The Mantle of Command

Title:                      The Mantle of Command

Author:                 Nigel Hamilton

Hamilton, Nigel (2014). The Mantle of Command: FDR at War, 1941-1942. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

LCCN:    2013045586

D753 .H25 2014


  • Placentia Bay. Before the storm — Pearl Harbor. The U.S. is attacked! ; Hitler’s gamble — Churchill in the White House. The victory plan ; Supreme command ; The President’s Map Room — Trouble with MacArthur. The fighting general — End of an empire. Singapore ; The mockery of the world ; The battleground for civilization — India. No hand on the wheel ; Lessons from the Pacific ; Churchill threatens to resign ; The worst case of jitters — Midway. Doolittle’s Raid ; The Battle of Midway — Tobruk. Churchill’s second coming ; The Fall of Tobruk ; No second Dunquerque ; Avoiding utter catastrophe — Japan first. Citizen warriors ; A staggering crisis ; A rough day — The mutiny. Stimson’s bet ; A definite decision ; A failed mutiny — Reaction in Moscow. Stalin’s prayer — An industrial miracle. A trip across America ; The President’s loyal lieutenant — The tragedy of Dieppe. A Canadian bloodbath — The torch is lit. Something in West Africa ; Alamein ; First light ; The greatest sensation ; Armistice Day.


Date Posted:      March 22, 2017

Reviewed by Evan Thomas[1]

Our understanding of the past is shaped in no small part by the letters and memoirs of the people who made history, or claimed to. Rival statesmen have long understood this. In their nearly 40 years of intimate but tendentious correspondence, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were jockeying for posterity; in dueling memoirs a century and a half later, so were Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger. Indeed, one reason Nixon installed the secret White House taping system was to make sure he could rebut Kissinger’s version of events.

In the late 1940s, Winston Churchill wrote a memoir, The Second World War[2], six volumes that helped win him a Nobel Prize in Literature while burnishing his glory. Franklin Roosevelt meant to write his own account, collecting papers and setting up the first presidential library. But, by dying in office, Roosevelt missed the chance to toot his horn as loudly as his wartime partner. Churchill was able to play down or obscure his “often suspect” military leadership, writes Nigel Hamilton in The Mantle of Command, while Roosevelt’s deft but opaque role as commander in chief has been overshadowed or overlooked in many military histories. In his fast-paced, smartly observed recounting of Roosevelt’s first year as war leader, Hamilton means to set the record straight.

Churchill wanted to have the upper hand. He was the suitor, wooing Roosevelt to commit American might to rescue Britain and most of the rest of the world from fascism’s advance. In August of 1941, Churchill arrived on a battleship off the coast of Newfoundland for a secret rendezvous with Roosevelt. The British prime minister brought grouse and rare turtle soup, as well as a full military band. American and British sailors joined in singing Anglican hymns; Churchill wept. The entire production had been carefully rehearsed to win a declaration of war from the American president against the Nazis. But Churchill was disappointed. He was induced instead by Roosevelt to sign a declaration of principles that spelled the end of the British Empire by emphasizing national self-determination.

For all his stirring speeches and indomitable will, Churchill was playing with a weak hand. The Empire was spent. Its armies were led by “toffs” and “blimps,” and its men performed poorly against fanatical German and Japanese soldiers. Churchill was crushed by the failure of British troops to put up more than a token defense of Singapore against outmanned Japanese invaders in February 1942. He had by then been forced to accept reality, that he would have to play the role of “vizier” to Roosevelt, whose nation had the material wealth required to win the war.

Roosevelt was also not well served by his military, at least at the outset. The Navy was caught napping at Pearl Harbor, and the Army’s great hero, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, was something of a charlatan. While congressmen were demanding that Roosevelt install Mac­Arthur as supreme commander of the war effort, Roosevelt knew that MacArthur was making wild claims from his besieged headquarters on the island of Corregidor in the Philippines and taking a large bribe from the Filipino government.

Roosevelt was willing to put up with the showboating MacArthur—the public needed a hero after the shock of Pearl Harbor. But the commander in chief was determined to run his own war. At one point during the siege of Corregidor, when MacArthur seemed to be flagging, Roosevelt sent him a coldly bracing signal to stand “as prolonged as humanly possible.” The message, Hamilton writes, transformed “MacArthur from a near-wreck into his old self: a great commander.”

