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Review: O’Keefe’s ‘One Day In August’ explains Dieppe Raid (Includes first-hand account)

It was the largest mass failure for the Allied Forces during WWII. For many, including those who lost their lives and those left to carry on, the ultimate reason for the raid was hidden behind a wall of intel security. In David O’Keefe’s One Day In August, that wall has been pulled down to reveal the truth.

O’Keefe spent years combing information slowly released by the United Kingdom over the course of 20 years, starting in the 1970s, about one day that saw far too many dead. Of the 5,000 young Canadians who were in the first waves of the raid, 3,367 were killed, wounded or spent the rest of the war as POWs. For many, the raid seemed poorly planned for an area that had little point.

One man who stood on the deck of the HMS Fernie that fateful morning — watching the carnage on the distant shore with a group of Allied journalists, broadcasters and other military observers — knew far more than he let on. One of the key players behind the planning of the Raid of Dieppe, Ian Fleming — who would go on to pen the James Bond series — knew that this raid was a cover for a much more important mission, one that if successful could help the Allies to victory and shorten the war. It was this mission that thousands of souls were being slaughtered on the shores for. So secret a mission that most of those giving up their lives in a blaze of gunfire had no clue then or later. Survivors of the battle would die years later without knowing what an important mission they had been apart of.

O’Keefe interviewed as many of those involved in the battle as possible — very few who were on the shores of Dieppe still walk the Earth. Canadian Veteran Private Ron Beal of Toronto’s Royal Regiment of Canada was one such man. He wanted to know why so many of his friends had died that day. In the maze of secrecy surrounding Dieppe, and many of the other battles and raids of the time, only those in the highest levels of Intelligence were on the “need to know” level and their lips remained sealed even on death beds. Ian Fleming was a need-to-know man whose work in the back rooms of Intelligence have remained a secret until recently. O’Keefe tells the tale of Fleming and the others whose innovative plans and missions helped to crack German Intelligence being sent to warships, U-boats and military strongholds. Cracking those codes was the reason behind Dieppe and so many other, often successful raids, with the end result of being able to stop the Hitler machine. The fate of the future hung on obtaining a 4-cylinder encrypting unit that the Germans used and that machine was known to be at Dieppe.

One Day In August, Shortlisted for the RBC Taylor Prize, tells a story that proves fact is much harder to believe at times than fiction. It gives a glimpse at the Intelligence operations that Fleming and others were part of that helped to end the war. As the mysteries behind one of the worst battles and greatest loss of life during WWII are brought to the surface and revealed, the actual mission of Dieppe makes sense. The unsuccessful mission’s ultimate goals, now known, have allowed at least one man to find peace with the blood shed that day. “Now I can die in peace: now I know what my friends died for,” Private Beal says in the epilogue. O’Keefe’s account of that day is a must-read to understand the behind the scenes importance of Dieppe.

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