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Smith, Bradley F. The Ultra-Magic Deals and the Most Secret Special Relationship, 1940-1946. Novato, CA: Presidio Press, 1992.
Acknowledgments; Preface; Archive Key to Notes; Notes; Bibliography; index.
Still new, incomplete, and capable of revealing surprising information about the war is the exciting field of Signals Intelligence research. Starting with the revelations of F. W. Winterbotham, advancing with the more precise and documented work of Ronald Lewin and the close relationship of Ultra intelligence to operational planning detailed in Ralph Bennett's pair of books, through the highly revealing British Intelligence series edited by F. H. Hinsley and the more recent titles from John Prados, Bruce Lee, and Edward J. Drea, through this progression of research and interpretation we have discovered much to cause reassessment of what we thought we knew of the manner in which the Second World War was waged.
Most of the volumes covering Signals Intelligence have focused on the technical process by which the enemy's secrets were revealed, or else the inter-relationship of this special intelligence with the planning and conduct of campaigns and battles.
Bradley Smith's book takes a different approach. This is not a history of interception or decryption or victories won by clever use of timely warning of enemy capabilities and intentions. Rather, it is the story of how the United States and the United Kingdom gradually came to share with each other the most closely-guarded secrets of their respective "black chambers" and how this sharing grew into an inter-dependence of Signals Intelligence through the later war years and into the post-war era.
Given the confused and unharnessed state of US joint Intelligence in the early parts of the war (weeks after the disaster at Pearl Harbor, Army HQ there, without its own proper Sigint staff and facilities, still had not established liaison with the appropriate Navy office), and the extremely limited international cooperation practiced before America entered the conflict, the successful series of negotiations and agreements that finally and largely combined British-American Signals Intelligence operations sometimes seems little short of miraculous.
While brief mention is made of the conduct of the war and the part played by the output of Sigint operations, such information is provided only to serve as context. The emphasis here is very much on the diplomatic, political, and bureaucratic aspects of building a successful international organization to ensure and hurry the Allied march to victory.
This thread is carried through the war years, and into 1947 when the pattern of post-war cooperation begins to emerge and we begin to hear names like Kim Philby and Donald MacLean--harbingers of a new era. All and all this is a very specialized subject, but one handled in a competent, illuminating, and readable fashion.
In print and available from mail order booksellers and local bookstores for $12.95.
Thanks to Presidio Press for providing this reveiw copy.
Reviewed 10 September 1996
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