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Need to Know

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There is so much behind the scenes that we may not know about how a war is won. George Washington's spy ring helped him beat the British with a ragtag army. Nimitz's codebreakers turned the tide with the major victory at Midway. Nicholas Reynolds' book "Need to Know" provides the background to the intelligence story of World War II, following the early era of the CIA before it developed into the powerhouse we know it today. Early intelligence under William Donovan could be best described as disorganized. The British in the early part of WWII were desperate to get the help of the Americans, but American intelligence was incapable of helping themselves at the time. For those interested in the historical background of American intelligence, this book provides the political and military contexts often missing from more narrative-driven books.

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My thanks to both NetGalley and the publisher Mariner Books for an advanced copy of this book on the history of American intelligence gathering during the Second World War.

Espionage and the art of intelligence gathering is slow and steady process, less the eureka moments, though that does happen, more the if we add this conversation we heard at a bar, with this information our agent in the embassy gave us, along with this old copy of a phone directory we stole from a library oh look we found out who is this guy that we are interested in might be. These tiny bits can equal great wins, if someone is looking, the right person is overseeing it, and there is not in inter- service rivalry making sharing of information difficult. Need to Know: World War II and the Rise of American Intelligence by author and historian Nicholas Reynolds traces the rise of the intelligence complex from its simple beginnings to what has become a monolith of agencies all with sorts of acronyms and a fresh set of bureaucratic rivalries, sometimes keeping America as much in the dark as ever.

In the years leading to World War II America's ideas on Europe was don't bother us. A strong feeling of isolationism, from many popular and powerful people, following the War to End All Wars was strong and very present in American politics. The idea, also that "Gentlemen do not read other gentlemen's mail" kept both funding, people to work in, and worse political patronage and protection kept America much in the dark about events in Europe. A few citizens, prominent in business and government began to share informally information they learned in their travels to Europe and Asia, what they saw, the moods and what people thought. Many of these conversations made there way to the president informally, but to the government outside of codebreaking, which was shared between the Navy and Army and not well, was quite in the dark. With the advent of war, things slowly began to change, with Britain pushing and prodding both overt and covertly to get America in on the game, with success and failures. However soon, America was funding codebreakers, tracking U-Boats and setting up their own covert forces all over the world.

A very well- written well- sourced book that is filled with facts and lots of information about America and how it entered the world of espionage. What never ceases to amaze me, even know is the amount of rivalry at home that stymied and wrecked careers from people who were trying to protect America and win the war. And you can see the rise in class in government and espionage, as it seems Ivy League schools and the right family were the only things needed to enter the covert corps that was being set up. Also Reynolds lists many incidents where things we so close to going wrong, not enough to change the war's outcome, but maybe could have lead to the death of more people or slightly prolonging the war. A very interesting books that balances a lot of information, but never bogs down or gets confusing, even with its large cast.

This is not a book about covert war during World War II. There are a few incidents, but nothing like a boy's own adventure about derring- do behind the line. This is a historical study of how this country went from nothing, to the billions of dollars in black budgets a year organizations we have today. A very well written book that is recommended for spy historians and World War buffs, much for the different view of the war then is usually presented.

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When thinking about the most well known and read periods of history, WWII stands out. In Need To Know, readers are transported back to pre-WW2 and the war itself to understand the power plays that occurred behind the scenes and helped to build the spy rings and intelligence groups that helped bring down the Nazis.

Nicholas Reynolds introduces readers to characters from across the world who had major effects on the war and pulls back the curtain on the intelligence race that began between the Allies prior to and during the war.

My only complaint with the book is that it reads like a history book and seems to stay inside the lines except for some side stories and characters that stand out including Ian Fleming.

Overall Need To Know is a fun read for any history or WW2 buff!

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