Best Books On Spies And Espionage In WW2

The Books I Picked & Why

Nazi Spies in America: Hitler's Undercover War

By William Breuer

Nazi Spies in America: Hitler's Undercover War

Why this book?

This Times bestseller is a page-turner of true crime that combines our fascination with spy games and a real-world FBI detective story, an epic stretching from the 1920s to a "floodtide of espionage" in the late 1930s and the counterintelligence war through a foiled sabotage mission to blow up U.S. bridges and waterworks (which the FBI's Hoover nearly botched then spun for favorable publicity) to V-E day.


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The Nazi Spy Ring in America: Hitler's Agents, the FBI, and the Case That Stirred the Nation

By Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones

The Nazi Spy Ring in America: Hitler's Agents, the FBI, and the Case That Stirred the Nation

Why this book?

This is a sort of origin story for Breuer's characters, centered more tightly on a mid-1930s Nazi ring uncovered by the FBI's best investigator, Leon Turrou, and splashed across American newspapers’ front pages in 1938. Jeffreys-Jones' book, released in 2020, also shows why multi-stranded nonfiction has become a popular form.


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Sisterhood of Spies: The Women of the OSS

By Elizabeth P McIntosh

Sisterhood of Spies: The Women of the OSS

Why this book?

McIntosh takes a fresh approach to espionage, putting aside the trench coats and Mata Haris for the real "Code-room Mata Hari" and other little-known heroines of the war. A veteran of CIA and OSS operations herself, McIntosh knows what she's writing about, and draws from more than 100 interviews with other women operatives. She portrays several dozen here, including the China escapades of Julia McWilliams (known today as Julia Child). It also features the Musac project, with broadcasts targeted at Wehrmacht troops with fake German news and music sung by agent Marlene Dietrichn designed to infiltrate their sympathies.


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Lisbon: War in the Shadows of the City of Light, 1939-1945

By Neill Lochery

Lisbon: War in the Shadows of the City of Light, 1939-1945

Why this book?

Journalist Lochery tracks how spies flowed through perhaps the most important hub of intelligence during the war - Portugal's capital. Neutral Portugal continued to deal with both Allies and the Axis powers throughout the conflict. Thousands of refugees passed through, fleeing Axis-held Europe for the United States. Lochery plumbs Portuguese sources and records of its secret police to show how, for example, the Nazis flipped officials and coerced diplomats in the struggle for Europe's future.


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Finks: How the C.I.A. Tricked the World's Best Writers

By Joel Whitney

Finks: How the C.I.A. Tricked the World's Best Writers

Why this book?

Whitney gives a literary coda to World War II cloak-and-dagger, showing how its nests of spies and agencies pivoted and metastasised in the years afterward into the Cold War. The CIA took up where the OSS left off. Where Graham Greene and Kim Philby had run the haunts of Lisbon, then-young writers George Plimpton and Peter Matthiessen were cajoled to produce cultural propaganda in Paris and start the Paris Review. The CIA's literary operations continued into the 1960s when it launched a whispering campaign to prevent Pablo Neruda from receiving a Nobel prize, and launched Mundo Nuevo to engage Spanish-language readers.


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