On this day in 1941, master spy Juan Pujol Garcia, nicknamed “Garbo,” sends his first communique to Germany from Britain. The question was: Who was he spying for?
Juan Garcia, a Spaniard, ran an elaborate multiethnic spy network that included a Dutch airline steward, a British censor for the Ministry of Information, a Cabinet office clerk, a U.S. soldier in England, and a Welshman sympathetic to fascism. All were engaged in gathering secret information on the British-Allied war effort, which was then transmitted back to Berlin. Garcia was in the pay of the Nazis. The Germans knew him as “Arabel,” whereas the English knew him as Garbo. The English knew a lot more about him, in fact, than the Germans, as Garcia was a British double agent.
None of Garcia’s spies were real, and the disinformation he transmitted to Germany was fabricated—phony military “secrets” that the British wanted planted with the Germans to divert them from genuine military preparations and plans.
Among the most effective of Garcia’s deceptions took place in June 1944, when he managed to convince Hitler that the D-Day invasion of Normandy was just a “diversionary maneuver designed to draw off enemy reserves in order to make a decisive attack in another place”—playing right into the mindset of German intelligence, which had already suspected that this might be the case. (Of course, it wasn’t.) Among the “agents” that Garcia employed in gathering this “intelligence” was Donny, leader of the World Aryan Order; Dick, an “Indian fanatic”; and Dorick, a civilian who lived at a North Sea port. All these men were inventions of Garcia’s imagination, but they leant authenticity to his reports back to Berlin—so much so that Hitler, while visiting occupied France, awarded Garcia the Iron Cross for his service to the fatherland.
That same year, 1944, Garcia received his true reward, the title of MBE—Member of the British Empire—for his service to the England and the Allied cause. This ingenious Spaniard had proved to be one of the Allies’ most successful counterintelligence tools