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Agent Garbo: The Brilliant, Eccentric Secret Agent Who Tricked Hitler and Saved D-Day Paperback – 7 May 2013
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"The exciting, improbable adventures of a young Spanish spy who managed to become Britain's most effective tool in deceiving Hitler. A lively, rollicking good read."
--Publishers Weekly, starred "Agent Garbo is the fascinating story of a man whose wit, cunning, and steely nerves made the Allied victory possible in World War II. Stephan Talty's unsurpassed research brings forth one of the war's greatest agents in a must-read book for those who think they know all the great World War II stories."
--Gregory Freeman, author of The Forgotten 500
From the Inside Flap
Were the D-Day landings saved from failure because of a lone secret agent?
Agent Garbo tells the astonishing story of a self-made secret agent who matched wits with the best minds of the Third Reich and won. Juan Pujol was a nobody, a Barcelona poultry farmer determined to oppose the Nazis. Using only his gift for daring falsehoods, Pujol became Germanys most valued agent or double agent: it took four tries before the British believed he was really on the Allies side.
In the guise of Garbo, Pujol turned in a masterpiece of deception worthy of his big-screen namesake. He created an imaginary million-man army, invented armadas out of thin air, and brought a vast network of fictional subagents whirring to life. His unwitting German handlers believed every word, and banked on Garbos lies as their only source of espionage within Great Britain.
For his greatest performance, Pujol had to convince the German High Command that the D-Day invasion of Normandy was a feint and the real attack was aimed at Calais. The Nazis bought it, turning the tide of battle at the crucial moment.
Based on years of archival research and interviews with Pujols family, Agent Garbo is a true-life thriller set in the shadow world of espionage and deception.
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I recommend this book most highly to anyone curious about how the Allies succeeded at Normandy. I believe Garbo and his fellow agents were responsible for not only the delay of the German reserves, but the thin line between failure and success at D-Day. Failure would have cost hundreds of thousands of lives on both sides and a prolonged ending to the war.
Most believe that D-Day success was inevitable due to the sheer force of the invasion. This book explains just how close failure of the Allies loomed and how Garbo and his fellow agents made all the difference. Eisenhower said Garbo was worth an entire Division of troops. This is a huge understatement. This story makes clear that Garbo and the ruse to attack Pas de Calais were an entire Army that pinned down German reinforcements to Normandy.
Author Stephan Talty wisely chooses not to tell the story in a strictly linear, chronological fashion, giving the book the feel of a novel. Also to the book's credit, Talty supplies a cast of characters to help follow the players; list of organizations; an appendix breaking down Garbo's vast phalanx of fictitious agents the Germans thought he was utilizing; detailed source notes showing heavy reliance on unique primary materials; helpful photos, and more to make this captivating story totally engaging for all. Since Garbo's own "Autobiography" long has been suspect (he never mentioned he was married!---let alone that he would have given up trying to spy but for his wife's efforts), to have at long last a reliable and documented account of Juan Pujol and compan(ies) is a real treat.
We will have an "abundance of riches" on this subject this summer. At the end of this month, Ben Macintyre's new book, "Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies" (Garbo was one of a core nucleus of six) will appear in the US, following his remarkable "Agent Zigzag" and "Operation Mincemeat." Plenty of room for both; make way on one's list!