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Operation Heartbreak (1950)

by Duff Cooper

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985239,812 (3.65)9
In the early hours of 30 April 1943, a corpse, wearing the uniform of an officer in the Royal Marines, was slipped into the waters off the south-west coast of Spain. With it was a briefcase, in which were papers detailing an imminent Allied invasion of Greece. As the British had anticipated, the supposedly neutral government of Fascist Spain turned the papers over to the Nazi High Command, who swallowed the story whole. it was perhaps the most decisive bluff of all time, for the Allies had not such plan: the purpose of 'Operation Mincemeat' was to blind the German High Command to their true objective - an attack on Southern Europe through Sicily. Though officially shrouded in secrecy, the operation soon became legendary (in part owing to Churchill's post-war habit of telling the story at dinner). it gave rise to two very different books. In 1950 came Duff Cooper's poignant navel Operation Heartbreak, a romantic tale, one which the government - right up to PM Clement Attlee - attempted to suppress. Its publication prompted the intelligence service to pressurise the operation's mastermind, Ewen Montagu, into writing a factual account, The Man Who Never Was. This book presents two accounts, fictional and factual, of one of the greatest intelligence operations ever undertaken, with an introduction by Duff Cooper's son, John Julius Norwich.… (more)
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Showing 5 of 5
Pretty compelling quick read.
Orphan Willie Maryngton grows up with one aim in life- to join the Army and go to War. He misses WW! by a whisker and can hardly contain his disappointment. The years roll on- Willie serves out in India, has an unsuccessful romance, starts to feel too old for the increasingly mechanized army...then WW2! Another chance! Yet he finds himself sidelined into non-combative roles.
And meanwhile the children of the family where he grew up ARE finding meaningful activities- even the actor, even the kid sister (for whom Willie's attatchment is growing.)
It has a sudden and unexpected denouement; Willie DOES perform a vital role in the War...
Well written, even if I failed to grasp the mindset of anyone whon WANTS to fight.. ( )
  starbox | Nov 19, 2021 |
"It seemed to be his fate, he sometimes thought, to be a soldier who never went to war, and a lover who never lay with his mistress."
What is interesting to me is how compelling an average and unremarkable life can be. This story is simply written, no grand philosophies here, yet I could greatly empathize with Willie. He lived a life constantly thwarted by time and circumstance; his greatest glory came after death. This is based on a true story, which you find out in the end. It is an interesting peak at a little-known wartime tactic that had a relatively large impact on the tide of war. If you're into English life between the wars or WWII fiction you'll probably like this little book. ( )
  libbromus | Oct 10, 2015 |
Operation Heartbreak is the story of Wilie Marygton, a career soldier who was too young for WWl and too old for WWll. Born into a military family Willie's one goal in life is to take part in a battle and when he receives his commission, he is scheduled to leave for the Western Front on November 9, 1918. News of the Armistice changes his orders and he spends the next 20 years in various posts in India and Africa where his main occupation seems to be big game hunting and polo. With the rise of fascism, he is ready to resign his commission to fight in Spain and he is not particular about what side, as long as he finally sees action. Dissuaded by cooler heads from throwing away his career, he spends WWII training recruits and lamenting his military status. Finally, in an ironic twist, he does play an important part in the war effort.

I admit that I am the wrong audience for this book. I had little patience with Willie who I found to be totally uninteresting. I could not relate to his desire to fight in a battle, any battle. His flirtation with the idea of fighting on either side in the Spanish Civil War just proved that he was not the brightest officer in British army. Even his romance was a pitiful thing. I know Duff Cooper deliberately made Willie a sad human being to show the irony of his final service to his country, but the ending didn't move me in any way. I just couldn't care about a man who wanted to kill other men for his country and if he couldn't do that, was happy to kill large mammals and small birds.

Duff Cooper claimed that the plot of Operation Heartbreak (published in 1950) was totally a product of his imagination. Since it bears too close a resemblance to the secret Operation Mincemeat concerning the invasion of Sicily, he really must have been "psychic." ( )
  Liz1564 | Feb 22, 2011 |
A minor classic. ( )
  lukehoney | Feb 3, 2009 |
A sad, queer little book. I liked it more than it merits, perhaps. For afficianados of Operation Overlord only, I suspect. ( )
  ben_a | Oct 1, 2006 |
Showing 5 of 5
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To the Lady Caroline Duff
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Nobody ever had fewer relations than Willie Maryngton.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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In the early hours of 30 April 1943, a corpse, wearing the uniform of an officer in the Royal Marines, was slipped into the waters off the south-west coast of Spain. With it was a briefcase, in which were papers detailing an imminent Allied invasion of Greece. As the British had anticipated, the supposedly neutral government of Fascist Spain turned the papers over to the Nazi High Command, who swallowed the story whole. it was perhaps the most decisive bluff of all time, for the Allies had not such plan: the purpose of 'Operation Mincemeat' was to blind the German High Command to their true objective - an attack on Southern Europe through Sicily. Though officially shrouded in secrecy, the operation soon became legendary (in part owing to Churchill's post-war habit of telling the story at dinner). it gave rise to two very different books. In 1950 came Duff Cooper's poignant navel Operation Heartbreak, a romantic tale, one which the government - right up to PM Clement Attlee - attempted to suppress. Its publication prompted the intelligence service to pressurise the operation's mastermind, Ewen Montagu, into writing a factual account, The Man Who Never Was. This book presents two accounts, fictional and factual, of one of the greatest intelligence operations ever undertaken, with an introduction by Duff Cooper's son, John Julius Norwich.

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