ilitary intelligence is a discipline that deals with information collection and analysis in combat zones. It provides a source of situational awareness and understanding of the battlespace, helping to identify both friendly and enemy forces in order to achieve mission objectives. Gaining knowledge about the enemy’s capabilities and intentions through various sources is essential for successful military operations. This article will explore some of the best books on military intelligence which will interest anyone looking to learn more about military intelligence.
Best Books on Military Intelligence: THE LIST
1. Intelligence in War | By John Keegan
n fiction, the spy is a glamorous figure whose secrets make or break the peace, but, historically, has intelligence really been a vital step to military victories? In this breakthrough study, the preeminent war historian John Keegan goes to the heart of a series of important conflicts to develop a powerful argument about military intelligence.
In his characteristically wry and perceptive prose, Keegan offers us nothing short of a new history of the war through the prism of intelligence. He brings to life the split-second decisions that went into waging war before the benefit of aerial surveillance and electronic communications. The English admiral Horatio Nelson was hot on the heels of Napoleon’s fleet in the Mediterranean and never knew it, while Stonewall Jackson was able to compensate for the Confederacy’s disadvantage in firearms and manpower with detailed maps of the Appalachians.
In the past century, espionage and decryption have changed the face of battle: the Japanese surprise attack at the Battle of the Midway was thwarted by an early warning. Timely information, however, is only the beginning of the surprising and disturbing aspects of decisions that are made in war, where brute force is often more critical.
Intelligence in War is a thought-provoking work that ranks among John Keegan’s finest achievements.
2. Double Cross | By Ben Macintyre
In his celebrated bestsellers Agent Zigzag and Operation Mincemeat, Ben Macintyre told the dazzling true stories of a remarkable WWII double agent and of how the Allies employed a corpse to fool the Nazis and assure a decisive victory. In Double Cross, Macintyre returns with the untold story of the grand final deception of the war and of the extraordinary spies who achieved it.
On June 6, 1944, 150,000 Allied troops landed on the beaches of Normandy and suffered an astonishingly low rate of casualties. D-Day was a stunning military accomplishment, but it was also a masterpiece of trickery. Operation Fortitude, which protected and enabled the invasion, and the Double Cross system, which specialized in turning German spies into double agents, deceived the Nazis into believing that the Allies would attack at Calais and Norway rather than Normandy. It was the most sophisticated and successful deception operation ever carried out, ensuring that Hitler kept an entire army awaiting a fake invasion, saving thousands of lives, and securing an Allied victory at the most critical juncture in the war.
The story of D-Day has been told from the point of view of the soldiers who fought in it, the tacticians who planned it, and the generals who led it. But this epic event in world history has never before been told from the perspectives of the key individuals in the Double Cross System. These include its director (a brilliant, urbane intelligence officer), a colorful assortment of MI5 handlers (as well as their counterparts in Nazi intelligence), and the five spies who formed Double Cross’s nucleus: a dashing Serbian playboy, a Polish fighter pilot, a bisexual Peruvian party girl, a deeply eccentric Spaniard with a diploma in chicken farming and a volatile Frenchwoman, whose obsessive love for her pet dog very nearly wrecked the entire plan. The D-Day spies were, without question, one of the oddest military units ever assembled, and their success depended on the delicate, dubious relationship between spy and spymaster, both German and British. Their enterprise was saved from catastrophe by a shadowy sixth spy whose heroic sacrifice is revealed here for the first time.
With the same depth of research, eye for the absurd, and masterful storytelling that have made Ben Macintyre an international bestseller, Double Cross is a captivating narrative of the spies who wove a web so intricate it ensnared Hitler’s army and carried thousands of D-Day troops across the Channel in safety.
3. Surprise, Kill, Vanish | By Annie Jacobsen
Surprise…your target. Kill…your enemy. Vanish…without a trace.
From Pulitzer Prize finalist Annie Jacobsen, the untold story of the CIA’s secret paramilitary units.
When diplomacy fails and war is unwise, the president calls on the CIA’s Special Activities Division, a highly classified branch of the CIA and the most effective black-operations force in the world. Originally known as the president’s guerrilla warfare corps, SAD conducts risky and ruthless operations that have evolved over time to defend America from its enemies. Almost every American president since World War II has asked the CIA to conduct sabotage, subversion, and yes, assassination.
