-this oral history follows the adventures of the courageous men and women who volunteered for service with the Untied States' Office of Strategic Services and Britain's Special Operations Executive. They parachuted behind enemy lines, often alone, with orders to cause mayhem. Arrest almost always resulted in torture and imprisonment; sometimes in execution

Trained in the black arts of warfare-sabotage, subversion, espionage, guerrilla tactics and undermining enemy morale by the distribution of insidious propaganda-theirs was a war fought in the shadows. Their activities extended to every theatre of operations: in occupied France, equipped with false identities, they played a deadly game of cat and mouse with the Gestapo; in the Balkans they discovered that the fiery politics of the region were as dangerous as the enemy; in the Burmese jungle, in some of the worst combat conditions of the war, they led native marauders in surprise attacks against the Japanese. From Britain they were supported by a team of back-room inventors who produced expertly forged documents and dreamed up ingenious devices like exploding rats and invisible ink.

The special agents of World War Two really were a breed apart. This is their extraordinary story. In their own words.


Author Notes

Russell Miller was born in east London and began his career in journalism at the age of 16. While under contract to the Sunday Times magazine, he won four press awards and was voted Writer of the Year by the Society of British magazine Editors. He is the author of eleven previous books, most recently an acclaimed history of the legendary Magnum photo agency.


Reviews 2

Booklist Review

In step with combat by American special-operations forces in the past year, the publication of new books about these units has noticeably increased. Carney participated in the disastrous 1980 special-ops mission to rescue American diplomats in Teheran. By that year, Carney had redirected his career from coaching football at the Air Force Academy to organizing the service's "combat control" units--the specialists who set up airstrips in hostile territory. Carney did so in Iran and gives here (with the help of professional writer Schemmer) his eyewitness account of what went wrong when Delta Force arrived at his improvised airstrip. His point in baring problems he experienced (he also flays with equal force the deadly mistakes made during the 1983 invasion of Granada) is to illustrate lessons learned and the increasing reliance on special-ops units by the U.S. military. Miller's hook is readers' unflagging fascination with the agents who parachuted into Nazi-occupied Europe. Also fueling the popularity of WW II^-themed espionage fiction (e.g., Alan Furst's spy novels), these readers are a natural audience for Miller's anthology. Compiled from interviews diaries, letters, and first-person accounts, these stories form an oral history of the adventures of men and women with Britain's Special Operations Executives and the U.S. Office of Strategic Services. --Gilbert Taylor


Library Journal Review

For this oral history of special operations in World War II, Miller, the author of a previous oral history of the D-Day invasion (Nothing Less Than Victory), used personal interviews with the survivors (both from British Special Operations Executives and the U.S. Office of Strategic Services) and their letters to tell each dramatic story. Chapters center on the war's major events, with the fighting in Europe getting larger coverage than that in the Pacific. Each person tells a convincing story of high risk and occasional adventure heightened by the likelihood of capture by the enemy. Capture often meant torture, imprisonment, and death, and life expectancy was about six weeks. Special agents were more often than not turned in by civilians. Each narrative is a true accomplishment and all the more so (from a detached reader's point of view, at least) if the agent were caught. An enjoyable and fascinating read, this book should be of interest to subject specialists or general readers who like the World War II works of Stephen Ambrose or Cornelius Ryan. Recommended for both public and academic libraries.-Mark Ellis, Albany State Univ., GA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.