The Eagle Has Landed

The Eagle Has Landed

infobox Book |
name = The Eagle Has Landed
title_orig =
translator =

image_caption = 1976 UK second edition paperback
author = Jack Higgins
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = United Kingdom
language = English
series =
genre = War, Thriller Novel
publisher = HarperCollins
release_date = 8 September 1975
media_type = Print (Hardback and Paperback)
pages = 352 pp (hardcover edition)) 356 pp (paperback edition)
isbn = ISBN 0-00-221208-0 (hardcover edition) ISBN 0-671-01934-1 (paperback edition)
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"The Eagle Has Landed" is a book by Jack Higgins first published in 1975. It was made into a film of the same name in 1976. The plot has some similarities with that of "Went the Day Well?"

The book is still in print, being reissued in New York by Berkley Books in 2000 with ISBN 0-425-17718-1

Plot summary

The book makes use of the false document technique, and opens with Higgins making the claim that he discovered the grave of thirteen German paratroopers in an English graveyard. What follows was inspired by the real life rescue of Hitler's ally Benito Mussolini by Otto Skorzeny, a similar idea is considered by Hitler, with the strong support of Himmler. Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of the Abwehr (German military intelligence), is ordered to make a feasibility study of the seemingly impossible task of capturing Prime Minister Winston Churchill and returning him to the Reich.

Canaris considers the idea a joke, but realizes that although Hitler will soon forget the matter, Himmler will not. Fearing Himmler may try to discredit him, Canaris orders one of his officers, Oberst Radl to undertake the study, despite feeling that it is all just a waste of time.

An Unteroffizier on Radl's staff finds that one of their spies, code named "Starling", has provided a tantalizing piece of intelligence. "At any other time, in any other place, this information would be useless", Radl said. "And then synchronicity rears its ugly head." Winston Churchill is scheduled to spend a weekend at a country house near the village of Studley Constable, where Joanna Grey, a South African woman and German spy, lives. Radl comes up with a scheme that he believes could work but Canaris orders him to abandon it.

Himmler learns of the scheme and summons Radl, ordering him to proceed, but without notifying Canaris. Radl dispatches Liam Devlin, a member of the IRA to contact Mrs. Grey, who hates the English due to her Boer heritage and experiences.

Radl recruits a team of commandos to carry out the operation, led by a German Fallschirmjäger officer, Oberst Kurt Steiner. While returning from the Eastern Front, Steiner intervened when SS soldiers rounded up Jews at a railway station in Poland, and allowed a teenage girl to escape on a passing freight train. For this, he was court-martialed, along with a platoon of his men. Rather than face a firing squad, the men were allowed to transfer to a punishment unit in the Channel Islands, where they made suicidal attacks with manned torpedoes against British channel convoys.

Radl travels to Guernsey and recruits Steiner and his surviving men. The safety of Kurt Steiner's father, General Steiner, detained by the Gestapo, serves as an additional incentive for the Oberst. The team will fly into the UK in a captured C-47 with Allied markings. The commandos outfit themselves as Free Polish troops, as few of them speak English; the plan is to infiltrate Studley Constable, complete their mission, rendezvous with an E-boat at the nearby coast and make their escape.

The plan is ultimately foiled when a German paratrooper rescues two local children from a water wheel. He is killed in the process and his German uniform (worn under the Polish uniforms, by Himmler's order, as protection against being executed as spies) is revealed to the villagers. The locals are rounded up, but the sister of Father Vereker, a local priest, escapes and alerts a locally stationed United States Army unit. Colonel Robert Shafto, an inexperienced but headstrong officer, rallies his forces to retake the hostages, but is then killed while attempting to apprehend Mrs. Grey personally. The assault on the church fails. Major Kane organizes a second, successful attack.

Steiner, his second-in-command Ritter Neumann, and Devlin manage to escape with the aid of a local girl, Molly Prior, who had become romantically involved with the Irishman. Instead of taking his chance to escape, Steiner opts to make one last attempt at Churchill. He succeeds in reaching Churchill, but hesitates and is shot and is supposedly killed. (However, Steiner reappears alive in "The Eagle Has Flown", a sequel.) Radl has a heart attack, implied to be fatal, although at about the same time, Himmler, upon discovering that the mission has failed, orders Radl's arrest for treason against the state.

As in many novels of Higgins, this story is surrounded by a 'frame story' with a prologue and epilogue. The author, whilst doing historical research in Norfolk, supposedly meets various surviving characters. Some paperback editions have more historical backstory than others, including a meeting with a older Liam Devlin in a Belfast hotel. The final revelation comes from an aged and terminally ill Father Vereker: "Churchill" had been an impersonator and even if the mission had succeeded, it would not have mattered.


*After the success of "The Eagle Has Landed", Higgins wrote a quasi-sequel called "The Eagle Has Flown".


* The Liam Devlin character seems to be based on the real-life Frank Ryan. Like Devlin in the book, Ryan was an IRA man who had fought on the Republican side in the Spanish Civil War, was captured by the Franco forces and afterwards passed to the Germans. The real Ryan had not, however, participated in any German commando raid, and his deteriorating health (he died in 1944 in a Dresden hospital) would have made this impossible. Devlin is also featured in a later Jack Higgins book, older and supporting British authorities in stopping an attack on the Pope.

External links

* [ WW2DB: The Eagle Has Landed book review]

Release details

* Unknown year, US, Bantam Books ISBN 0-553-02500-7, Publication date ? ? ?, Paperback Edition

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