During World War II, the Allies developed myriad tricks, promulgated deceiving information, employed spies and double agents, and in general, did whatever they could to confuse the enemy.
Unlike the limited focus of Paul Janeczko’s Secret Soldiers (2019), Swanson’s effort describes a wide range of varied subversive operations, including plans for biological warfare, the use of camouflage, the work of spies, and the efforts to blow up important dams in Germany’s industrial Ruhr Valley, each chapter beginning with an imagined, humorous “wanted” poster. Much of the information is presented in a somewhat flippant way that sharply contrasts with the subject matter. Material on the war work of gay, closeted mathematician Alan Turing, who died tragically some years after the war, blithely concludes, “Cheers to Alan!” A chapter that describes plans to use anthrax to kill German cows begins with a “wanted” poster seeking volunteers to assist: “It will be a great way to cull the herd,” it suggests. Factual errors appear often enough to undermine the presentation: Sheep and not cows perished in one of the anthrax experiments described; brave spy Noor Inayat Khan, a British Muslim woman, didn’t assist before and after D-Day operations since the Germans arrested her eight months before; and the statement that the atomic bomb Little Boy “rocked the homes” of the residents of Hiroshima is a severe understatement. In contrast to the narrative, this effort includes outstanding period photographs.
Disappointing. (Nonfiction. 10-14)