Tomás Harris:
Garbo, the Spanish spy who changed the course of World War II.
Mark Seaman, Garbo:
The Spy Who Saved D-Day
“Garbo, has been described as the greatest double agent of the Second World War”
Juan Pujol:
“My main pride and satisfaction has been the knowledge that I contributed to the reduction of casualties among the thousands of servicemen fighting to hold the Normandy beachheads.”
Araceli González
A decisive collaborator. Her audacity secured the trust of the Allies.
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Garbo, the spy that defeated Hitler

He participated on both sides of two wars without firing a single shot. His name was Juan Pujol García and he was born in Barcelona. The Nazi secret service called him Arabel, while the British knew him as Garbo.  He created an imaginary network of twenty-seven secret agents that generated a wealth of information, which the enemy firmly believed. His masterpiece was to trick Hitler into thinking that the Allied invasion of Occupied Europe was going to happen very far from where it actually did. He saved thousands of lives and contributed decisively to the victory of World War II. Both the Germans and the British decorated him after D-Day. He provoked the news of his own death and then lived in hiding for nearly forty years. After being finally re-discovered, he was received with honours at Buckingham Palace much to the surprise and excitement of his children, who did not even know he was alive. Although he might seem like a character from a film, Juan Pujol was a man of flesh and blood. This is his real life summed up in very few words. If you want to know more about him, here you will find information and documentation.

Timeline

Some of the most relevant facts of the life of Juan Pujol follow. In most cases, the story is conveyed in his own words, although with slight adaptations to facilitate reading on the Internet.

  • Birth

    Juan Pujol de pequeño

    I was born on February 1912 in Barcelona, in the city which they call the Unrivalled. In those days Barcelona was still trying to recover from the bitter memories of the Setmana Tràgica, that Tragic Week in 1909 when radicals, socialists and anarchists collaborated in organizing a strike during which..More

  • Boarding school

    Foto de primera comunion Juan Pujol

    I was indeed fairly unmanageable; so, when I was seven years old, my mother decided to send me away to a well-known boarding-school run by the Marist Fathers at Mataró, about twenty miles from Barcelona. My brother was also sent at the same time so that he could look after..More

  • Back home

    El joven Juan Pujol

    After four years at Valldèmia, I returned to Barcelona to attend a primary school less than half a block away from home, run by the La Salle Brothers. The four of us also received private French lessons three days a week from a teacher from Marseilles, for French in those..More

  • Military service

    Juan Pujol en el servicio militar

    After I had finished training to be a poultry farmer, it was time for me to report to barracks for compulsory military service. In those days it was possible for a conscript to buy himself out after serving for six months. This scheme, known as the fee-paying military service scheme,..More

  • Civil war

    Barcelona 19 julio de 1936

    In 1936 I was managing a poultry farm twenty miles north of Barcelona, at Llinars del Vallès. On that ill-fated day, Sunday 18 July I had arranged to go on an excursion to Mount Montseny with some friends of mine from the Catholic Club in Plaça Trilla, but all my..More

  • Undercover

    Bombardeo en Barcelona

    I spent the next year in one of those sordid narrow streets in the sleazy working-class area of Barcelona down by the harbour. The rented flat I was hiding in belonged to a taxi-driver who lived there with his wife and son. A few month later the taxi-driver took his..More

  • Farmer

    San Juan de las Abadesas

    An old friend who was secretary to one of the many branches of the General Workers Union, suggested that I go and see some people who were running poultry farms in the area. When I found them I was delighted to discover that several were old friends from my Royal..More

  • A republican soldier

    A republican soldier

    I decided that the only way of being able to do this was to volunteer for the infantry as a veteran soldier and hope that I would be sent to the front from where I could dessert. I therefore present myself to a recruiting office in north Barcelona. My false..More

  • Changing sides

    Soldados nacionales en la guerra civil española.

    About seven o’clock on a clear moonlit evening, three of us prepared to desert. I took two hand-grenades for reassurance although I had no intention of using them, but before I could slip out of my trench, my two companions jumped clumsily out of theirs and started a landslide of..More

  • The End of the Civil War

    The End of the Civil War

    For two days we slept in our new trenches and ate and ate. My naïve hopes that, after a few explanations, I would be sent to the rear, were shallow fantasies. Endless hours of interrogation followed before we ex-Republicans were put in good trains wagons for Saragossa. Once there, we..More

  • World War

    Periódicos anuncian guerra

    Life in Madrid that hot summer of 1939 was tough: food was scarce, the black market was booming, prices were extortionate and I did not have a job. However I had got to know a woman of gypsy extraction, called señora Melero, owner of the Hotel Majestic in Calle Velázquez, who was..More

  • My wedding with Araceli

    Matrimonio Pujol

    In April, Juan Pujol married Araceli González Carballo, a native of Lugo and the undisputed co-star of this story. They had met in Burgos and had three children: Juan, Jorge and María Eugenia.