With unprecedented access to 42 men and women who proudly and secretly worked on CIA covert operations from the dawn of the Cold War to the present day, along with declassified documents and deep historical research, Pulitzer Prize finalist Annie Jacobsen unveils – like never before – a complex world of individuals working in treacherous environments populated with killers, connivers, and saboteurs. Despite Hollywood notions of off-book operations and external secret hires, covert action is actually one piece in a colossal foreign policy machine.
Written with the pacing of a thriller, Surprise, Kill, Vanish brings to vivid life the sheer pandemonium and chaos, as well as the unforgettable human will to survive and the intellectual challenge of not giving up hope that defines paramilitary and intelligence work. Jacobsen’s exclusive interviews – with members of the CIA’s Senior Intelligence Service (equivalent to the Pentagon’s generals), its counterterrorism chiefs, targeting officers, and Special Activities Division’s Ground Branch operators who conduct today’s close-quarters killing operations around the world – reveal, for the first time, the enormity of this shocking, controversial, and morally complex terrain. Is the CIA’s paramilitary army America’s weaponized strength or liability to its principled standing in the world?
Every operation reported in this audiobook, however unsettling, is legal.
4. The Secret War for the Union | By Edwin Fishel
Most histories of the Civil War explain victory and defeat in terms of the skill of commanders and their troops. Intelligence records disappeared after the war, and thus a critically important element has largely been ignored. Fishel has unearthed substantial collections of such records, and his “intelligence explanation” radically alters history’s understanding of the campaigns. The Secret War for the Union is one of the most important Civil War works ever published.
5. The Secret World | By Christopher Andrew
The history of espionage is far older than any of today’s intelligence agencies, yet the long history of intelligence operations has been largely forgotten. The codebreakers at Bletchley Park, the most successful World War II intelligence agency, were completely unaware their predecessors in earlier moments of national crisis had broken the codes of Napoleon during the Napoleonic wars and those of Spain before the Spanish Armada.
Those who do not understand past mistakes are likely to repeat them. Intelligence is a prime example. At the outbreak of World War I, the grasp of intelligence shown by US President Woodrow Wilson and British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith was not in the same class as that of George Washington during the Revolutionary War and leading 18th-century British statesmen.
In this audiobook, distinguished historian Christopher Andrew recovers much of the lost intelligence history of the past three millennia – and shows its relevance today.
6. Intelligence and Military Operations
Traditionally the military community held the intelligence profession in low esteem, spying was seen as dirty work, and information was all too often ignored if it conflicted with a commander’s own view. Handel examines the ways in which this situation has improved and argues that cooperation between the intelligence adviser and the military decision-maker is vital.
7. Psychology of Intelligence Analysis | By Richards Heuer
This volume pulls together and republishes, with some editing, updating, and additions, articles were written during 1978-86 for internal use within the CIA Directorate of Intelligence. The information is relatively timeless and still relevant to the never-ending quest for better analysis. The articles are based on reviewing cognitive psychology literature concerning how people process information to make judgments on incomplete and ambiguous information. The essays selected are the most relevant to intelligence analysis and most in need of communication to intelligence analysts. The articles are intended to help intelligence analysts understand and interpret the issues that most intelligence analysts face.
8. Most Secret War | By Reginald Victor
9. Behind the Enigma | By John Robert Ferris
The definitive history of GCHQ, one of the world’s most tight-lipped intelligence agencies, is written with unprecedented access to classified archives.
For a hundred years GCHQ – Government Communications Headquarters – has been at the forefront of British secret statecraft. Born out of the need to support military operations in the First World War, and fought over ever since, today it is the UK’s biggest intelligence, security, and cyber agency and a powerful tool of the British state.
Famed primarily for its codebreaking achievements at Bletchley Park against Enigma ciphers in the Second World War, GCHQ has intercepted, interpreted, and disrupted the information networks of Britain’s foes for a century, and yet it remains the least known and understood of British intelligence services.
