Espionage was a crucial factor in winning the Second World War. All the major countries that participated in the war invested heavily in military intelligence and had spies operating all across the globe. But do you know who was one of the most popular double agents during World War II?
Juan Pujol Garcia, known as Agent Garbo, was a double agent for the British. He fed false information to the Nazis during the second world war and created a network of fictitious spies. He was awarded medals by both the Nazis and Britain.
Who was Juan Pujol Garcia?
Juan Pujol Garcia was born on February 14, 1912, in Barcelona, Spain. He was the third child of dye factory owners Juan Pujol and Mercedes Garcia. Garcia managed a chicken farm after his poultry training and compulsory national service. At this time, the Spanish Civil War broke out, causing him to develop a hatred for communist and fascist ideologies.
When the second world war broke out, Garcia worked as a hotel manager in Madrid. He, determined to help stop fascism from spreading, approached the British embassy with his wife, Araceli. They were offering their services as agents for the British forces. The British Intelligence agencies rejected them. (Source: English Heritage)
They soon contacted German Intelligence and were consequently recruited as a German agent posing as Nazi fanatics. He was then instructed to set up and recruit more agents in Britain. But instead, Garcia traveled to Lisbon in 1941 and started constructing a network of imaginary agents.
Garcia used several public sources and magazines to make his imaginary network believable. He convinced his German handlers that he was actually in London and successfully created a German spies network across Britain. The following year he was accepted by MI5 as a double agent. (Source: Liberation Route)
In 1942, MI5 arranged for Garcia’s family to be discreetly transferred to Britain. They set up their home and office on Crespigny Road in Hendon. His handler was half-Spanish MI5 Tomás Harris and was assigned the codename, Garbo because of his acting abilities.
In the next three years, the pair deceived German intelligence, creating a fictitious network of 27 spies to which the Germans paid for. The two men created elaborate acts to make their fictional network believable. (Source: English Heritage)
What Happened to Juan Pujol Garcia After the Second World War?
Garcia was awarded the iron cross by Hitler, thanking him for his achievements, not knowing that all his work was fictitious. He was later granted by the British intelligence an MBE.
After the war, Garcia relocated to Valenzuela, assuming a new identity while his wife and children returned to Spain several years later. He worked as a language teacher for Shell Oil, remarried, and had more children under his new identity.
To ensure the Nazis would not find him, MI5 told Garcia’s first wife that he had died of malaria in Africa in 1949. Garcia’s identity was made known in 1984 when Buckingham Palace for his efforts officially recognized him.
Garcia traveled to Omaha Beach on the 40th anniversary of D-Day. He was greeted by numerous veterans whose lives he helped save with his deceptive Operation Fortitude. He died in October 1988 in Caracas. (Source: English Heritage)