  • Aspiring spy

    Aspiring spy

    My humanist convictions would not allow me to turn a blind eye to the enormous suffering that was being unleashed by this psychopath Hitler. I must do something, something practical, I must make my contribution towards the good of humanity. One January day in 1941, I presented myself without further ado..More

  • Fake visa

    Bertrand Irmàos imprimió los visados

    It occurred to me to pretend that my father had left funds and shares in Britain and that all the relevant documents were in a deposit box in a Portuguese bank. This story got me my exit visa in no time at all, with the additional help of a Basque-Cuban..More

  • Nazi spy

    Abwehr radio

    I returned to Madrid in the early spring of 1941 and put up at a small bed-and-breakfast lodging-house in Gran Vía. More enthusiastic than ever, I was ready for action. I telephoned Federico and arranged to meet him at the Café Negresco near the Bank of Spain on the way..More

  • Lisbon

    Lisboa, Cais de Sodre

    Now that I had the invisible ink and the codes, I realized that it was dangerous for me to remain in Spain. At first I thought of going to the British embassy in Madrid and showing them my new acquisitions to prove to them how wrong they had been to..More

  • My first agent

    My first agent

    I had smuggled the $3,000 that Federico had given me in Madrid into Portugal without any trouble. I had rolled the money up tightly and slid it into a rubber sheath, then I had cut a tube of toothpaste open at the bottom end, emptied out all the toothpaste, inserted the..More

  • Imaginary convoy

    Convoy durante la Segunda Guerra Mundial

    I sent three messages to the Germans from inside Portugal (purporting to come from England), all of which were worded with the care and attention worthy of the most adroit German field agent. I tried hard to introduce new information gradually and to be cautious when I mentioned the new..More

  • American contact

    Embajada de los Estados Unidos

    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..More

  • Bound for London

    Bound for London

    Demorest showed keen interest right from the beginning and seemed amazed by my story. He asked me for proof, which I proceeded to give him. For the first time there seemed to be a distinct possibility that I had found the right person; at last someone was going to help..More

  • Garbo is born

    Bovril se convierte en Garbo.

    My first recollection of England on that calm clear day in April 1942, as I walked down the steps of the plane, was of the terrible cold – cold outside and icy fear inside. At the bottom of the steps stood two officers from MI5, who would shape my destiny. The..More

  • The Garbo network

    Red de espías de Garbo

    Juan Pujol has not written about the details of his activity as one of the very few double agents that came to have Britain during World War II – at no time were more than nineteen – but we know them, at least in part, for the story of Tommy..More

  • In London

    In London

    Juan Pujol did his intelligence work from an office on Jermyn Street –near the headquarters of MI5– and lived in a discreet middle class house in Hendon, north London, with his family –his wife, Araceli; his eldest son, Juan, and the youngest, Jorge, who was born in the British capital..More

  • Operation Fortitude

    Operation Fortitude

    In January 1944 the Germans believed that the Allies were preparing the great invasion of occupied Europe and asked Garbo for information. Thus began his best work, which would change the course of the war. Operation Overlord The Germans were right: the allies prepared the great invasion. Its code name..More

  • Two decorations

    Juan Pujol condecorado

    Ironically, Garbo’s reputation among the Germans was reinforced by his information about the D-Day landings in Normandy and on July 29th he received the following message: With great happiness and satisfaction I am able to advise you today that the Führer has conceded the Iron Cross to you for your..More

  • Peace

    Dia de la victoria en Londres

    In my last message to the Germans I told them that I would try to go to South America by boat as soon as I could. Then, on 7 May 1945, London exploded with joy: people invaded Piccadilly Circus and Regent Street, and traffic came to a standstill; everyone was drinking..More

  • Tour of America

    Hidroavión Sunderland

    I left Great Britain in June 1945 on board a Sunderland hydroplane for the United States accompanied by Tommy Harris, for MI5 were determined to look after GARBO right to the end. The British were always marvellous to me and, at the end of the war, MI5 gave me £15,000 as..More

  • New goal: the Soviets

    Secreto y personal

    The ship was called the Cabo de Buena Esperanza and, after various stops, it eventually reached Barcelona. I found that my brother Joaquin had married after the civil war and now had two sons. Sadly he never lived to enjoy the company of his grandchildren for he died at sixty-two,..More

  • With the Nazi spies again

    Máquina Enigma

    I telephoned Madrid 333572 and asked for Gustav Knittel – the real name of the Abwehr agent Federico –  who lived in Praça Aunos 6. A voice answered that he wasn’t there, but now lived outside Madrid, and the person to help me was Eberhardt Kiekebusche, who lived in Calle sil 5..More

  • Venezuela

    Llegada a Caracas

    Once the conflict was over, Juan Pujol and his family settled in Venezuela, where his daughter María Eugenia was born. After a series of hard economic reverses his wife, Araceli, did not adapt to the new life, which motivated the separation of the couple. Both Pujol and Araceli remade their..More

  • Death in Angola

    Mosquito que transmite la malaria.

    Sometime around 1948, I made a trip to Spain to see my old friend Tommy Harris at his villa in Camp de Mar in Majorca, where he was living with his wife Hilda. It was to be the last time I saw him before he died. He told me that..More

  • Discovered

    Discovered

    For the next thirty-six years I lived peacefully in Venezuela; it was a quiet time for me for my life of action, of fighting for freedom, for my ideals, was over. Then in 1984, when I was least expecting it, Nigel West broke the cover that I had so successfully..More

  • Final

    Juan Pujol tumba

    On October 10, 1988, Juan Pujol García died in Caracas as a result of a stroke. He did not receive any kind of tribute neither in Venezuela, nor in Great Britain nor in Spain. In his grave in Choroní it can be read: Juan Pujol García 14-02-12 10-10-88 Remembered by..More