Behind the Lines: The Oral History of Special Operations in World War IIBehind the Lines: The Oral History of Special Operations in World War II by Russell Miller

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A very interesting collection of first hand accounts by those involved with the Special Operations Executive or the OSS special operations during WW2. The book is split into chapters covering broad themes or areas of operation.

English: 220px|right|thumb|Maquisards (Resista...
Maquisards (Resistance fighters) in the Haute-Savoie département in August 1944. Third and fourth from the left are two SOE officers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Almostall of the book is in the direct quotation from the various special operationspersonnel. There is a broad range of people interviewed for the book, most of them only appear to have been used in one section, although a couple may have been used more than once. This shows the attitudes they had to the work and the people that they dealt with. Interestingly there are a number of interviews with surviving captured agents.

A number of the accounts talked about vetting people, both before operations in the UK and in the field overseas. What struck me was that the methods used in the field are similar to those used by terrorist organisations. I’d always sort of knew it, but this made it a little more real.

The other revelation for me was the lack of vindictiveness against the Gestapo in Europe. A couple of the agents talked about incidents where they could have killed or seriously wounded Gestapo officers, yet they didn’t. Reading between the lines the implication is that doing so would have had a huge negative impact on the local populace. It may also have contributed to a surprising number of SOE agents surviving over a year in captivity.

The book covers setting up SOE & OSS (a chapter each). Preparing agents to be deployed, operations in France, the Balkans, Norway, the Far East and also the post war wrap up in Germany.

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