To professional soldiers, the genial Roosevelt could seem like a lightweight, an enthusiastic amateur. He was romantic about the Navy—he relaxed by reading Jane’s Fighting Ships[3] and enjoyed sitting up on the bow of a warship and watching the spray fly. But he was crafty, too. He required that “outgoing presidential messages continue to be enciphered and sent by the Navy Department, while incoming messages be deciphered and sent over by the Army Department.” Roosevelt wanted to be “the only person who knew everything,” observed his military aide, George Elsey. The president could be secretive and manipulative. As it turned out, he also had better instincts than the military men who served him.

The top brass—particularly Gen. George Marshall, the Army chief of staff, backed by Secretary of War Henry Stimson—wanted to establish a second front and relieve the pressure on Russia with an Allied invasion of Europe as early as the fall of 1942. Roosevelt wisely foresaw disaster. He knew that the invading force, of necessity largely composed of British troops at this stage of the war, was likely to be driven back into the sea. Roosevelt appreciated that the Allies needed to strike a visible blow against the Nazis, but he also saw that American forces required seasoning and time to build up before cracking Hitler’s Atlantic Wall. He insisted instead on invading North Africa and forming a pincer with Britain’s Eighth Army to trap Gen. Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps.

With defiance that bordered on insubordination, Marshall and Stimson maneuvered and inveigled to get their way. But Roosevelt—now with Churchill by his side—insisted on chipping away at the Axis from the periphery. Invading northern Africa, then southern Italy, the Allies learned from battlefield experience, slowly and sometimes painfully, and they were ready when the time came to storm Normandy’s beaches on D-Day in June 1944.

Hamilton ends his story of Roosevelt’s command less than a year into America’s involvement in the war, in November 1942. (“The tough challenges that came thereafter are the subject of another book,” he writes; such a work would have to deal with Roosevelt’s weakening at the end.) The author of a three-volume biography of Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, Britain’s gifted if prickly World War II ground commander, Hamilton is better known in this country for Reckless Youth, his marvelous biography of the young John F. Kennedy, and for a less successful pair of books on Bill Clinton. Some readers may find that Hamilton, a writer of decided opinions, is overly fond of italic emphasis and, possibly, of Franklin Roosevelt[4]. But the author has an eye for telling detail. In one scene, he describes Churchill pretending to enjoy Roosevelt’s sickly sweet martinis while excusing himself to the bathroom to pour his out and splash in tap water. Hamilton writes with brio and narrative drive. On the whole, The Mantle of Command is splendid: It’s the memoir Roosevelt didn’t get to write.

We seem never to tire of books about World War II, in part because the action was so great and the stakes were so high. But stories of leadership in World War II also live on as a vindication of the Great Man Theory of History, long discarded or debunked by the academy, yet still very much in fashion on best-seller lists. It is probably true that America’s mass-producing factories won the war; Hamilton describes Roosevelt’s gleeful tour of industrial plants in the fall of 1942, watching the planes and tanks rolling off the assembly lines in such volume that by the end of the year the United States would produce more war material than all the Axis powers put together. Nonetheless, Hamilton makes a convincing case that Roosevelt’s shrewd judgment—joined with Churchill’s lionlike spirit—enormously helped to save the day.

[1] Evan Thomas, “War Comes to America,” New York Times (August 1, 2014, p. BR19). Downloaded March 22, 2017. Evan Thomas, the author of Ike’s Bluff, is writing a biography of Richard Nixon.

[2] Churchill, Winston (1948, et al.). The Second World War. Boston: Houghton Mifflin

[3] Jane’s Fighting Ships (1969—). London: S. Low, Marston & Co.; New York: Arco

[4] I [FLW] agree that Hamilton is exceedingly fond of FDR, and that is not a fault. I remember coming home from school on April 12, 1945. My mother was working at the sink and tears were streaming down her face. Quite choked, she told me “The president died.” Generations today cannot grasp how revered FDR was during those terrible war years. But Churchill—Hamilton really has a bug about him. On the one hand he blames Churchill for every mistake made by the British Army, and on the other decries the poor generalship of the British forces. He cannot have it both ways. Churchill did have a hand in every pie, but the fall of Singapore cannot be laid at his feet. The military totally failed to provide any defenses on the north of the island. They considered the jungle approach impenetrable. Not a gun faced north. The surrender of Tobruk can hardly be the fault of Churchill. He did not have a ready group of able commanders at hand.

