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Operation Columba--The Secret Pigeon Service: The Untold Story of World War II Resistance in Europe (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews


I will read any book about any animal, and while I was somewhat familiar with homing pigeons and the use of them as messengers, this book caught me off guard with its depiction of the amount of work, dedication, and courage put forth by those involved with the pigeons. As with any good hobby, the amount of jealousy and in-fighting involved also have their place in the narrative. The knowledge produced by the pigeons’ efforts is fascinating. Written more for a military history buff than an animal lover, Operation Columba is perfect for history fans who think they’ve read it all.

— Rachel

Description


The fascinating, untold story of how British intelligence secretly used homing pigeons as part of a clandestine espionage operation to gather information, communicate, and coordinate with members of the Resistance to defeat the Nazis in occupied Europe during World War II.

Between 1941 and 1944, British intelligence dropped sixteen thousand homing pigeons in an arc across Nazi-occupied Europe, from Bordeaux, France to Copenhagen, Denmark, as part of a spy operation code-named Columba. Returning to MI14, the secret government branch in charge of the "Special Pigeon Service," the birds carried messages that offered a glimpse of life under the Germans in rural France, Holland, and Belgium. Written on tiny pieces of rice paper tucked into canisters and tied to the birds’ legs, these messages were sometimes comic, often tragic, and occasionally invaluable—reporting details of German troop movements and fortifications, new Nazi weapons, radar systems, and even the deployment of the feared V-1 and V-2 rockets used to terrorize London.

The people who sent these messages were not trained spies. They were ordinary men and women willing to risk their lives in the name of freedom, including the "Leopold Vindictive" network—a small group of Belgian villagers led by an extraordinary priest named Joseph Raskin. The intelligence Raskin sent back by pigeon proved so valuable that it reached Churchill and MI6 parachuted agents behind enemy lines to assist him.

Gordon Corera uses declassified documents and extensive original research to tell the story of the Operation Columba and the Secret Pigeon Service for the first time. A powerful tale of wartime espionage, bitter rivalries, extraordinary courage, astonishing betrayal, harrowing tragedy, and a quirky, quarrelsome band of spy masters and their special mission, Operation Columba opens a fascinating new chapter in the annals of World War II. It is ultimately, the story of how, in one of the darkest and most dangerous times in history, under threat of death, people bravely chose to resist.

About the Author


Gordon Corera has been a security correspondent for BBC News since 2004, and has reported from across the United States, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. He is the author of Cyberspies: The Secret History of Surveillance, Hacking, and Digital Espionage; The Art of Betrayal: The Secret History of MI6; and Shopping for Bombs: Nuclear Proliferation, Global Insecurity, and the Rise and Fall of the A.Q. Khan Network. He was educated at Oxford and Harvard universities, and lives in England.

Praise For…


“[An] amazing story of the secret pigeon service and how it helped to win the war. Well-researched and well-told, as much about humans as pigeons, it is replete with eccentric Englishmen, ruthless Nazis, and brave resisters in occupied Europe who risk their lives for the Allied cause.”
— Nicholas Reynolds, author of Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy: Ernest Hemingway’s Secret Adventures 1935-1961

“Witty and meticulously researched… Corera succeeds in bringing a virtually unknown chapter of the war to life and pays tribute to the ordinary people who risked their lives to resist the Nazis.”
Publishers Weekly

“The eccentric idea of enlisting pigeons as spies, combined with the bravery of those in occupied Europe who picked them up, vividly animates Corera’s excellent addition to the annals of WWII espionage.”
Booklist

“There’s undeniable drama in these pages, not just for the birds, the targets for German snipers’ rifles and hungry hawks alike, but also for the groups of Resistance fighters who took part in Columba and, through the diligence of Belgian collaborators and Nazi officials… sometimes paid with their lives.”
Kirkus Reviews

“[An] extraordinary, colourful and moving story.… [A] thrilling tale.”
Sunday Times (London)

“Once you’ve read this book you’ll never look at a pigeon disdainfully again … No Frederick Forsyth thriller could be as gripping as this real-life story… Corera’s gripping book is an intoxicating mixture of comedy and high seriousness.”
— Daily Mail (UK)

“Corera is to be congratulated for bringing to light, with humour and verve, a virtually unknown chapter of the war.”
— Daily Telegraph (London)


Product Details
ISBN: 9780062667076
ISBN-10: 0062667076
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: October 16th, 2018
Pages: 352
Language: English
ABA Admin Product Details
Data Source: ONIX
Created At: 2/24/2018 06:08pm
Last Updated At: 2/16/2019 07:38am