Just this week, I finished reading the second volume of Bodyguard of Lies, an epic historical account by Anthony Cave Brown regarding the “war of deception” waged by the Allies during WW2 to hide the secrets of D-Day from Hitler and Nazi Germany. This out-of-print gem from 1975 is one of the most interesting and fascinating books I have read in a very long time.
I first heard of the book from Ryan Holiday’s email newsletter and on a whim, I picked up both volumes on Amazon in June of last year. It took me more than a year to read through the entire thing, but that was only because I’m an infrequent reader. Most of my reading happens on business trips or lazy staycations, so my reading happened in large spurts. I must say that I enjoyed the entire reading experience immensely, and was surprised how gripping and engaging the writing was for a historical book. Normally I don’t enjoy non-fiction this much!
For those wondering about the title, it’s based on a quote from Winston Churchill:
“In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.”
The topic of deception in war is one that I haven’t studied much, so this was a fascinating introduction to the various methods of “Special Means” used by Britain, America, and Germany in the buildup to the invasion. I’m also somewhat unfamiliar with the details of the history surrounding World War II in Europe, and the author took the time to carefully explain the context surrounding the various deception efforts by the Allies and Germany. I also really enjoyed the glimpse into both sides of the conflict, and especially the detailed accounts of the attempts made by the Schwarze Kapelle to assassinate Hitler and bring an end to the war.
On the whole, I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in World War 2 history, or world history in general. It’s a fascinating story of tactics and strategy, with double (and triple) agents, bluffing, cryptanalysis, and all sorts of amazing technology used to fool the enemy in order to gain the advantage. The writing is super engaging, the amount of detail is impressive (but I didn’t find it to be boring), and the perspective between the Axis and Allied powers seems well-balanced. I’m super glad I took the time to read this.