American contact

While I was in Portugal, I received only one message from the Abwehr; this asked for more detailed and weightier reports on troop sittings and movements. From this I gathered that my coded messages were neither as good nor as consistent as had been expected.

The farce was coming to and end.

Apart from the risks that my continued presence in Lisbon posed, I was extremely worried because I did not know what to say in order to keep my operation running efficiently.

I had never been to England and my knowledge of English was confined to a fleeting study of the language during my schooldays.

And what of my military knowledge?

I didn’t have any idea about the composition of a foreign army, let alone the British military set-up.

The last try

Given my inability to obtain direct British contacts, I therefore decided to abandon the whole operation and disappear from Europe altogether. But before doing so, I thought I’d have one last try and risk all on the play of a card.

I went to the American embassy in Lisbon. The United States, it must be remembered, had just come into the war as a new belligerent against Germany, Italy and Japan. It must be on a day early in February 1942 when I walked in and asked to speak to either the military or the naval attaché.

This time round my luck held. I was met by an official who, after I had been frisked by the marine on duty, ushered me into the naval attaché’s office to meet Lieutenant Demorest. I began to unburden myself, by telling him about my attempt to contact the British in Madrid, my rejection and my resolution, fired by amour-propre, to obtain some practical and useful information that would capture their imagination so that they would believe that I was motivated by a desire to defend democracy.

I briefly outlined my contacts with the Germans and mentioned that they had given me invisible ink, a code-book and money; I told him about my trip to Portugal, my second attempt to contact the British through their Lisbon embassy, my second rebuff, my resolution to press on with work begun and, finally, my desperate move of coming to see him; I said that if that too failed, then all the work I had done so far would come to nothing.

Araceli at the American Embassy
This document from the British National Archives indicates that it was Araceli who went to the United States embassy.