It has been one of the most open-minded, too: GCHQ has always demanded a diversity of intellectual firepower, finding it in places which strike us as ground-breaking today, and allying it to the efforts of ordinary men and women to achieve extraordinary insights into war, diplomacy, and peace. GCHQ shapes British decision-making more than any other intelligence organization and, along with its partners in the Five Eyes intelligence partnership-including, including the United States National Security Agency-has become ever more crucial in an age governed by information technology.
Based on unprecedented access to documents in GCHQ’s archive, many of them hitherto classified, this is the first book to authoritatively explain the entire history of one of the world’s most potent intelligence agencies. Many major contemporary conflicts-between Russia and the West, between Arab nations and Israel, between state security and terrorism-become fully explicable only in the light of the secret intelligence record. Written by one of the world’s leading experts in intelligence and strategy, Behind the Enigma reveals the fascinating truth behind this most remarkable and enigmatic of organizations.
10. Military Intelligence Blunders and Cover-Ups | By John Hughes-Wilson
Offers an insider’s view of some of the greatest intelligence blunders of history. This book includes the serious developments in government misuse of intelligence in the war with Iraq. It analyses not just the events that conspire to cause disaster, but why crucial intelligence is so often ignored, misunderstood, or spun by politicians.
11. This is How They Tell Me the World Ends | By Nicold Perlroth
Bloomsbury presents This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends by Nicole Perlroth, read by Allyson Ryan.
Zero-day: a software bug that allows a hacker to break into your devices and move around undetected. One of the most coveted tools in a spy’s arsenal, a zero-day has the power to silently spy on your iPhone, dismantle the safety controls at a chemical plant, alter an election and shut down the electric grid (just ask Ukraine).
For decades, under cover of classification levels and non-disclosure agreements, the United States government became the world’s dominant hoarder of zero days. US government agents paid top dollar – first thousands and later millions of dollars – to hackers willing to sell their lock-picking code and their silence.
Then the United States lost control of its hoard and the market.
Now those zero-days are in the hands of hostile nations and mercenaries who do not care if your vote goes missing, your clean water is contaminated or our nuclear plant’s meltdown.
Filled with spies, hackers, arms dealers, and a few unsung heroes, written like a thriller and a reference, This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends is an astonishing feat of journalism. Based on years of reporting and hundreds of interviews, The New York Times reporter Nicole Perlroth lifts the curtain on a market in shadow, revealing the urgent threat faced by us all if we cannot bring the global cyber arms race to heel.
12. Destined for War | By Graham Allison
NATIONAL BESTSELLER | NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR. From an eminent international security scholar, an urgent examination of the conditions that could produce a catastrophic conflict between the United States and China??―??and how it might be prevented.
China and the United States are heading toward a war neither wants. The reason is Thucydides’s Trap: when a rising power threatens to displace a ruling one, violence is the likeliest result. Over the past five hundred years, these conditions have occurred sixteen times; war broke out in twelve.
At the time of publication, an unstoppable China approached an immovable America, and both Xi Jinping and Donald Trump promised to make their countries “great again,” the seventeenth case was looking grim??―??it still is. A trade conflict, cyberattack, Korean crisis, or accident at sea could easily spark a major war.
In Destined for War, eminent Harvard scholar Graham Allison masterfully blends history and current events to explain the timeless machinery of Thucydides’s Trap??―??and to explore the painful steps that might prevent disaster today.
13. The Billion Dollar Spy | By David Hoffman
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Dead Hand comes the riveting story of the CIA’s most valuable spy in the Soviet Union and an evocative portrait of the agency’s Moscow station, an outpost of daring espionage in the last years of the Cold War.
While getting into his car on the evening of February 16, 1978, the chief of the CIA’s Moscow station was handed an envelope by an unknown Russian. Its contents stunned the Americans: details of top-secret Soviet research and development in military technology that was totally unknown to the United States.
