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Agent Garbo: The Brilliant Spy

 Of all the spies who contributed to the downfall of the Nazis during World War II, the story of Juan Pujol Garcia is definitely one of the most compelling. His deeds were a considerable help to the Allies in conducting a successful D-Day landing in Normandy as he was one of those who fed the Nazis fake news regarding the Allies and their movements. He also had to deal with a wife who, at a crucial moment, threatened to oust him as a spy.

Barcelona-born Garcia was in his mid-twenties and the manager of a chicken farm at the outbreak of the Spanish civil War. Raised in a household with liberal political ideas, Garcia had a strong personal view that no ideology, especially not an extreme one, should come at the cost of human lives, and this is why he never shot a bullet during the Spanish Civil War. Forced into service by the Spanish Republic, he was involved with the anti-Republic resistance group. Feeling stuck between the choice of choosing a fascist or communist regime to support, he chose neither and played them both.

Therefore, it was only natural that, when World War II broke out three years later, he offered himself to the British war effort. However, in the beginning, British officials turned him away, so he walked an alternative path until he officially became a British spy. He then decided to play a double agent, making himself known to the German military services, known as the Abwehr.

Based in Lisbon, he informed the Germans that he would spy on the British, telling them that he was a London-based diplomat. He claimed this despite the fact that he had never stepped foot in Britain, nor did he speak a word of English. Luckily, the Germans bought his story, and they provided him with training and resources. He was then tasked with developing a spy network across the United Kingdom.

To accomplish this assignment, Garcia supposedly read every book he could find in the libraries of Lisbon about Britain. He proceeded with “developing” the network of agents, but all these people were inventions. He came up with their background stories, and they allegedly streamed information to him, which he then passed on to the Germans.

He would report to the Germans about movements of army troops that didn’t even exist, and he even sent this information from Lisbon, not London, lying that he used a pilot who flew between the British and Portuguese capitals to distribute his reports. To the Germans, it never occurred that everything he did was complete fabrication.

Quickly enough, the British became aware of his activities and he then started working as their agent as well. The British wanted him to keep the Germans happy with information about the alleged movements of the Allies. His primary contact and colleague on the British side at this point was Tomas Harris, a security officer who spoke both Spanish and German.


As a British agent, Garcia was brought to London, along with his wife and children. He needed to keep the Germans fresh with precise information about the movements of British forces, but he would do so strategically. For example, if it was an essential piece of information, he would send it out too late, but still showing the Germans that his sources were ones of relevance. 


His daily tasks evolved, and his most important one was to keep the Nazis informed about a planned invasion. He gave them information that the D-Day landing would occur not in Normandy, but at Pas de Calais.

Everything was running smoothly, keeping both the British and Germans satisfied with his services, until one day his wife, Araceli Gonzalez de Pujol, flew into a fit of rage, complaining that she was homesick, and that she wanted to return to Spain to be with her mother. At one point, according to a declassified MI5 file, she screamed at his spy supervisor, Harris, “I don’t want to live five minutes longer with my husband. Even if they kill me I am going to the Spanish embassy.”

Going to the Spanish embassy would have meant potentially ousting Garcia as a spy and placing significant information in the hands of fascist networks. Therefore, before plans and intelligence efforts for D-Day were to proceed, Garcia needed to eliminate even the smallest chance of his wife revealing his identity. If she did, the outcome of the war would be in question.

Garcia was an intelligent man, so, with the help of some colleagues from MI5, he went on to deceive his wife as well. A day after the row, he had MI5 officials visit Araceli to inform her that her husband had been arrested and was now in prison. The reason: her threats to go to the Spanish embassy.

When she heard this news, she burst into tears, begging to see her husband. She was taken to MI5 facilities the following day. Blindfolded, she was taken to the MI5 Camp Interrogation Center, based in West London, only to see her husband looking unshaven and wearing camp clothes.

Aracelli insisted that she had never meant what she had said and that she would never, in reality, reveal what her husband was doing, explaining that her reaction was only out of control as she wanted to go back to Spain.

According to Harris, she vowed that if he were released from prison, she would help him continue his work with even greater zeal than before. Garcia’s cunning plan worked, and the threat was eliminated.

After he was “released”, the double agent continued to work on the D-Day plan, steering the attention of the Germans toward the wrong location for the set invasion and ensuring that the D-Day troops would have the advantage that would be needed for their operation.


Source: thevintagenews
Images: depositphotos

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