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There are some heroes of World War II whose names are well known. But one man who played a pivotal role in the victory of the Allies is almost entirely unknown to the public. His name was Joan Pujol Garcia, and his role as double agent made a huge difference for the Allies late in the war.
Pujol was born in Spain and grew up during the Spanish Civil War, raised by a liberal family that gave him a strong dislike of Communism and Fascism. He managed to get out of that war without committing any acts of violence, but with a serious axe to grind. At the beginning of the world war he contacted British and American intelligence agencies to offer his services as a double agent. Considering the fact that he had no particular experience in being a spy, both rejected him.
Not one to give up easily, Pujol instead took on a role as a German agent, moving to Lisbon and creating completely fake reports to send back to the Germans. This is highly impressive, considering that he sold himself as an English diplomat. He didn’t speak English, nor had he ever been to England. Yet the Germans believed him, and he created reports by looking at such “secretive” information as tourist guides, train timetables, newsreels, and magazine ads. Most of what he supplied was true, but completely inconsequential. Somehow this managed to convince the Germans that he was entirely trustworthy, so he created a fake network of spies that he would blame for any mistakes.
By the time he convinced the Germans to put serious resources into hunting down a convoy that didn’t exist, the British were finally starting to notice him. They started to work on countermoves against him until they realized that his information was totally made up, at which point they finally agreed to take him on as a spy. He moved to Britain and spent the rest of the war creating a network of twenty seven full fake agents for the Germans. Over time his information moved further away from the truth and towards complete falsehoods. The British government helped him maintain an air of legitimacy in his network by posting fake obits when he killed off one of his “agents.”
The most important thing he did was to take on a role in Operation Fortitude, a cover operation to give the Germans false information about the invasion of Normandy. Pujol managed to convince the Germans that the attack would actually be at the Pas de Calais, keeping key resources away from the real invasion. He made up a fake army of a million men, and told the Germans that Normandy was just a feint to distract them.
The credit for convincing Hitler which was the fake goes to Pujol.
He managed to earn decorations from both sides of the war: an Iron Cross from the Germans and a Member of the Order of the British Empire from the Brits. An impressive feat that played a key role in the Allies final victory.