August 29, 2011


In the course of events I researched WWII British double agents this evening.  I've always been interested in spying, though I'd be a terrible spy myself.  The term double cross comes from that period, named after the office that oversaw double agents--the Twenty Committee, or XX.

MI5, while fairly inept early in the war, were rockstars later.  Every single German agent in England was turned and used for misinformation.  The Double Cross network helped in disinformation campaigns vital to winning the war.  They also kept London from being obliterated by V1 and V2 rockets, agents falsely reporting hits in the city center which the Nazis believed over the telemetry readings!  The rockets were retargeted off course by miles.

Juan Pujol, aka Garbo
The most impressive story, to me, is 'Garbo.'  Juan Pujol, a Catalan man, wanted to help in the fight against fascism.  While living in Lisbon he pretended to be spying from England.  Pujol used reference books to create false reports for the Nazis (the Brtits wouldn't have him at first).  In 1942 he was recruited as a double agent and moved to England.  There he worked with an MI5 agent to report a combination of false and useless, or late, real intel.

Pujol, first in Lisbon and later with his MI5 agent, created 27 false sub-agents, the Nazis paying him for all of them.  These two men accomplished more than any other agent.  Pujol was awarded both an Iron Cross and an MBE.

What I find hilarious is that, despite his intelligence and resourcefulness, in Portugal Pujol couldn't figure out the British pre-decimal currency system!  He would submit expense reports untotalled, not knowing how.  I remember reading Ballet Shoes when young and being utterly baffled by the currency.  Only with the advent of the web and wikipedia was I able to find an explanation of the system.


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