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AGENT GARBO by Stephan Talty


The Brilliant, Eccentric Secret Agent Who Tricked Hitler and Saved D-Day

by Stephan Talty

Pub Date: July 3rd, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-547-61481-6
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

The exciting, improbable adventures of a young Spanish spy who managed to become Britain’s most effective tool in deceiving Hitler.

The mammoth concerted effort to trick the Germans into believing that the D-Day invasion was not really landing at Normandy but at Calais—despite Hitler’s better instincts—required months of careful planning and streams of deceptive information fed to the Germans by agents like Juan Pujol, aka Garbo. A journalist of wide-ranging interests, Talty (Escape from the Land of Snows: The Young Dalai Lama's Harrowing Flight to Freedom and the Making of a Spiritual Hero, 2011, etc.) tells Garbo’s story with verve and suspense. Pujol grew to hate the Germans after witnessing the mechanized violence of the Spanish Civil War and concocted imaginative scenarios to help the Allies by initially offering himself as a spy for Germany. Once he convinced the British he was for real, he was used to feed the Nazis a steady mixture of truth and falsehood to establish his trustworthiness. Deflecting the Nazis from the real invasion at Normandy was the great task of the so-called XX Committee of the British secret services, whose function during the war the author compares to the workings of a Hollywood studio. As Garbo, the double agent was supplied with a wireless radio in his London safe house and communicated with the Germans in cipher. Despite German suspicions surrounding the disastrous trial run for the invasion in 1943, Garbo and other top agents were able to convince them that the invasion would be a “fake double-pronged attack—a spring assault on Norway and a summer invasion of the Pas de Calais.” To accomplish this, a ghost army was created and moved around southern England—duly reported on by Garbo in the hope of keeping Hitler’s 15th Army away from the Normandy beaches for the first 72 hours after the invasion. The ruse succeeded beyond everyone’s expectations—more than two weeks after the invasion, German divisions still stood on alert at Calais.

A lively, rollicking good read.