Audacious Missions of World War II: Daring Acts of Bravery Revealed Through Letters and Documents From the Time, Osprey Publishing, Oxford, U.K., 2020, $35

While war mostly entails long periods of waiting, there are those who prefer to take action regardless of how dangerous or uncertain of success their efforts may be. The course of World War II was determined not only by the outcomes of great military campaigns, but also by the results of carefully planned and meticulously executed special missions. Such operations required extreme courage, determination and endurance, and participants often did not survive. Audacious Missions of World War II recounts 22 of the most notable special operations, each driven by considerations of high-level strategy and arguably impacting the course of the war. Osprey editors derived the text from records and documents in the British National Archives at Kew.

Each mission falls under one of five categories: “Combined Operations” (i.e., commando raids), “Special Operations Executive Missions,” “Royal Navy Missions,” “Royal Air Force Missions” and “Special Missions.” The operations took place in hot spots around the world, from Norway to India, and involved everything from coordinating the movements of various armies to kidnapping a German general from Crete and delivering him to Allied headquarters in Alexandria. Only one operation described was never attempted—Foxley, a proposed late-war sniper mission to assassinate Adolf Hitler. Audacious Missions is a fascinating read, particularly for those interested in the history of clandestine warfare.

—Robert Guttman