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Secret Revolution

Title:                      Secret Revolution

Author:                 Niël Barnard

Barnard, Niël (2015). Secret Revolution: Memoirs of A Spy Boss. Cape Town: Tafelberg

LCCN:    2015453364

DT1972.B376 A3 2015


Date Posted:      March 22, 2017

Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake[1]

Change at the top often results in a period of bureaucratic, if not operational, uncertainty in an intelligence agency. And when the new chief is in his 30s, comes from academia, has no prior intelligence experience, and arrives with a mission to bring order to a chaotic security situation, the chances of success are slim. These were the circumstances that Niël Barnard faced in 1980 when South Africa’s Prime Minister P. W. Botha suddenly appointed him to head the National Intelligence Service (NIS). Curiously, Botha never explained his choice, and the surprised Barnard never asked. (p. 35)

Bernard’s initial marching orders were to provide the Prime Minister with honest assessments of the data his service was given for analysis. Of course this required receipt of accurate and timely information. But at that time collection was the province of the military and the police, and both bureaucracies wanted to be the one to inform the PM. The initial result was chaos. But in the end, Barnard, with Botha’s backing, won the day. He redefined the NIS mission to include responsibility for relations with foreign intelligence services, collection of foreign intelligence, a separate cryptologic capability, and the protection of foreign dignitaries. Domestic security responsibilities were parceled out to other agencies.

With these issues settled, Barnard describes in general terms the NIS relationships and operations with various foreign services in Africa, Russia, and the West. He clearly admires the MI6, the German BND, and the Mossad but dismisses CIA with the comment that it “would not win many gold medals in an intelligence Olympiad.” (p. 86) As to the KGB, he is proud that NIS honored its request to keep their extensive contacts secret from the CIA. (p. 91)

By 1986, with NIS providing reliable intelligence, Botha “accepted, perhaps with reluctance, that a negotiated settlement was the best option to solve our political predicament” with the increasingly violent African National Congress (ANC). (p. 150) Progress was slow. In 1988, Botha charged Barnard, by now a trusted confidant, with heading up a small government team to conduct more formal exploratory talks. Barnard writes that Botha acknowledged that the only result would be a majority black government with Mandela as president. Barnard met with Mandela some 50 times, during which he tried to get Mandela to halt the violence before he and his colleagues were released and elections held. Mandela refused and eventually Botha and his successor, F.W. de Klerk, gave in.

Apartheid was abolished in February 1990; Mandela was released; and Barnard resigned, returning to his family and academia. Secret Revolution tells an unusual success story that demonstrates what sound management practices can achieve when applied firmly and how a trusted intelligence chief quietly accomplished a delicate political mission that helped create a new democratic government.

[1] Peake, Hayden in The Intelligencer: Journal of U.S. Intelligence Studies (22, 3, Winter 2016-17, pp. 120-121). Hayden Peake is the Curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection. He has served in the Directorate of Science and Technology and the Directorate of Operations. Most of these reviews appeared in recent unclassified editions of CIA’s Studies in Intelligence, Other reviews and articles may be found online at

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SOE—The British Special Operations Executive, Chapter 17

Title:                      SOE—The British Special Operations Executive, Chapter 17

Author:                 Paul W. Blackstock

Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. “Chapter 17: “SOE—The British Special Operations Executive”. Detroit: Gale Research Co.

LCCN:    74011567

Z6724.I7 B55


Intelligence service–Bibliography.


Subversive activities–Bibliography.

Date Updated:  March 22, 2017


The British Special Operations Executive (SOE) was a World War it hybrid of various organizations which soon gained its independence and was given the primary, mission of “setting Europe ablaze” by means of sabotage, subversion, guerrilla warfare, and the creation and supply of resistance movements in occupied countries. All these activities were to be carried out in a clandestine nature and their success depended in large part on intelligence collection either by the SOE itself or by cooperating intelligence agencies. Thus was forged CI war-fighting organization to use all means other than conventional armed forces. Its war fighting and its intelligence activities became very nearly in-distinguishable, and the pattern for postwar covert operations by an intelligence-organization was established.

In an unprecedented move the British government in the mid-1960s opened up its archives to a former intelligence staff officer (but not from SOE), M.R.D. Foot, making it possible for him to write a scholarly, definitive history, SOE In France[1]. Possibly the reason for this move was that two unofficial histories were being written, one of them critical of SOE. In addition numerous memoirs had already appeared, some of them sketchy and self-serving. By contrast, the archives of the Office of Strategic Services (0SS), the American counterpart of SOE, have remained closed until recently (1976) and only secondary sources have been available. In this chapter the few general works available on the SOE are listed, followed by a section which lists selected memoirs and biographies.


