Cautionary Tales – WW2: How Britain Ignored the Mother of All Secrets

10th May, 2024

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Neatly dressed in his suit, Hans Ferdinand Mayer was every inch the unassuming corporate executive. So, when he asked to borrow a typewriter from his hotel in Oslo, nobody could have guessed he would use it for one of the most extraordinary intelligence leaks in history. Mayer’s gloved fingers punched out the details of Nazi Germany’s most sensitive military operations and, when he had finished, he immediately dispatched his documents to the British  —  who did nothing.

Why did the British ignore Mayer? Did they fail to pick out the crucial signal amid the noise of detail — or was something else going on?

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Further reading

This episode of Cautionary Tales is based with permission on Tom Whipple’s new book The Battle of the Beams.

Other sources include Robert Wohlstetter’s Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision, RV Jones’s Reflections on Intelligence, and Steven Johnson’s Farsighted.

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