From 1979 to 1985, Adolf Tolkachev, an engineer at a military research center, cracked open the secret Soviet military research establishment, using his access to hand over tens of thousands of pages of material about the latest advances in aviation technology, alerting the Americans to possible developments years in the future. He was one of the most productive and valuable spies ever to work for the United States in the four decades of global confrontation with the Soviet Union. Tolkachev took enormous personal risks, but so did his CIA handlers. Moscow station was a dangerous posting to the KGB’s backyard. The CIA had long struggled to recruit and run agents in Moscow, and Tolkachev became a singular breakthrough. With hidden cameras and secret codes, and in face-to-face meetings with CIA case officers in parks and on street corners, Tolkachev and the CIA worked to elude the feared KGB.
Drawing on previously secret documents obtained from the CIA, as well as interviews with participants, Hoffman reveals how the depredations of the Soviet state motivated one man to master the craft of spying against his own nation until he was betrayed to the KGB by a disgruntled former CIA trainee. No one has ever told this story before in such detail, and Hoffman’s deep knowledge of spycraft, the Cold War, and military technology makes him uniquely qualified to bring listeners this real-life espionage thriller.
14.Blind Man’s Bluff | By Sherry Sontag
No espionage missions have been kept more secret than those involving American submarines. Now, Blind Man’s Bluff shows for the first time how the navy sent submarines wired with self-destruct charges into the heart of Soviet seas to tap crucial underwater telephone cables. It unveils how the navy’s own negligence might have been responsible for the loss of the USS Scorpion, a submarine that disappeared, all hands lost, 30 years ago. It tells the complete story of the audacious attempt to steal a Soviet submarine with the help of eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes and how it was doomed from the start. And it reveals how the Navy used the comforting notion of deep-sea rescue vehicles to hide operations that were more James Bond than Jacques Cousteau.
Blind Man’s Bluff contains an unforgettable array of characters, including the cowboy sub commander who brazenly outraced torpedoes and couldn’t resist sneaking up to within feet of unaware enemy subs. It takes us inside clandestine Washington meetings where top submarine captains briefed presidents and where the espionage war was planned one sub and one dangerous encounter at a time. Stretching from the years immediately after World War II to the operations of the Clinton administration, it is an epic story of daring and deception. A magnificent achievement in investigative reporting, it feels like a spy thriller but with one important difference: Everything in it is true.
15. The Art of Betrayal | By Gordon Corera
From Berlin to the Congo, from Moscow to the back streets of London, these are the stories of the agents on the front lines of British intelligence. And the truth is often more remarkable than fiction.
MI6 has been cloaked in secrecy and shrouded in myth since it was created a hundred years ago. Our understanding of what it is to be a spy has been largely defined by the fictional worlds of Ian Fleming and John le Carré. Gordon Corera provides a unique and unprecedented insight into this secret world and the reality that lies behind the fiction. He tells the story of how the secret service has changed since the end of the Second World War and, by focusing on the people and the relationships that lie at the heart of espionage, illustrates the danger, the drama, the intrigue, and the moral ambiguities that come with working for British intelligence.
From the defining period of the early Cold War through to the modern-day, MI6 has undergone a dramatic transformation from a gung-ho, amateurish organization to its modern, no less controversial, incarnation. Gordon Corera reveals the triumphs and disasters along the way. The grand dramas of the Cold War; the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall; the Cuban Missile Crisis; the September 11, 2001, attacks; and the Iraq War are the backdrops for the individual spies whose stories form the centerpiece of this narrative. And some of the individuals featured here, in turn, helped shape the course of those events. Corera draws on the first-hand accounts of those who have spied, lied, and in some cases nearly died in service of the state. They range from the spymasters to the agents they controlled to their sworn enemies. And the truth is often more remarkable than fiction.
16. The Spy and the Traitor | By Ben Macintyre
New York Times Best Seller
The celebrated author of Double Cross and Rogue Heroes returns with his greatest spy story yet, a thrilling Americans-era tale of Oleg Gordievsky, the Russian whose secret work helped hasten the end of the Cold War.
