Garbo, the greatest spy in World War 2

By: Hoaseng Thao

If there was ever a comedic spy movie to be made in the future, then it must be about Juan Pujol García, or known by the British Intelligence Agency known as MI5, as “Agent Garbo.” Juan Pujol García is credited with not only deceiving the Germans, but also receiving medals from both sides of the Second World War, an Iron Cross from the German Dictator Adolf Hitler himself, and the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire from Security Service’s Director General, Sir David Petrie.

Juan Pujol García was born in the year 1912, in Barcelona, Spain. He was a veteran of the Spanish Civil War where surprisingly, he found himself fighting on both sides of the Civil War but never firing a single bullet. After the Civil War ended, Juan Pujol García grew a hatred for totalitarianism and nazism due to Nazi Germany supporting the Fascist Spanish Leader Francisco Franco.

In 1939, when the Second World War was just beginning, Juan Pujol García decided that he needed to help stop the German war machine by offering to be a double agent to British authorities in Spain, to which they refused. Despite not being accepted by British authorities on multiple occasions, Juan Pujol García decided it was best to contact German officials in Madrid, where he posed as a Spanish Official who was willing to go to Britain as a spy on their behalf. The Germans, wanting to build a spy network in Britain, happily agreed to his offer and made him an official spy for the Third Reich.

Juan Pujol García was expected to go to London and collect intelligence about the British, but in reality Juan Pujol García moved to Lisbon where he fed the Germans information gathered from magazines, guide books, and travel brochures from a local library. Surprisingly, his information from his local library was able to fool the Germans.

In April of 1942, Juan Pujol García was finally accepted by British officials because they too were fooled as they had received reports about a spy from Spain who kept on giving information to Germany. Brought to London to work for the MI5, where Juan Pujol García, now known as “Garbo”, would work with an intelligence officer, Tomás Harris. The two would create fictional agents and stories to fool the Germans.

In 1944, Garbo participated in Operation FORTITUDE, an operation that would help deceive the Germans while the Allies prepared for the D-Day landings. On June 5th, 1944, Garbo sent his usual scheduled message to a German Radio Operator where he would send information about the D-Day landings as requested by his superiors in MI5.

Despite being on his scheduled radio message to the German Radio Operator, the latter would not even show up and would fail to receive the information Garbo had given to them, so when the D-Day landings did occur, it gave Garbo an opportunity to show how reliable he was to the German High Command.

“I cannot accept excuses or negligence. Were it not for my ideals I would abandon the work,” Garbo said to his German contacts to give the impression that he was serious about being a spy for the Germans.

On July 29th, 1944, Garbo would receive news that the Führer himself was awarding him the Iron Cross for his service in the German Intelligence against the British. Garbo had fooled Adolf Hitler, an achievement that many had wished to have during that time period.

Due to his efforts in deceiving the Germans, Garbo would then receive the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in December of 1944, from Security Service’s Director General, Sir David Petrie.

After the war ended, Garbo contacted his handler and friend Tomás Harris about his plan of faking his own death, to which Harris would then spread this news about his “death” within MI5. Garbo would move to Venezuela and would live under a different name until 1988, when he was discovered by a British writer, Nigel West, who had tracked him down and asked him to come back to Europe to which he accepted.

On the 40th anniversary of the D-Day landings, 1984, Garbo would return to Europe to visit Normandy, France, to tour the beaches in which the allies landed to liberate France before paying his respects to the fallen.

In 1988, Garbo passed away in Caracas, Venezuela, forever known as the greatest spy to participate in the second world war.

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