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Secret War: The Secret Agents Who Set Europe Ablaze

13 episodes on 4 DVDs, $79.99.

Without their edge in espionage, the Allies would have struggled—at best—to win the war. One of Churchill’s first acts as prime minister was to form the elite Special Operations Executive (SOE), which he ordered to “set Europe ablaze” by aiding resistance movements, abetting assassinations and sabotage, and feeding disinformation to the enemy. Besides episodes on famed double agents like Tricycle and Garbo, this wide-ranging, informative series examines the lesser-known but critical members of Allied intelligence and shows how essential they were to the war effort.

The cast of characters runs the gamut from surprising to incredible. The British Army’s Special Interrogation Group in North Africa—40 German-speaking Jews— debriefed captured troops from Rommel’s Afrika Korps. Fashion mogul Hardy Amies, his uniform tailored on Savile Row, ran Operation Ratweek, which in 1944 sowed confusion and wreaked havoc behind German lines in Belgium. Banker Charles Hambro, head of SOE’s Scandinavian section, dreamed up operations that successfully deprived the Germans of Norway’s heavy water, essential for making atomic bombs. Polish-born Christine Granville organized a courier network, then parachuted into France as Madame Pauline, where she helped unite Italian partisans and French Maquis in antiGerman operations in the Alps.

A fascinating intro to how and why Allied intelligence operations went far beyond Enigma, Mincemeat, and Double Cross.


Originally published in the October 2012 issue of World War II. To subscribe, click here.