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The War Magician - David Fisher

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How an Illusionist Changed the Course of World War II


When England went to war against Hitler in 1939, it mobilized its entire military and industrial resources. But there was no place in that vast army for legendary stage magician Jasper Maskelyne, whose family was renowned for creating modern theatrical illusions. Maskelyne was determined to fight the Nazis using his only weapon: he intended to apply the techniques of popular magic to the battlefield. Initially ignored and ridiculed by the staid military leadership, he eventually cajoled his way into the Camouflage Section and was sent to the western desert, where he created a new type of warfare.


With his small group of artists, the Magic Gang, Maskelyne designed and developed ingenious weapons, then tricked the Desert Fox, General Rommel, and his fabled Afrika Korps into believing there were tanks and battleships where there were none, concealed the Suez Canal, and even successfully "moved" Alexandria harbor.


But it required all his skills to pull off perhaps the largest and most complex magic trick in history. As General Bernard Montgomery told Maskelyne on the eve of the Battle of El Alamein, "The entire war will turn on what happens here. What I am about to ask you to do is impossible. It can't be done, but it must be done. I hope you've brought your magic wand with you." 

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