Sunday, December 28, 2008

Off Topic---World War II Espionage

Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal, Ben McIntyre, Harmony Books, 365pp, 23 b/w photographs, appendices, notes, index, bibliography, $25.95 hardcover, $14.95 softcover, 2007.

Published in Britain as Agent Zigzag: The True Wartime Story of Eddie Chapman, Lover, Betrayer, Hero, Spy, Ben McIntyre's story of a nearly-always-successful safe cracking burglar conning the Nazi's to sending him to England, returning to the Nazis and then the Nazi's returning him to England is remarkable on several levels. McIntyre captures the personalities of Chapman, his accomplices, his Nazi handlers, his British handlers and his lovers. There are neither stereotypes of Nazi or English bureaucrats nor females who fall in love with Chapman in the story. What could be a convoluted story of treason and double cross is well ordered and well explained.

Captured by the English police on the Island of Jersey, Eddie Chapman is in jail when the Nazi's capture the island. Offering himself as a recruit, Chapman leaves a friend in the jail as a hostage. Receiving training in wireless communication, explosives and weapons, Chapman at times teaches his instructors a few clever tricks of the trade. By 1941, he parachuted into England with a wireless radio, a pistol, a suicide pill, and cash with an assignment to blow up a aircraft factory. Within twenty four hours he as found the police and turns himself in with the offer to work for the British against the Nazis.

Chapman and a British officer communicate regularly with the Nazis. The destruction of the airplane factory occurs with the help of a magician and his crew. By way of Portugal, Chapman returns to occupied France with information cooked especially for the Nazis. While receiving training in Norway and having enough money to by a yacht,
Chapman falls in love for third time, and takes pictures of suitable targets for Britain. He returns to Britain again with a wireless radio and cash; this time the mission is to discover the gadget that the British have invented which allows them to sink Nazi subs that are hiding in deep waters. Chapman is supplied more cooked intelligence for the Nazis and even outwits them into revealing what they know about British wireless communication.

Amazingly, Chapman surived the war, finds the girl he left on Jersey, and supports his first wife and daughter; he eludes the Norway girl who was the only person in Europe to whom he revealed his double cross. Living the life of a Nazi collaborator, she was actually a member of the Norwegian resistance movement. With money in the bank he returns to burglary, this time aboard and not in England.

McIntyre's story reveals the workings of the Abwehr and MI5, the difficulty of hiding from the Germans the truth of Ultra device, the devastation of London's suburbs by the V-1 and V-2 rockets. These rockets missed their targets in central London in part because of Chapman's misinformation about the rockets that fell short and fell long.

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