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.