Foot, M.R.D. (1966). SOE In France: An Account of The Work of British Special Operations Executive in France 1940-1944. London: H.M. Stationery Off

Spiro, Edward(1967). Set Europe Ablaze. New York: Crowell

Sweet-Escott, Bickham (1965). Baker Street Irregular. London: Methuen


Buckmaster, Maurice J. (1952). Specially Employed: The Story of British Aid to French Patriots of The Resistance. London: The Batchworth Press

Buckmaster, Maurice J. (1958). They Fought Alone: The Story of British Agents In France. London: Odhams

Butler, Ewan (1963, 1964). Amateur Agent. New York: W. W. Norton

Carré, Mathilde Bélard (1960). I Was “The Cat”: The Truth about The Most Remarkable Woman Spy Since Mata Hari—by Herself. London: Souvenir Press

Churchill, Peter (1955). Duel of Wits. New York: Putnam

Churchill, Peter (1955, c. 1954). The Spirit in The Cage. New York: Putnam

Cowburn, Benjamin (2014, c. 1960). No Cloak, No Dagger: Allied Spycraft in Occupied France; foreword by Sebastian Faulks ; introduction by M.R.D. Foot. London: Frontline Books

Fuller, Jean Overton (1958). Double Webs; Light on The Secret Agents’ War In France. London: Putnam

Fuller, Jean Overton (1975). The German Penetration of SOE: France 1941-1944. London: William Kimber

Fuller, Jean Overton (1952). Madeleine, The Story of Noor Inayat Khan, George Cross, M. B. E., Croix De Guerre With Gold Star; with a foreword by Selwyn Jepson. London: Gollancz

Garby-Czerniawski, Roman (1961). The Big Network. London: G. Ronald

Howarth, Patrick (1955). Special Operations (by Peter Fleming, et al.). London: Routledge and K. Paul

Marshall, Bruce (1952, 2000). The White Rabbit. London: Cassell

Nicholas, Elizabeth (1958). Death Be Not Proud. London: Cresset Press

Psychountakēs, Giōrgos (2015, c. 1957). The Cretan Runner: His Story of The German Occupation; translated from the Greek and with an introduction by Patrick Leigh Fermor ; annotated by the translator and Xan Fielding. New York, NY: The New York Review of Books

Seth, Ronald (1954). A Spy Has No Friends. New York, Library Publishers

Vomécourt, Philippe de (1961). Who Lived to See The Day; France in Arms, 1940-1945. London: Hutchinson

[1] Foot, M.R.D. (1966). SOE In France: An Account of The Work of British Special Operations Executive in France 1940-1944. London: H.M. Stationery Off

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Evasion And Escape Devices Produced By MI9, MIS-X, And SOE In World War II

Title:                      Evasion And Escape Devices Produced By MI9, MIS-X, And SOE In World War II

Author:                  Phil Froom

Froom, Phil (2015). Evasion And Escape Devices Produced By MI9, MIS-X, And SOE In World War II. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd

LCCN:    2015939371

D810.S7 F76 2015


  • “This book describes the design, manufacture, covert shipment and use of the many ingenious evasion and escape devices provided to Allied troops during WWII. Following the fall of mainland Europe, hostile Allied actions against land-based Axis forces were generally limited to air attacks. However, as the numbers of those attacks increased, the number of aircraft and crews failing to return grew alarmingly: something needed to be done to provide these air crews with aids to enable them to evade to safe territory or escape captivity, or losses of irreplaceable crews would become critical. Britain’s MI-9 and U.S. MIS-X organizations were formed solely to support evaders and prisoners of war in occupied territories. They developed a wide variety of evasion and escape devices that were given to Allied Forces prior to operations in hostile territory or delivered clandestinely to POWs. It worked: the aids facilitated the return of thousands of men to their units.”–Publisher description.


