Juan Pujol Garcia

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Image of Juan Pujol Garcia disguised in glasses and a beard.

Garbo

The Story Behind Britain’s Greatest Double Cross Agent

The Normandy Landings of 6 June 1944 marked the beginning of the liberation of occupied Western Europe. Until the very last minute, the place of invasion – Normandy – was the most heavily guarded secret on the planet. The Security Service made a significant contribution to the success of D-Day through its double agent Juan Pujol, codenamed GARBO, who has been described as the greatest double agent of the Second World War. On his own initiative, the industrialist’s son from Barcelona approached the Germans and tricked them into thinking he wanted to spy for them.

Possibly the greatest double cross operation in British espionage history was nearly ruined by a Spanish double agent’s homesick wife and her horror at wartime British food. He went to England, working with MI5 to create a whole network of entirely imaginary agents and feeding misinformation to the Nazis, culminating in the ultimate triumph: a leading role in securing the success of the D-Day landings by convincing the Germans the main invasion would happen around Calais, not in Normandy.

Throughout it all, “the small meek young Spaniard”, as his MI5 handler called him, was never the problem. He fooled the Germans so completely they awarded him the Iron Cross.

The problem was the meek young Spaniard’s wife.

“Mrs Garbo”, Araceli Gonzalez de Pujol, had never left the Iberian Peninsula before she arrived in London in the spring of 1942. Speaking no English, missing her mother, the 23-year-old became terribly homesick. Mrs Garbo was, horrified by having to swap a Mediterranean diet for the rationed offerings of a country that was still decades away from accepting haute cuisine or the gastropub.

Her despair at “too much macaroni, too many potatoes and not enough fish,” was duly noted by MI5.

So too was the fear that driven by the desire to go home to mother, or to the Spanish Embassy in London, Mrs Garbo might divulge to a fascist power the secrets of what was fast becoming the most successful double cross of the Second World War, and arguably of British espionage history.

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Photo Of The Day

Juan Pujol Garcia, the man who may possibly be the most successful double-agent in history.

Juan Pujol Garcia, the man who may possibly be the most successful double-agent in history.

The Greatest Double Agent in History

“This is the crowning achievement of the long and glorious history of the British Secret Service.”

– Winston Churchill

Being the guy who almost single-handedly ensured that the Germans were completely unprepared the Allied invasion of Normandy is pretty damn impressive.  Doing it without so much as lifting a rifle is amazing.

Juan Pujol Garcia, the man who may possibly be the most successful double-agent in history, is the complete opposite of everything you think about when you think of badass secret agents.  He was ordinary-looking, married, balding, and wore kind of nerdy glasses, and never owned a wristwatch that shot lasers.

He never snuck into a top-secret high-security enemy facility disguised as a frogman, flying side-kicked a dude into a nuclear reactor, and stole biological weapons schematics from a rogue terrorist nation.  He didn’t lead foreign authorities on high-speed car chases through crowded streets, plow commandeered armored vehicles through blown glass museums, or stop the Doomsday Laser from fragnosticating the human population into radioactive ash by flicking a coin into the machine seconds before it activated.  He didn’t have illicit affairs, sleep with piles of beautiful women stacked up on top of each other, or gamble away millions in complicated casino table games that don’t make any sense to anybody watching.

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