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miércoles, 6 de junio de 2012

Garbo: Double agent

In the early hours of the morning of June 6, 1944, 68 years ago today, while thousands of soldiers were preparing to cross the Channel to Normandy or parachuting already in the area, three men were in a house of 55, Elliot Road in the residential neighbourhood of Hendon, north London. The three were nervous as they waited for a reply to a message sent to Madrid with the radio transmitter that was in the room that by quite a while that should have arrived. One of the three men was a Spanish national, he was known to the German secret services as Arabel and to Allied intelligence services as Garbo. His real name was Juan Pujol García.

The future double agent was born in the city of Barcelona in February 14, 1912, son of a wealthy family that was affected by the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Pujol ended the war in Madrid as an ensign of the National Army boasting of having been on both sides and have not killed anyone, but his experiences marked him and put him against any totalitarian system.

Juan Pujol becomes Arabel

After the war, and looking how Nazi Germany occupied the greater part of Europe at the beginning of World War II and made its influence felt in the dictatorial regime that was established by General Franco, he decided it was necessary to do something to stop Hitler. At this point he thought to become a spy for Britain and contacted the British embassy in Madrid three times (using even his wife, Araceli Gonzalez, as intermediary) offering their services, but he did not achieve its objective. At this point he decided to contact the Abwehr (German secret service) posing as a government official deeply pro-Nazi and able to travel to London. Although in principle the offer was ignored he finally convinced them, after a brief training in espionage techniques such as message encoding and use of invisible ink, he prepared to travel to London to become the agent's codenamed Arabel.

In fact he went to Portugal and from Lisbon, using materials as diverse as a tourist guide of Great Britain, magazines and public libraries and information from newsreels, he began to compose and send a set of messages (the first on 15 July 1941) on the military situation in Britain and ,at the same time, created an extensive network of spies throughout the country, but in fact they were the product of his imagination and he used them to simulate gathering information to write their reports.

Obviously the fact of not reside in Britain, not knowing their custom and not having real military information his position was made gradually more difficult running the risk that his Abwehr supervisors began to suspect him, though, but as incredible as it could be, they were trusting him. It should be added that the content of their messages had been intercepted by the Allies’ Ultra program (dedicated to decrypt communications sent encoded with the German Enigma machine), and that MI6 (British counterintelligence) had begun to have evidence that there was an unknown enemy agent on the island.

Contact with British intelligence

In February 1942 Pujol felt it was time to return to try to be accepted as a double agent for the Allied cause, but this time decided to contact the U.S. Embassy in Lisbon. Araceli met with the naval attache Edward Rousseau, who considered that the information was important enough to get it to the British secret services, who finally accepted the offer of Pujol after proving he was in contact with the Abwehr.

In the spring of 1942 he was in London and became the agent Garbo (an idea of his supervisor, Tomás Harris, who suggested to praise his skills and imaginative interpretation by reference to the actress Greta Garbo) and working with MI5 (the Security Service) in the XX Committee, responsible to deceive Nazi Germany. To achieve this the XX Committee took the fictional spy network created by Pujol, the expanded and started to provide the team of Pujol and Harris the information needed to provide the Abwehr that had to contain true and verifiable facts sufficient to continue relying in him. This meant, among other successes, further deciphering the Enigma code system, but the most important operation in which would be involved Garbo would be Operation Overlord, ie, the landings at Normandy.

Operation Overlord

To ensure that Operation Overlord would succeed it was necessary that the German high command thought that the landing would occur at the Pas de Calais, the French coast closest to the UK and where it would be necessary that the German army concentrate most part of his forces. This was achieved through Operation Fortitude, which involved the work of disinformation conducted by various double agents, the creation of the fictional First Army Group of the United States (FUSAG) led by General Patton in Dover and more than 500 radio transmissions, starting January 1944, Garbo sent to the Abwehr central in Madrid.

To maintain the credibility of Arabel it was agreed that the Germans had to receive a message shortly before the invasion forces were about to reach their destination making Germans believe it was a distraction. To achieve this notice went to German radio operators that they should be alert to receive an important message to be sent at 3 am on June 6th. The message, with information from one of the agents of the spy network of Arabel, contained data on the landing on the beaches of Normandy but had to be received too late to be useful, and indeed this was because the station the Abwehr in Madrid did not answer until 8 am, the delay gave time for Garbo to include more data and make it more credible (the German command was so convinced of the validity of the information Arabel that continued to maintain two armored divisions and nineteen infantry divisions in Calais until two months after Overlord).

End of the Second World War and beyond

Pujol ended the war as the only person honored by both sides as in July 29th, 1944 Hitler awarded him the Iron Cross 2nd Class (it would be given to Pujol by agents of the Abwehr in Madrid in 1945 when he went to collect payment for his services) and on November 25th received the Order of the British Empire.

To prevent Nazi agents discovering that he had acted as a double agent and would like to revenge he decided to go to Venezuela taking his family with him to avoid possible reprisals (as part of the deception he traveled to Angola in 1949 and, with the help of MI5, simulated death by cholera).

His life passed without any problems (except for divorce from his wife Araceli, who wanted to return to Spain) until the writer Nigel West (pseudonym of the politician and historian Rupert Allason) discovered in 1984 he was still alive and convinced him to return to appear in public. Pujol toured Europe and visited London, where he was received by the Prince of Edinburgh, and the beaches of Normandy on the 40th anniversary of the landings, he also went through Catalonia and filmed an interview at TV3 TV program Identitats.

Juan Pujol died in Caracas on October 10, 1988 after a stroke. He is buried in the Venezuelan town of Choroní.

Verlaine's verse

The verse found in previous entries to this article (check this link and this other one) belongs to the poem Chanson d'Automne, written in 1886 by the French poet Paul Verlaine. BBC used the verse in the context of Operation Overlord to warn sabotage groups of the French Resistance about the impeding invasion. The first part of verse was issued on June 1st to indicate that Overlord would begin sometime in the next two weeks; the second part was issued on June 3rd and was the signal indicating that the landings would occur within 48 hours marking the beginning of sabotage on the railway network.

World War II role-playing games

There are few RPGs that address the period of the Second World War without mixing with fantastic themes or specific to science fiction. In the event that you are interested in this historical period you can go to universal-type rulesets and history books that will serve to obtain data that interest you or go to some games (commercial and free) that I present below.

Within the commercial games we have Comandos de Guerra by Ediciones Sombra, GURPS WWII by Steve Jackson Games and Baptism of Fire by Black Claw Games. The first two can be used to play characters of any of the countries involved in the conflict; however Baptism of Fire is centred on the experience of U.S. soldiers in the European war theatre.

As for the free games you can find the game Rápido y Fácil: 1942 by the Creative Commons licensed games Rápido y Fácil initiative, the game WORLD WAR II by Mikko Kauppinen available from the free games directory by John Kim and finally additions created in the blog Impactos Críticos regulations that allow use Ludotecnia Dogfight ruleset in World War II, consisting of the first and the second part of the extension of rules and statistics for German aircraft, UK and Poland and Japan.

This entry it's also available in the following languages:
Castellano Català

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