Much of the drama of stories of conflict in World War II revolve around the great battles of the times. While those were spectacular, the great victories of the war could not have been possible if not for the tireless and courageous efforts of hundreds of spies and operatives to did their job to give the allied powers the edge in the conflict and to undermine the effort of the enemy every step of the way.
While many spies of World War II did eventually become well known for their work against the enemy, the majority of them never were discovered and will never become “legends” simply because they were that good at keeping what they did a secret from the enemy and from the world.
In the movies, spies are suave and sexy and their lives are exciting adventures where they always win and get the girl. But in truth, spying on Germany and committing acts of espionage and subterfuge was often lonely, frightening and very dangerous work. At all times an underground agent knew that if he or she was captured, one of the requirements of the job is to give up his or her life rather than compromise the mission or reveal any information about the plans of the allies against the axis powers.
For most of us, the term “spy” implies that the number one job of any spy is to learn secrets of the enemies to give our forces an upper hand in the winning of the war. And when it comes to that kind of spying, the covert agents during World War II did amazing things to tip the balance in favor of the allied forces. It is not a stretch to say that we could not have prevailed against such a stubborn and difficult enemy without the extraordinary work our espionage network did to learn the secrets of the Japanese and the Germans.
One way that our spy network showed particular genius was the cracking of the communications codes to allow our intelligence services to be able to “listen in” to our enemies when they thought they were making their war plans in secret. The cracking of those codes was a combination of the genius of code breakers to study and unravel how the enemy disguised their communications and tremendous courage in our network of spies as well.
The stories are still being told of missions to capture German and Japanese codebooks that resulted in the strategic advantages that we needed in that big conflict. The phenomenal, albeit hard fought victory at D-Day and in our many battles with the Japanese after Pearle Harbor were very much the result of in depth spy efforts to capture and then decode those code books so we knew where the enemy would be and what their strategies were to defeat us. It was the superiority of our military and our alliances that meant the difference in battle. But it was the superiority of our spy network that gave us the edge in strategy and tactics.
The brave espionage agents of our spy agencies had many jobs along with gathering secret information. The work of the French Underground to disrupt the occupation of France and to eventually repel them working with military operations is a classic tale of a highly successful large scale spy operation. Spy operations also worked to damage morale in the enemy and to disrupt supply lines and hamper the movement of enemy troops. All of these functions were vital services that our spy network working with intelligence agents of our allies provided which in the end meant victory for the allies against the plans for world domination of our enemies in World War II.