If anyone believes that SIS persuaded each of these 19 hard-bitten Nazi spies to fall in with Operation Fortitude by merely offering them tea, biscuits, and lectures in democracy, they’re being profoundly naïve. An SIS secret house located in Ham Common near Richmond on the outskirts of London was the location where the will of those agents was broken, using advanced interrogation techniques that reportedly started with sleep deprivation but went on to gross mental and physical abuse. The result? Many thousands of Allied servicemens’ lives were saved because the German 15th Army stayed well away from beaches such as Omaha, Utah, and Sword. And another 100,000 others were stationed in Norway for another attack that never came.
Did Winston Churchill know what was going on in the cellar-dungeons of the house in Ham? Of course he did, but like Nancy Pelosi and other politicians he understandably preferred not to dwell on this less auspicious side of the defense of freedom. As I show in my recently published book, Masters and Commanders: How Four Titans Won the War in the West, 1941-1945—reviewed here yesterday by Michael Korda—Churchill always advocated the toughest option in any issue that came before his War Cabinet, be it over the bombing of German cities, allowing Mahatma Gandhi to die in his hunger strike, retaliating over the destruction of the Czech village of Lidice, and so on. The idea that he would have balked on ethical grounds over the breaking and turning of Abwehr agents—knowing how vitally necessary that was for the liberation of Europe—is ludicrous.