War of Shadows: Codebreakers, Spies, and the Secret Struggle to Drive the Nazis from the Middle East

Gershom Gorenberg. PublicAffairs, $34 (480p) ISBN 978-1-61039-627-1
Journalist Gorenberg (The Unmaking of Israel) explores the battle for North Africa and the Middle East during WWII in this richly detailed yet somewhat impenetrable history. Weaving Middle Eastern politics with the history of cryptography, profiles of Allied and Axis codebreakers, and technical descriptions of battlefield campaigns, Gorenberg at times bites off more than he can chew. The story culminates in Erwin Rommel’s ill-fated drive into Egypt in the summer of 1942, despite waning supplies and a lack of military support. Gorenberg reveals that Rommel based his plans on cables sent by Bonner Fellers, military attaché at the U.S. embassy in Cairo, that were intercepted and deciphered by Italian and German spies using U.S. military code books and cipher tables stolen from a consul’s office in Rome. But the information, which was colored by Fellers’s frustrations with British military leaders, drew Rommel into a disastrous defeat at the Second Battle of El Alamein. Gorenberg gathers a wealth of intriguing material, but occasionally loses the thread of the narrative amid the jumble of military acronyms and the large cast of characters. This deeply researched account is best-suited to WWII completists. (Jan.)
Reviewed on : 10/02/2020
Release date: 01/19/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
Compact Disc - 978-1-5491-6272-5
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