“The best true spy story I have ever read.” (John Le Carré)
If anyone could be considered a Russian counterpart to the infamous British double-agent Kim Philby, it was Oleg Gordievsky. The son of two KGB agents and the product of the best Soviet institutions, the savvy, sophisticated Gordievsky grew to see his nation’s communism as both criminal and philistine. He took his first posting for Russian intelligence in 1968 and eventually became the Soviet Union’s top man in London, but from 1973 on he was secretly working for MI6. For nearly a decade, as the Cold War reached its twilight, Gordievsky helped the West turn the tables on the KGB, exposing Russian spies and helping to foil countless intelligence plots, as the Soviet leadership grew increasingly paranoid at the United States’s nuclear first-strike capabilities and brought the world closer to the brink of war. Desperate to keep the circle of trust close, MI6 never revealed Gordievsky’s name to its counterparts in the CIA, which in turn grew obsessed with figuring out the identity of Britain’s obviously top-level source. Their obsession ultimately doomed Gordievsky: the CIA officer assigned to identify him was none other than Aldrich Ames, the man who would become infamous for secretly spying for the Soviets.
Unfolding the delicious three-way gamesmanship between America, Britain, and the Soviet Union, and culminating in the gripping cinematic beat-by-beat of Gordievsky’s nail-biting escape from Moscow in 1985, Ben Macintyre’s latest may be his best yet. Like the greatest novels of John le Carré, it brings listeners deep into a world of treachery and betrayal, where the lines bleed between the personal and the professional, and one man’s hatred of communism had the power to change the future of nations.
17. Operation Mincemeat | By Ben Macintyre
As plans got underway for the Allied invasion of Sicily in June 1943, British counter-intelligence agent Ewen Montagu masterminded a scheme to mislead the Germans into thinking the next landing would occur in Greece. The innovative plot was so successful that the Germans moved some of their forces away from Sicily, and two weeks into the real invasion still expected an attack in Greece.
This extraordinary operation called for a dead body, dressed as a Royal Marine officer and carrying false information about a pending Allied invasion of Greece, to wash up on a Spanish shore near the town of a known Nazi agent.
Agent Montagu tells the story as only an insider could, offering fascinating details of the difficulties involved – especially in creating a persona for a man who never was – and of his profession as a spy and the risks involved in mounting such a complex operation. Failure could have had devastating results. Success, however, brought a decided change in the course of the war.
18.Fixing Intelligence | By William Eldridge Odom
William E. Odom is the highest-ranking member of the United States Intelligence community ever to write a book outlining fundamental restructuring of this vast network of agencies, technology, and human agents. In the wake of 9/11, Odom has revised and updated a powerful critique he wrote several years ago for staff of the U.S. congressional committee overseeing the vast American intelligence bureaucracy. His recommendations for revamping this essential component of American security are now available for general readers as well as for policymakers. While giving an unmatched overview of the world of U.S. intelligence, Odom persuasively shows that the failure of American intelligence on 9/11 had much to do with the complex bureaucratic relationships existing among the various components of the Intelligence Community. The sustained fragmentation within the Intelligence Community since World War II is part of the story; the blurring of security and intelligence duties is another. Odom describes the various components of American intelligence in order to give readers an understanding of how complex they are and what can be done to make them more effective in providing timely intelligence and more efficient in using their large budgets. He shows definitively that they cannot be remedied with quick fixes but require a deep study of the entire bureaucracy and the commitment of the U.S. government to implement the necessary reforms.
19. G-2 | By Oscar Koch
The enigmatic science of military intelligence is examined in this personal record, written by Brig. Gen. Oscar W. Koch, who served during World War II as chief of intelligence for General George S. Patton, Jr., was one of the most colorful military leaders in American history. General Koch traces the growth and development of infant science through detailed accounts of the intelligence role in some of the most celebrated battles of the war, and through his personal remembrances of Patton and his relationships with members of his intelligence staff. His story moves from the African campaign through Sicily, into France on D-Day and on to the Battle of the Bulge, pointing out how the work of the intelligence staff made the differences in the final reckoning. General Koch’s book is more than a historical study, however. It is the exciting story of the operations behind the cloak and dagger illusions.
Final Thoughts on the Best Books on Military Intelligence
A lot of people want to know what military intelligence is, how it works, and what the best books on the subject are. Military intelligence involves gathering and analyzing information in a strategic way in order to gain a tactical or strategic advantage. It also includes various aspects of defense intelligence.
Do you see a book that you think should be on the list? Let us know your feedback here.