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Compiled from interviews, diaries, letters and contemporaneous first-person accounts - many never before published - this oral history follows the adventures of the courageous men and women who volunteered for service with Britain's Special Operations Executives and the United States' Office of Strategic Services. They parachuted behind enemy lines, often alone, with orders to cause mayhem. Arrest almost always resulted in torture and emprisonment; sometimes in execution. 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 they led native marauders in surprise attacks against the Japanese. Supported by a team of back-room boffins who 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.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780436205347
ISBN-10: 0436205343
Format: Hardback
(241mm x 160mm x 25mm)
Pages: 304
Imprint: Martin Secker & Warburg Ltd
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 11-Jul-2002
Country of Publication: United Kingdom


US Kirkus Review » Armed with little more than cyanide pills, countless men and women parachuted behind enemy-held lines during WWII despite forebodings of the worst imaginable fate should they be captured. Miller tells how Britain's Special Operations Executive (SOE) got started and later worked with the US Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the latter the forerunner of the CIA. Modeled largely on Ireland's Sinn Fein, Chinese guerilla operations against Japan, Spanish irregulars, and the Nazis, both agencies fomented industrial and military sabotage, labor agitation, disinformation, attacks against leaders like Hitler and Heydrich, boycotts, and riots. Volunteers were secretly selected, with the ablest ones trained in martial arts, radio telegraphy, cryptography, and parachuting. Others made false passports, foreign-appearing clothing, and even stuffed disemboweled rats with explosives. Sixty-plus years after WWII, a hundred or so ex-participants in both SOE and OSS gave Miller firsthand accounts of their exploits. Both famous and obscure patriots tell all: the rigors of training, the horrors of landing in the wrong places, their treatment by traitors in France and elsewhere, the cruelties of Gestapo and Japanese interrogators, and the deprivations they faced from lack of food, horrible terrain, failed communications, and worse. Miller has edited this first-of-a-kind compilation of interviews with typical British wartime "chinupmanship" and has taken the unusual step of naming one Steve Sierros, secretary of Virginia's OSS Society, as nondeserving of thanks for ignoring the requests for returned phone calls, letters, or faxes. An excellent recounting of events worldwide that involved heroic doings beyond the call of usual wartime service. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author Biography - Russell Miller

Russell Miller is a prize-winning journalist and the author of six previous books. His last work, on the Magnum photo agency, was described by John Simpson as 'the best book on photo-journalism I have ever read', and his oral history of D-Day, Nothing Less Than Victory, was widely acclaimed, both in Britain and in the United States.

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