A lot of peculiar things happen during wartime. One such story is of a man by the name of Juan Pujol Garcia who wanted so badly to become a British double agent that he faked it. What makes his story so compelling is he was so good at faking his espionage abilities that he became a very real double agent who made a tremendous impact for the Allied side during the D-Day invasion.
Pujol was against the Communist and Nazi causes and these admirable sentiments drove him to want to serve as a British spy working undercover for the German secret service agency, the Abweh. While his motives were worthwhile, Pujol failed to make the necessary meetings so his initial effort to serve as a British spy were not successful. This is where the path that Pujol took became unusual. Pujol decided that the best way to make himself attractive to MI5 as a spy would be to already to enlisted in the ranks of the German spy network.
To this end, Pujol was a great success. He connected with an Abweh agent by the name of Gustave Knittel in Portugal and was convincing enough to be enlisted as a German spy. He was given credentials with the code name Arabel along with a visa and expenses to begin his espionage activities inside of England. From the German intelligence community’s point of view, it was a solid recruitment of another secret service agent.
Pujol then demonstrated tremendous creativity because he never traveled to England nor did he conduct any actual spy activities. The fake spy submitted highly creative and believable reports on his spy activities by doing research at the public library in Lisbon. He showed a tremendous skill for creative fiction even going to far as to invent a network of operatives he had recruited, and giving his German supervisors in Abweh wild stories of adventures, escapes and espionage about British military secrets that where entirely made up.
It was at this point that British intelligence became aware of the fake double agent leading the Germans astray completely outside of their organization. Many of Pujol’s reports guided the Germans on how to conduct their war efforts which made it into top secret military communications that were intercepted and decoded by British spies. When MI5 discovered reports of false British military activities that they had not created, they knew they had a resource that could be put to good use in the war effort.
Pujol finally realized his dream as the British intelligence agency, MI5 brought him on board and gave him the code name Garbo. Working in coordination with actual Allied military operations, Garbo was able to distract and disorient enemy intelligence during Operation Overlord. But the use of Garbo to distract German defenses from the beaches of Normandy before the D-Day invasion was without a doubt the biggest impact the double agent had on the war effort.
Allied intelligence used the high level of trust German military planners had developed in their double agent Garbo. Before the launch of the massive military operation on the beaches of Normandy, Garbo distracted German forces to Norway under the ruse that a large scale invasion was to happen there. Just before the launch of the full scale invasion, Garbo sent messages to German intelligence that they should stand by and await an urgent communication which kept them distracted from the real emergency for hours.
But Garbo’s greatest distraction was a message he sent to the top levels of German military planning that the Normandy activity was a distraction from a much larger invasion that was about to be launched elsewhere. This message got all the way to Hitler causing him to hold back on sending reinforcements to defend Normandy. That delay made a huge difference in giving the final victory at D-Day to the Allies which was the beginning of a final Allied victory against the Nazi’s in World War II.