  • Formation and planning — MI9 origins and establishment — MIS-X origins and establishment — Escape aids: procurement and supply — Covert delivery to the camps — Communications and codes — Escape maps — Escape compasses — Money purses and maps only wallets — Blood chits — Documents, ephemera and insignia — Aids boxes (personal aids survival kits) — Uniform and clothing items — Toiletry items — Smoking items and accessories — Sporting items and games — Personally purchased or adapted items — Forgery, writing and art materials — Mend and make do (sewing items) — General items — Escape tools, knives, saws and blades — Discovery by the enemy — Appendices. I. Escape purse and maps only pouch contents tables — II. List of games shipped to prisoner of war camps — III. MI9 bogus charity groups — IV. Circular rotators — V. MI9 personnel list — VI. MI9 escape aid numbers — VII. E.R. Watts escape aids manufacturing code numbers — VIII. Translation of Die Wehrmacht magazine, August 1943 — XI. 15th Flotilla Coastal Forces in support of MI9.


Date Posted:      March 22, 2017

Complied and Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake[1]

While undergoing escape and evasion training with the British army in West Germany during the Cold War, Phil Froom developed a passionate interest in the WWII origins of the special devices and procedures that they were then being taught. When he learned that no single book had been written on the subject, he began studying official records and memoirs, collecting documentation from firms that built the special devices, and conducting interviews with survivors to learn how they were actually used. The result is the impressively illustrated coffee table edition, Evasion & Escape Devices.

Besides regaining one’s freedom, successful escape from captivity had two principal military benefits: return of the highly trained personnel themselves, as well as the intelligence they could provide. For these reasons Britain formed a special unit designated MI9 to conduct the training required before deployment and to develop the devices necessary to aid those captured. Evasion & Escape Devices describes how MI9 accomplished its mission in every theater of war. The book pays particular attention to the development of special devices, methods of secret communication with prisoners, and covert delivery of equipment to help prisoners escape and then evade recapture.

The kinds of special devices developed drew heavily on the experience of those who had successfully escaped during WWI and WWII. Communicating with prisoners through “letters and books from home” that contained coded instructions (and later through Red Cross packages and bogus charities), allowed the delivery of instructions and essential devices. Froom provides detailed illustrated examples of silk maps, button compasses, playing cards, passports, needle guns, Gillette razor blades with hidden messages, (p. 255) and a great variety of concealment devices.

When the United States entered the war, its soldiers were faced with the same problems and—based on the British precedent, Froom explains— they established their own version of MI9, designated MIS-X. Located at Ft. Ward, in Alexandria, Virginia, MIS-X developed training programs and a variety of devices. For example, miniature radios were hidden in cigarette packs, cribbage boards, and baseballs. At one point, writes Froom, communication with some camps was such that entire radio sets were shipped and the prisoners managed to steal the parcels before the Germans inspected them. (p. 38)

The German prison authorities were not asleep at the switch, however, and they eventually discovered many of the items sent to the prisoners. But the prisoners greatly outnumbered their guards and the volume of gadgets was so great that communication was effectively continuous.

Froom does not neglect the players that made MI9 and MIS-X a success. The most well-known of those mentioned is Charles Fraser-Smith, the inventor of what he called “Q” devices, a term the James Bond movies applied to Desmond Llewellyn, himself a prisoner of war for five years in Colditz Castle. (p. 9)

While Evasion 8: Escape Devices does not comment on the number of prisoners actually aided by MI9 or MIS-X, other sources make clear the program helped many, particularly downed airmen.[2] Phil Froom has provided the most comprehensive account to date of the efforts to assist POWs in their duty to escape captivity during WWII. A fine reference work.

[1] Hayden Peake in The Intelligencer (22, 2, Fall 2016, pp.  121-122).  Hayden Peake is the Curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection. He has served in the Directorate of Science and Technology and the Directorate of Operations. Most of these reviews appeared in recent unclassified editions of CIA’s Studies in Intelligence. Other reviews and articles may be found online at

[2] Foot, M.R.D. (1980) and Langley, J.M. MI 9 : Escape And Evasion, 1939-1945. Boston : Little, Brown

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Abel (Geordie Spy)

Title:                      Abel (Geordie Spy)

Author:                 Vin Arthey

Arthey, Vin (2015). Abel: The True Story of The Spy They Traded For Gary Powers. London: Biteback Publishing

