Juan Pujol (alias Garbo)

Garbo was the British codename of Juan Pujol García MBE (February 14 1912October 10 1988), a double agent who played a key role in the success of Operation Fortitude, the deception operation intended to mislead the Germans about the timing and location of the invasion of Normandy towards the end of World War II. The false information Garcia supplied helped persuade German intelligence the main attack would come in the Pas de Calais, resulting in a decision to withhold troops from the area around the Normandy beachhead.

World War II double agent

Born in Barcelona, Spain, Pujol had developed a detestation of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union after his experience of fascism and communism during the Spanish Civil War. He decided around 1940 that he must make a contribution to the war by helping Britain, Germany's only remaining adversary at the time.

He initially approached the British but they showed no interest in employing him as a spy. So he resolved to establish himself as a German agent before approaching the British again to offer his services as a double-agent.

Operating initially in Lisbon, he pretended to the Germans that he was in Britain. He fabricated reports about shipping movements, successfully convincing them from information gleaned from the library in Lisbon and from newsreel reports he saw in cinemas that he was reporting real information. He claimed to be travelling around Britain and submitted his travel expenses based on fares listed in a British railway guide. A slight difficulty was that he did not understand the pre-decimal system of currency used in Britain, expressed in pounds, shillings and pence. He was unable to make sense of the British monetary system, and was unable to total his expenses. Instead he simply itemised them, and said he would send the total later. Other mistakes would take some ingenuity in explaining by his later handlers - he once reported concerning a supposed visit to Glasgow that "There are people here who would do anything for a litre of wine". During this time he created an extensive network of fictitious sub-agents living in different parts of Britain.

Eventually, he again made contact with British intelligence, and again offered his services. This time he was accepted. He was actually transferred to Britain in the spring of 1942, and operated as a double agent under the aegis of the XX Committee.

On occasions he had to fabricate reasons why his agents had failed to report easily available information that the Germans would eventually know about. For example, he reported that his (fabricated) Liverpool agent had fallen ill just before a major fleet movement from that port on the west coast of England. The illness meant that the agent was unable to warn the Germans of the event. To support the story of the illness, the "agent" eventually "died" and a notice was placed in the local newspaper as further evidence to convince the Germans, who were also persuaded to pay a pension to the agent's "widow".

The information supplied by Pujol to the Germans was orchestrated by his British handlers and included a certain amount of genuine events, in order to make the reports appear more convincing. Sometimes, this was achieved by sending genuine information but artificially delaying its arrival until the information would be harmless. For example, a letter might be postmarked with a date before some planned troop movements, but its delivery delayed until after the Germans would already have discovered the information for themselves.

In order to maintain his credibility it was decided that Garbo, or one of his agents, should forewarn the Germans of the timing and some details of the actual invasion of Normandy, although leaving it too late for them to take effective action. Special arrangements were made with the German radio operators to be listening to Garbo through the night of June 5th/6th, using the story that a sub-agent was about to arrive with important information. However when the call was made at 3am, no reply was received from the German operators until 8am. Turning this piece of bad luck on its head, Garbo was able to add more details of the operation to the message when finally sent and increase his standing with the Germans.

In late June 1944 Garbo was instructed by the Germans to report on the falling of V1 flying bombs. Finding no way of giving false information without arousing suspicion, and being unwilling to give correct information, Garbo's British handlers arranged for him to be 'arrested'. He returned to duty a few days later, and forwarded an 'official' letter of apology from the Home Secretary for his unlawful detention.

The Germans paid Garbo (or Arabel, as they called him) a large amount of money to support his network of agents, which at one point totaled 27 fabricated characters.

Garbo has the distinction of being one of the few people during World War II to receive decorations from both sides, gaining both an Iron Cross from the Germans and an MBE from the British.

After the war Pujol faked his death and moved to Venezuela, where he lived in anonymity. He died in Caracas in 1988.

Pujol's network of fictitious agents

                AGENT                               SUB-AGENT

               |Agent ONE -------------------------|J(2) KLM pilot and courier
               |KLM steward                        |
               |-resigned in 1943                  |J(3) Head of Spanish MOI Section
               |                                   |
               |                                   |J(4) Censor in MOI
               |                                   |
               |                                   |J(5) Secretary in Cabinet Office
               |Agent TWO -------------------------|2(I) WIDOW
               |William Gerbers                    |     Mrs. Gerbers
               |-died in Bootle, England in 1942
               |Agent THREE -----------------------|3(I) Pilot Officer
               |BENEDICT                           |
               |-"Carlos", a Venezuelan student    |3(2) Officer in British 49th Infantry Division
               | in Glasgow, Scotland              |
               |                                   |3(3) Greek seaman and deserter
GARBO/ARABEL --|Agent FOUR ------------------------|4(I) ALMURA
(Juan Pujol García)   |CHAMILLUS                          |     radio operator
               |-Gibraltarian NAAFI waiter based   |
               | in Chislehurst (London), England  |4(2) Guard based in Chislehurst
               |                                   |
               |                                   |4(3) US NCO based in London
               |Agent FIVE ------------------------|5(I) Agent FIVE's cousin in Buffalo, USA
               |-a Venezuelan based in Ottawa,
               | Canada
               |-brother of "BENEDICT"
               |Agent SIX
               |Field Security NCO
               |-died in 1943
               |Agent SEVEN -----------------------|7(I) Soldier in British 9th Armoured Division
               |DAGOBERT                           |
               |-Ex-seaman in Swansea, Wales       |7(2) DONNY
                                                   |     Leader of World Aryan Order
                                                   |7(3) Wren in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka)
                                                   |7(4) DICK
                                                   |     Indian fanatic
                                                   |7(5) DRAKE in Exeter, England
                                                   |7(6) Welsh fascist in South Wales
                                                   |7(7) DORICK in Harwich, England

See also


  • Juárez, Javier (2004). Garbo, l'espia català que va derrotar a Hitler (in Catalan). Barcelona: Columna ed. (In Spanish, Madrid: ediciones de hoy SA.)
  • Harris, Tomás (2000). Garbo The Spy Who Saved D-Day. The National Archives. ISBN 1-903365-58-9
  • Hesketh, Roger: Fortitude:The D-Day Deception Campaign. (1999)
  • Holt, Thaddeus, The Deceivers: Allied Military Deception in the Second World War (New York, Scribners, 2004)
  • Latimer, Jon, Deception in War, (New York: Overlook Press, 2001)
  • Pujol, Juan, with Nigel West [Rupert Allason], Operation Garbo (Random House, New York, 1985)

External links

The Character portrayed in film and television

Secret D.Day - US television - portrayed by French actor Sam Spiegel (actor)

Search another word or see arabelon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature