Germany’s Spies and Saboteurs, by David Alan Johnson, MBI Publishing Co., Osceola, Wis., $19.95.

The question of whose spies did the best job in World War II is yet to be fully sorted out, but thus far the balance is considerably in favor of the Allies. Germany’s Spies and Saboteurs attempts to show that the Germans had more competence in the spy business than previously believed, but author David Alan Johnson generally does not prove his case.

Certainly the German Abwehr (military intelligence) spent a lot of money and effort on spy and sabotage operations worldwide, but the extent of the return for their money is still unclear. This situation is unlikely to change unless some hitherto undiscovered cache of German Abwehr records comes to light.

A lot of the book focuses on Operation Pastorius, a German plan to land saboteurs on the U.S. East Coast via submarine. The leader of this team was George Dasch, a German who had lived in the United States for 19 years, then went back to Germany at the wrong time for a visit and was dragooned into serving as a saboteur. George turned himself and his team in to the FBI a few days after his arrival. In his coverage of the incident, Johnson takes on a debunking tone toward the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover, and some of his criticism is probably deserved. Even though this operation was a fiasco, Johnson implies that other saboteurs–some who infiltrated during the war and some who were already in place beforehand–did succeed in committing acts of destruction in war industries (accounted for by the FBI as industrial accidents), though he cites no proof of specific instances.

Despite its wartime claims of nabbing all spies sent to Britain, the British MI-5, according to Johnson, also blotted its copy book. One colossal miss was Gwyn Evans, a Welsh nationalist whose cover was as an entertainer to the troops. Evans, who was able to obtain passes to travel throughout areas where there were troop buildups, is credited with warning the Germans of the Dieppe Raid and leading to its bloody failure. He warned them that the cross-Channel invasion would be aimed at Normandy, but that key bit of intelligence was disbelieved by the German high command, even after Evans uncovered the fact that the First U.S. Army Group, allegedly under the command of General George S. Patton, Jr., was a fake.

John I. Witmer