LCCN:    2015463129

UB271.R92 A228 2015


  • The true story behind the events depicted in Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster Bridge of Spies. On 10 February 1962, Gary Powers, the American pilot whose U2 spy plane was shot down in Soviet airspace, was released by his captors in exchange for one Colonel Rudolf Abel, aka Vilyam Fisher —one of the most extraordinary characters in the history of the Cold War. Born plain William Fisher at 140 Clara Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, this bona fide British grammar schoolboy was the child of revolutionary parents who had fled tsarist oppression in Russia. Retracing their steps, their son returned to his spiritual homeland, the newly formed Soviet Union, aged just eighteen. Willie became Vilyam and, narrowly escaping Stalin’s purges, embarked on a mission to New York, where he ran the network that stole America’s atomic secrets. In 1957, Willie’s luck ran out and he was arrested and sentenced to thirty years in prison. Five years later, the USSR’s regard for his talents was proven when they insisted on swapping him for the stricken Powers. Tracing Willie’s tale from the most unlikely of beginnings in Newcastle, to Moscow, the streets of New York and back again, Abel is a singular and absorbing true story of Cold War espionage to rival anything in fiction — Source other than Library of Congress.


  • Machine generated contents note: 1. German-Russian beginnings — 2. Newcastle upon Tyne — 3. Gun-running — 4. To the coast — 5. Return to Russia — 6. Recruitment — 7. Scandinavian mission — 8. Home again — Moscow and London — 9. The Great Purge — 10. Special tasks — 11. Training for a new assignment — 12. First US missions — 13. Undercover artist — 14. Testing times — 15. Trial — 16. Exchange of prisoners — 17. An unquiet death.



  • “First published as The Kremlin’s Geordie Spy in Great Britain in 2010—Colophon.

Date Updated:  March 21, 2017

Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake[1]

The first edition of this book was published under the title, Like Father Like Son: A Dynasty of Spies. It told the life story of KGB illegal Col. Vilyam “Willie” Fisher, aka: “Col. Rudolf Abel, KGB.”[2] The new title may puzzle American readers, but it makes immediate sense to a Brit. A Geordie is the common nickname for those from the Tyneside region of North East England, the region in which Willie Fisher was born on 18 April 1902, in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Author Vin Arthey explains Fisher’s connections to the USSR—his father had been active in revolutionary activities in Russia and in 1901 fled to the UK, where he was involved in clandestine shipping of arms and literature back to Russia. The family returned to the Soviet Union when the younger Fisher was 17. He subsequently served in the Red Army as a radioman. In 1927 he joined the NKVD. His first overseas assignment was to England in 1935. There he worked for Alexander Orlov and Arnold Deutsch of Cambridge Five fame. Dismissed from the service during the Great Purge of1938, Fisher was recalled in September, when there was a need for trained radio operators. After WW II, he was trained as an illegal and in 1948 was sent to the United States, where the Soviet networks were in disarray thanks to defectors and the VENONA decrypts.

Arthey reviews Fisher’s many assignments, including the handling of Soviet agents Morris and Leona Cohen and atom spy Theodore “Ted” Hall. Fisher used a number of codenames-the best known was EMIL Goldfus—and his cover was as a commercial artist. Things began to go bad with the arrival of his future replacement, Reino Hayhanen, who proved to be an irresponsible drunk. Fisher had him recalled, but on the way home Hayhanen defected to the CIA in Paris and revealed that he knew a KGB illegal in New York. When the FBI arrested Fisher he gave his name as Col. Rudolf Abel, a prearranged signal to the KGB that he was in trouble. (The real Col. Abel was dead.) Fisher was serving a 30-year sentence when he was traded for U-2 pilot Gary Powers. Fisher returned to limited duty for a while but soon retired. He never revealed what he did in England or the United States. He died on 15 November 1971 at age 59.

While there are no major changes in this edition, a number of corrections have been made and new details added. These include Fisher’s date of birth, the name of his imprisoned brother—Ivan not Boris—and spelling errors. There is also some new material on Fisher’s trial, the negotiation that led to his return to the Soviet Union, and “the Forbidden City”—the location of the KGB headquarters in Potsdam.

The Kremlin’s Geordie Spy is the only biography of Willie Fisher in English that includes details of his KGB career. Arthey examined new materials from Russia, Britain, and the United States to piece together Fisher’s extraordinary career. The result is a welcome contribution to the intelligence literature.

[1] Hayden Peake, in Intelligencer (19, 1, 2012, p. 115). Hayden Peake is the curator of the CIA Historical Intelligence Collection. He is a frequent contributor to AFIO’s journal and other publications. Most of his reviews were previously released in the unclassified edition of CIA’s Studies in Intelligence.

