History in Review
The Brenner Assignment
The Untold Story of the Most Daring Spy Mission of World War II. By Patrick K. O'Donnell. (Da Capo Press Cambridge, Massachusetts: 2008. Pg. 286. Illustrations, Maps.) ISBN: 978-0-306-81841-7.
Reviewed by Herbert White - October 13, 2009
Do you find history boring? If you do, prepare to discover your love of history. How? By reading The Brenner Assignment: The Untold Story of the Most Daring Spy Mission of World War II, by Patrick K. O'Donnell. Yes, this is a history book, complete with endnotes, illustrations, and maps. However, if you did not know that fact in advance, you would think that this is a spine-chilling espionage thriller penned by the likes of John le Carré, Alistair McLean, Tom Clancy, or Ted Bell. In short, The Brenner Assignment is a ripping good read that just happens to be absolutely true!
The Brenner Assignment is an account of a top-secret covert sabotage operation, which placed a three-man team, code named Tacoma, behind enemy lines in Italy, toward the end of World War II. The Brenner Pass was an essential supply and communication line through the Alps, between Austria and Italy, which was heavily used by the Nazis to transport supplies and men into Fascist Italy. Designed by Captain Stephen Hall, the goal of the Brenner Assignment was to do whatever it took to harass and hopefully cut off this vital supply line. By doing so, they would effectively be isolating the German troops in Italy, making them easy pickings for the Allied troops that were advancing northward from Sicily.
The operation was the brainchild of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) an agency that later morphed into the modern CIA. The Brenner Assignment is the first time that the unforgettable story of this mission has been told. O'Donnell is a military historian, and in writing this book he dug through thousands of recently declassified military documents and OSS files. He also conducted personal interviews with survivors of the operation - both military members such as the operation's team leader Howard Chappell and other OSS operatives such as Nick Cangelosi and Charles Ciccone, as well as several of the Italian partisans who aided them, and he searched through an untold number of personal and private records concerning the operation.
Within the pages of this exciting book, O'Donnell introduces us to those who planned and carried out this daring mission. He also goes into intimate detail on how the men were trained for the mission and how it was carried out - in the process becoming the very first American, Special Forces Unit. O'Donnell details the entire mission, following the men as they parachuted into Italy, detailing how they managed to sabotage the rail lines and road ways that ran through the Brenner Pass, and what the repercussions of their mission were.
Filled with daring-do, danger, death, intrigue, close-calls, really nasty bad guys including one really sadistic Gestapo officer, a handful of traitors and double agents, and a host of real heroes, The Brenner Assignment will fascinate fans of espionage fiction. As well, O'Donnell's detailed research into this mission and his authoritative account will enthrall historians of every ilk, but especially those with an interest in World War II and espionage history. I highly recommend the The Brenner Assignment. It is by far the most riveting history book that I've ever read!
They Dared Return: The True Story of Jewish Spies Behind the Lines in Nazi Germany, by Patrick K. O'Donnell.
The daring, and true story of five young refugees from Nazi Germany who joined the OSS and went back, behind enemy lines, to fight the Nazi's face to face.
MacArthur's Undercover War: Spies, Saboteurs, Guerrillas, and Secret Missions, by William B. Breuer
In this intriguing narrative, Breuer, chronicles MacArthur's long-running covert war that he waged against the Japanese during World War II.
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