Intelligence At The Top

Title:                      Intelligence At The Top

Author:                 Sir Kenneth Strong,

Strong, Kenneth (1969). Intelligence At The Top: The Recollections of An Intelligence Officer. Garden City, NY: Doubleday

LCCN:    68022529

D810.S7 S87 1969


Date Updated:  February 24, 2016

Reviewed by George C. Constantinides[1]

Few military men served as long in intelligence, especially in intelligence positions of great importance during crucial periods, as did General Strong. He became the first director general of intelligence at the British Ministry of Defense after World War II, but he is best known as the intelligence chief of General Eisenhower during that war, both in the Mediterranean phase and later at SHAEF. This account of his thirty years in intelligence work ending in 1966 is mostly devoted to his experiences with Eisenhower, which takes up about sixty percent of the total. Naturally, he concludes that intelligence is vital for national survival and that it needs the personnel and organization “operating in close touch with the national decision-makers” to meet the demands of the postwar world. Strong describes this as a mainly autobiographical work that looks at the nature and role of military intelligence rather than intelligence as a whole (except for the final chapter).

What Strong has to say of his experiences and of the lessons he learned is of value. However, the following observations or reservations have been made about the book. First, some felt he was too discreet, unable to shed this professional turn of mind. This characteristic may account for his failure to mention deception plans for the invasion of France. Second, his account of his position on the question in 1945 of a possible German national redoubt is regarded by some as less complete and less revealing than it could have been. Third, more information now available raises new questions about the intelligence failure of the Ardennes in 1944 when the Germans caught SHAEF and the Allies by surprise; new facts make Strong’s version less than the “modest and authoritative last word” on the matter the reviewer in RUSI thought it was. Fourth, the same British reviewer thought Strong underrated the contributions of certain individuals at SHAEF; he likewise does not speak of the contribution of deception plans such as MINCEMEAT to successful operations. There are those who feel he ascribed too modest a place to agents in the hierarchy of sources of military intelligence in the war. Most important of all, Strong was not able to write at that time about ULTRA and its role in intelligence and operational successes or failures. For this input, see new works such as Lewin’s Ultra Goes to War[2], Bennett’s Ultra in the West[3], and Calvocoressi’s Top Secret Ultra[4].

This is a review by the Defense Intelligence School.[5]

General Strong was a career British military intelligence officer who served as G-2 for General Eisenhower during World War II. After the war, he founded and became the first Director of the British Joint Intelligence Bureau. Subsequently, he became the first Director-General of Intelligence in the Ministry of Defense. This book relates General Strong’s experiences during his intelligence career, his views of the role of intelligence in government, and important insights into the profession.

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[6]

The author, who spent forty years in British military intelligence work, writes in considerable detail about the British system. He stresses intelligence in the World War II period. The bibliography of seventeen items is confined to his historical sources.

Reviewed by Paul W. Blackstock and Frank L. Schaf[7]

The first part of these memoirs deals with the early intelligence assignments of General Strong, especially as military attaché in the British embassy in Berlin. The bulk of the book concerns World War II when General Strong was chief of intelligence for Allied Force Headquarters in Africa and then chief of intelligence for Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Forces (SHAEF), where he remained throughout the war. The memoirs also cover postwar assignments of General Strong, first as founder and director of the Joint Intelligence Bureau in London, and then as director-general of intelligence in the Ministry of Defense. These assignments were at the national level and provide an excellent insight into postwar British intelligence reorganizations. The book is a gold mine of information and personal impressions of intelligence at the SHAEF level, the role it played in important battles and in the Italian armistice and Germany’s surrender, and on the nature and methods of wartime military intelligence in a combined high-level headquarters.

[1] Constantinides, George C. (1983). Intelligence and Espionage: An Analytical Bibliography. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, pp. 435-436

[2] Lewin, Ronald (1978). Ultra Goes to War: The First Account of World War II’s Greatest Secret Based On Official Documents. London: Hutchinson

[3] Bennett, Ralph (1979, 1980). Ultra in The West: The Normandy Campaign 1944-5. New York: Scribners

[4] Calvocoressi, Peter (1980, 2001). Top Secret Ultra. Kidderminster, England: M. & M. Baldwin

[5] Defense Intelligence School (1981). Bibliography of Intelligence Literature: A Critical And Annotated Bibliography of Open-Source Literature (7th ed, rev.). Washington, DC: Defense Intelligence School, p. 60

[6] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., p. 24

[7] Blackstock, Paul W. (1978) and Frank L. Schaf, Jr. Intelligence, Espionage, Counterespionage, And Covert Operations: A Guide to Information Sources. Detroit: Gale Research Co., p.


This entry was posted in British Intelligence and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Intelligence At The Top

  1. Pingback: The Fortress That Never Was | Intelligence Analysis and Reporting

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s