[2] Arthey, Vin (2004) Like Father Like Son: A Dynasty of Spies. London: St. Ermin’s Press

Posted in Soviet Spies | Tagged , | 1 Comment

F.B. Eyes

Title:                      F.B. Eyes

Author:                 William J. Maxwell

Maxwell, William J. (2015). F.B. Eyes: How J. Edgar Hoover’s Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press

LCCN:    2014933936

PS153.N5 M2688 2015


  • “Few institutions seem more opposed than African American literature and J. Edgar Hoover’s white-bread Federal Bureau of Investigation. But behind the scenes the FBI’s hostility to black protest was energized by fear of and respect for black writing. Drawing on nearly 14,000 pages of newly released FBI files, F.B. Eyes exposes the Bureau’s intimate policing of five decades of African American poems, plays, essays, and novels. Starting in 1919, year one of Harlem’s renaissance and Hoover’s career at the Bureau, secretive FBI “ghostreaders” monitored the latest developments in African American letters. By the time of Hoover’s death in 1972, these ghostreaders knew enough to simulate a sinister black literature of their own. The official aim behind the Bureau’s close reading was to anticipate political unrest. Yet, as William J. Maxwell reveals, FBI surveillance came to influence the creation and public reception of African American literature in the heart of the twentieth century. Taking his title from Richard Wright’s poem “The FB Eye Blues,” Maxwell details how the FBI threatened the international travels of African American writers and prepared to jail dozens of them in times of national emergency. All the same, he shows that the Bureau’s paranoid style could prompt insightful criticism from Hoover’s ghostreaders and creative replies from their literary targets. For authors such as Claude McKay, James Baldwin, and Sonia Sanchez, the suspicion that government spy-critics tracked their every word inspired rewarding stylistic experiments as well as disabling self-censorship. Illuminating both the serious harms of state surveillance and the ways in which imaginative writing can withstand and exploit it, F.B. Eyes is a groundbreaking account of a long-hidden dimension of African American literature.”–Publisher information.


  • Part one/thesis one : The birth of the Bureau, coupled with the birth of J. Edgar Hoover, ensured the FBI’s attention to African American literature — Part two/thesis two : The FBI’s aggressive filing and long study of African American writers was tightly bound to the Agency’s successful evolution under Hoover — Part three/thesis three : The FBI is perhaps the most dedicated and influential forgotten critic of African American literature — Part four/thesis four : The FBI helped to define the twentieth-century Black Atlantic, both blocking and forcing its flows — Part five/thesis five : Consciousness of FBI ghostreading fills a deep and characteristic vein of African American literature — Appendix : FOIA requests for FBI files on African American authors active from 1919 to 1972.


Date Posted:      March 21, 2017

Caveat. Perpendat itaque lector cavendum (civilis).[1]

Complied and Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake[2]

During the Hoover era at the FBI, books that mentioned Bureau security operations and subversive subjects, especially those by authors that had received Bureau cooperation, were formally reviewed for the Director after publication by special agents. One purpose was to determine whether the book contained derogatory comments about the FBI and whether authors complied with any Bureau guidance they might have been provided. In F. B. Eyes, Washington University (St. Louis) literary historian William Maxwell discusses another purpose— paying special attention to African-American writers because they were likely to be political radicals, communists, or just because of their race. “The FBI,” he writes, “is perhaps the most dedicated and influential forgotten critic of African-American literature.” (p. 127)

Maxwell bases this and other judgments in the book on FBI case files beginning in 1919 and ending in 1972. For readers unfamiliar with the Bureau review program, he provides extensive detail about its evolution, functions, the treatment of the authors—which included monitoring their writings, speeches, and travel—and their reactions as they became aware of the review program’s existence. And in the telling he introduces new vocabulary such as counterliterature, lit-cop, ghostreaders (those who do the reviewing), and communist thought-control relay stations, to describe its functions. (p. 76)

Many of the authors monitored will come as no surprise to today’s readers. These include James Baldwin, Lorraine Hansberry (Raisin in the Sun) and Langston Hughes. What is surprising is the extensive commentary on the British SIS (including, curiously, Ian Fleming), OSS, and the CIA relationship with Bureau counterintelligence. Regarding the latter, for example, Maxwell delves deeply into the thinking of

James Angleton, “the master spy whose inscrutability never hid his standing as the master theorist of CIA reading.” (p. 150) But the overall significance of this digression and its relationship to the Bureau’s review program is never made clear.

