Skip to comments.Agent Garbo,' The Spy Who Lied About D-Day
Posted on 07/08/2012 10:01:31 AM PDT by nickcarraway
Juan Pujol Garcia lived a lie that helped win World War II. Nicknamed for the enigmatic actress Greta Garbo, Garcia's own performance was so convincing he fooled Hitler himself.
Juan Pujol Garcia lived a lie that helped win World War II. He was a double agent for the British, performing so well that they nicknamed him for the enigmatic actress Greta Garbo.
Author Stephan Talty tells the story of this unlikely hero in a new book called Agent Garbo: The Brilliant, Eccentric Secret Agent Who Tricked Hitler and Saved D-Day.
"Pujol was the Walter Mitty of the war," a very imaginative daydreamer, Talty tells weekends on All Things Considered host Guy Raz. "In 1941, he had about as much chance of being a master spy as you and I have of winning the Olympic decathlon this year."
"Pujol had failed in almost everything he'd tried in his 32 years: student, businessman, cinema magnate, soldier. His marriage was falling apart," Talty says. "But in one specialized area of war, the espionage subworld known as the double-cross game, the young man was a kind of savant, and he knew it. After years of suffering and doubt, Agent Garbo felt he was ready to match wits with the best of minds of the Third Reich."
Interview Highlights How Agent Garbo became a double agent
"When [the British] didn't pay any attention to him, his plans veered toward espionage. He knew that he had to go to the Germans first, establish himself as a German operative, and then turn double agent.
"But of course, he didn't have the ability to get to London, so he just went back to Lisbon. He pretended he was in London, a place he'd never been to. He didn't even speak the English language. And he started on this self-made, imaginary espionage career.
"The British were terrified. They were like, 'Someone has sneaked past our lines and someone is in the heart of the beast, reporting on us!' because his reports were so believable, even to people in the country he was supposed to be spying on."
How Agent Garbo fooled the Germans
"At the beginning ... he's just reporting movements of different battalions in England. Increasing confidence in himself and giving [the Germans] what he considers chicken feet little bits of military information that, at the beginning, were completely true. These were nonessential facts the British felt that they could pass on. And slowly, over time, they begin to mix that chicken feet with imaginary information they wanted Germans to believe. So the ration of true to false declined over time and at the end he was giving them 100 percent fantasies.
"He was creating a million-man army called FUSAG, which was going to be sort of the alternative to the real one that landed at Normandy. Normandy would be presented as a feint, you know, provocative first move to get the Germans to attack it, while the real invasion was going to come up the coast at Calais. Pujol was the point of the spear in getting that information across to Hitler.
"There were fake destroyers being created out of rubber, fake airfields cut into the English countryside where real planes landed. [Pujol] was sort of the screen writer for an epic film that was being played out right across England."
Agent Garbo's war-winning lie
"The key memo he sent was on June 9th. This was the day Hitler and the high command were debating whether the Normandy invasion was the real one and whether to send all those reserves from Belgium and France down into Normandy and basically destroy the incoming divisions. And Pujol sent a very long detailed telegram saying "This is the fake, you have to believe me" and those panzer divisions were actually on the road, those troops were on the move, and Hitler sent an order turning them around. This was the key moment in the future of Normandy, in the future of that battle, and Garbo is really the author of that moment."
is all this new info??? i just finished reading The Longest Day...and see no mention whatsoever of this character, and the book itself does go over agents from both sides, etc...
(( ping ))
I wonder how Canaris saw him.
This guys sounds like President Ladies Tee, our own 0bamatax
I read the book “Double Cross” by Ben McIntyre. That’s gives the full story of Garbo and all the other double agents who helped the British fool the Nazis about D-Day. The British tried to convince the FBI to use double agents, but Hoover was more intent on throwing spies in prison or having them executed. The Brits, who were better than Americans at spy intrigue, thought it was more worthwhile to have double agents and try and fool the Germans. It was a risky plan, because at any time a double agent could become a triple agent. But in the end it worked.
Story of a convincing spy....Hmmm?
“Chicken feet” is obviously supposed to be “chicken feed”, meaning low level relatively insignficant information used to increase a double agent’s credibility in the eyes of the target.
“Chicken feed” has been used as a synonym for a paltry sum, at least since 1836, according to Merriam-Webster.
I downloaded ‘Garbo the Spy’ documentary from Netflix. It was very interesting.
was there but incognito as Ian Fleming!
His contributions were many and vaaried. Reading the history of his military career is as varied and as exciting as the "Bond Books!"
In 1943, Operation Golden Eye was a plan that he lead along with liasing with Donovan the US Secret Service (before CIA formed) Commander.
“The British tried to convince the FBI to use double agents, but Hoover was more intent on throwing spies in prison or having them executed. The Brits, who were better than Americans at spy intrigue, thought it was more worthwhile to have double agents”
There was a time when America took pride in not engaging in European treachery. If you dealt with us, you knew what to expect. A lot to be said for that. Not so much today,,,
We have lost a lot as a nation because of a century of deep engagement and alliance with the UK and Europe. That dogs, fleas thing.
Netflix has a movie/documentary about this.
I was wondering about “chicken feet”, but what do you expect from someone who says the following?
“The British were terrified. They were like, ‘Someone has sneaked past our lines....
They were like?!
The Germans had a bigger and better “double cross” system than the Brits. “ A life of secrets: Vera Atkins and the missing agents of WWII”- Sarah Helm
"The British were terrified. They were like, 'Someone has snuck past our lines"?
The article is incredibly lame, even by the standards of the NPR. Only someone almost completely unaware of the history of Overlord and Allied deception plans could have written it.
Conjugate: sneak.... snuck... snack!!
Yeah, he was real. I don’t remember The Longest Day spending much time on the deceptions, but Garbo was part of elaborate deceptions the Allies put together. Another one was that they deposited a dead body in the sea with fake papers hoping the Germans would take the bait, and they did.
I think they got it right... "chicken feet"
When you pluck, clean & cut a chicken for food, only the "chicken feet" are truly "useless"....
The even the neck, liver, gizzard, etc., ...can be turned into stock, "giblets", soup or stew,...
---by-products of the whole bird.
Carry the metaphor into WWII espionage-speak....
All intel/information is useful...
The big meaty pieces make a fine meal.
Some of the bits and pieces of info have to be combined into "by-products"... but still have some use.
...intel/info "chicken feet"-- are still genuine parts of the "whole bird" -- yet remain useless for consumption....
Just food for thought... pun intended....
You could be quite right, also.
Have a great day
Yeah, and they almost drowded....
I meant “drownded”.
I wish FR had a way to delete one’s own comments.
You've never been to Korea...
“The Counterfeit Traitor” has been on AMC a number of times.
(a WWII double-agent story — nothing directly to do with D-Day though).
Same forms for the verb "snicker-sneak" as in
"The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!"
That's from Lewis Carroll's "Jabberwocky." But maybe the meter made him disregard the grammar. Shouldn't it have been "The vorpal blade done went snicker-snack"?
I’ve done a lot of reading on World War II intelligence, and have seen lots of authors, who specialized in WW2 intelligence, and the British services, use “chicken feed” in the sense I cited. This is the first time I’ve ever encountered “chicken feet” and considering the source I’m inclined to discount it.