Click here to read reviewer Dave Roy's take on The Brenner Assignment.
The Brenner Assignment is a wonderful telling of this daring spy mission behind German lines in northern Italy during World War II, conducted under the commands of two American O.S.S. agents. Patrick O’Donnell keeps the reader enthralled with his smoothly flowing historical narrative.
This is the story of two American OSS agents, Captain Howard Wheeler Chappell and Captain Roderick Stephen Goodspeed Hall. The OSS (Office of Strategic Services) was the precursor of the CIA. The agency recruited Chappell and Hall as agents to work behind enemy lines blowing up bridges and trains and disrupting the enemy’s communications and supply lines. They were also to work with partisans or locals who were opposed to Nazi occupation, as well as other locals who collaborated with the enemy. Hall parachuted into northern Italy to work with the partisans and radio back to OSS headquarters for supplies, weapons and ammunition to be air-dropped to them. He also was to send information for air raids on enemy targets.
Chappell later parachuted into the same region to link up with Hall and carry out the primary mission of blowing up the Brenner Pass in the Alps, which allowed Nazi movements to pass from Austria into Italy. It was a major corridor for them, and as the war was winding down, the Allies wanted to destroy this pass to stop as many Nazi forces as possible from returning to Germany to continue the fight there.
O’Donnell researched the material available on this mission in the National Archives and interviewed those still living who participated in this mission in the United States, Italy, and other places. O’Donnell makes those people who had died alive again. Although some nasty events occur, like torture and killing in battles, O’Donnell does not go into great and gory detail. One’s imagination can guess about those things; if there is a movie based on this book, the producers will probably add that. While there the story includes a love affair, sexual details and scenes are not offered. Maps and black-and-white photos occupy the centerfold of the book, and endnotes and an index are included. The Brenner Assignment is highly recommended to those interested in World War II in Italy, spy stories, the OSS, or a good ol’ hero story.
Patrick K. O’Donnell is the author of We Were One: Shoulder to Shoulder with the Marines Who Took Fallujah (2006), Beyond Valor (2001), Into the Rising Sun (2002) and Operatives, Spies, and Saboteurs (2004).