  1. B. Eyes provides numerous examples of how the Bureau subjected African-American authors to highly questionable, if not illegal, scrutiny and harassment —although some were indeed communists—based on recently released FBI files. The book is not easy reading (the reader is challenged to find even a few simple declarative sentences). If Maxwell intended to convey some deeper message, it is lost in a semantic muddle.

[1] On occasion, personal loyalties and opinions can be carved in stone and defended with a vengeance—at times with some venom thrown in. In these situations, the actual importance of the subject matter is dwarfed by the amount of aggression expressed. Retain a sense of proportion in all online and in-person discussions. [From The Intelligencer: Journal of U. S. Intelligence Studies.]

[2] Hayden Peake in The Intelligencer (22, 2, Fall 2016, p.  120).  Hayden Peake is the Curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection. He has served in the Directorate of Science and Technology and the Directorate of Operations. Most of these reviews appeared in recent unclassified editions of CIA’s Studies in Intelligence. Other reviews and articles may be found online at

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Eisenhower’s Guerrillas

Title:                      Eisenhower’s Guerrillas

Author:                 Benjamin F. Jones

Jones, Benjamin F. (2016). Eisenhower’s Guerrillas: The Jedburghs, the Maquis, and the Liberation of France. New York: Oxford University Press

LCCN:    2015014744

D810.S7 J46 2016


Date Posted:      March 21, 2017

Complied and Reviewed by Hayden B. Peake[1]

The story of the OSS Jedburgh teams, their relationship to the French Maquis resistance elements, and their contribution to defeating the Germans in France, has been told before.[2] The typical emphasis on their origins, training, and operations is undertaken with some discussion of the political factors influencing their deployment and rules of engagement. Eisenhower’s Guerrillas takes a different approach. While operations comprise an important part of this story—though little new is added—author Benjamin Jones focuses on complicated and often conflicting political objectives of the Allies.

As Colin Beavan explains in Operation Jedburgh, the British and Americans viewed the invasion of France as a military operation, the first step on the way to Berlin and Nazi defeat. They planned to establish a military government in France headed by Eisenhower until the end of the war. But as Jones points out, the French provisional government, led by Charles de Gaulle, would have none of it. From their point of view, the invasion was just the first step to regaining French sovereignty. In de Gaulle’s view, he would lead the new French government once the Germans were expelled. The French resistance, a loose collection of quasi-military units, ironically supported logistically entirely by the Allies, pledged their allegiance to de Gaulle. Britain and America considered their support after the invasion to be crucial to tying down German military units. De Gaulle agreed, but demanded official American and British recognition of his provisional government before he would consent to Allied use of the resistance. Complicating matters, French recognition was beyond Eisenhower’s authority, and Roosevelt opposed it. The practical consequence was that the French were denied a role in planning for the invasion, and that, in turn, made coordination of Jedburgh efforts with the resistance difficult.

Two events occurred that eased Eisenhower’s task of getting the support of resistance units after D-Day. First, Roosevelt finally recognized de Gaulle as the leader of France, and second, he added French general Pierre Koenig to his staff to coordinate operations with the French. In the end, resistance operations delayed German movements after D-Day, as intended.

The Jedburghs teams—one American, one Frenchman and one Brit—were originally conceived by the British to support the resistance units with which the Special Operations Executive (SOE) had been working since early in the war. For reasons of security, they were not dropped into France until after the invasion. In his book, Beavan shows that the record of the 93 Jedburgh teams was mixed. They performed well only when liaising with well-organized resistance units, though their secondary mission of supporting Allied headquarters went well, setting a precedent for coalition warfare. Eisenhower’s Guerrillas reveals the interaction of solid military planning and often conflicting political considerations, and adds a new dimension to the Jedburgh story.

[1] Hayden Peake in The Intelligencer (22, 2, Fall 2016, p. 121).  Hayden Peake is the Curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection. He has served in the Directorate of Science and Technology and the Directorate of Operations. Most of these reviews appeared in recent unclassified editions of CIA’s Studies in Intelligence. Other reviews and articles may be found online at

[2] See for example: Beavan, Colin (2006). Operation Jedburgh : D-Day And America’s First Shadow War. New York: Viking. A much older, but still valuable source is Lewis, S. J. (1991). Jedburgh Team Operations in Support of The 12th Army Group, August 1944. Fort Leavenworth, KS: Combat Studies Institute, U.S. Command and General Staff College

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