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Agent Garbo: The Brilliant, Eccentric Secret…

Agent Garbo: The Brilliant, Eccentric Secret Agent Who Tricked Hitler and… (edition 2012)

by Stephan Talty (Author)

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203590,108 (4.12)4
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 Germany's 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 invented armadas out of thin air and brought a vast network of fictional subagents whirring to life. His German handlers believed every word, and banked on Garbo's 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.--From publisher description.… (more)
Title:Agent Garbo: The Brilliant, Eccentric Secret Agent Who Tricked Hitler and Saved D-Day
Authors:Stephan Talty (Author)
Info:Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (2012), Edition: 1, 320 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:toberead, xy, nonfiction

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Agent Garbo: The Brilliant, Eccentric Secret Agent Who Tricked Hitler and Saved D-Day by Stephan Talty



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Showing 5 of 5
An excellent real-life spy story. I was not aware of the importance of Garbo to the allied effort. it seems like maybe they couldn't have done it without him. And what a character he was to boot! Highly recommended for WWII history buffs or espionage historians. ( )
  ndpmcIntosh | Mar 21, 2016 |
Solidly written World War II story of espionage that answered some questions for me but raised others. I enjoyed reading about the imaginary spy network conjured up by Juan Pujol Garcia and his Allied handlers, but I ended the book wanting to know more about the mechanics: how did Pujol make decisions about who his subagents should be? How did they make sure that his Welsh fascist sounded different from his Indian fanatic or his Greek seaman? What special flair did Pujol bring to the messages to make them so unique and convincing to the Nazis? Maybe this information wasn't available or has already been covered elsewhere, but more specific examples of Pujol's imagination would have been more interesting and also helped bolster Talty's case that Garbo was a key part of the Allied deception strategy prior to D-Day. It also would've made his part of the operation more interesting -- tales of wireless messages being sent seems a little ho-hum next to stories of dummy aircraft, sermons about lowered morality (due to the influx of GIs), and other "evidence" of an imaginary US army. Still worth reading, though, and an impetus to more research. ( )
  bostonian71 | Aug 31, 2014 |
The first research project I ever did in high school was on deception campaigns in WW2. I'd read a little bit about them before, but I didn't realize exactly how much deception was involved in the Allied efforts against Nazi Germany. Since then, I've read just about everything I could find on the subject, and no matter how much I read, I always seem to learn something new.

That was certainly true of Agent Garbo. I had, of course, read about Garbo's operation -- how he had a "spy network" of dozens of fictitious "agents" who fed him "intelligence" that he sent on to the Abwehr. Of course, all of those efforts were coordinated by the British XX Committee, which oversaw all of the double agents operating against the Germans, and they were all absolutely essential to the eventual Allied victory in Europe.

But there was a lot about the man I didn't know. I'd never read of his experiences in the Spanish Civil War, or his failed businesses, or his propensity for exaggeration and his incredible imagination. I also didn't realize that his wife was just as responsible for his work with British intelligence as he was -- she's the one who finally got him in with the British government, after he'd tried repeatedly.

Talty's book is well researched, and well written. This is no dry history text, or boring biography; it is a living story, told as well as any spy thriller ever written. So much of it seems too incredible to believe; truth really is stranger than fiction.

This is a book that I would heartily recommend to anyone who wants to learn more about wartime intelligence in World War 2, or anyone who just wants to read a fascinating account of the life of an extraordinary man. ( )
  wkelly42 | Nov 10, 2012 |
If you have any interest in the cultural effects of WWII, then this is a well written, easy introduction to deception and intelligence in the defeat of Nazi Germany. The author believes that the eccentrics, artists, and academics recruited into British intelligence created a spy culture that was impossible for rigid German strategists to understand or evade. ( )
  S_and_J_Waldrop | Oct 5, 2012 |
"Agent Garbo may have been largely responsible for the success of D-Day." That claim seems totally irrational - before you read the book. After reading the story of his exploits, you may reconsider your original opinion. There is no question that the soldiers who participated in D-Day and who experienced tremendously high casualty rates deserve the utmost in respect, admiration and appreciation. But what would have happened if in the first few days after the landing the Germans had moved their reserves to oppose the Allied troops? Or if the Germans had spent more effort in fortifying Normandy in the first place? Read "Agent Garbo" and you will find out the astonishing levels of deception and diversion that the Allies used. Most of us have heard about the dummy tanks and fake airplanes that were used to fool the Axis powers. But did you know that an entire fake Army was created that was supposed to make the "real" landing at Calais, and that Germany decided not to commit its reserves at Normandy so they could move on Calais when the real invasion came? And did you know that a central part of that deception was a Spanish citizen who was so motivated to stop Germany that he tried three times, unsuccessfully, to become a spy for the British, and ultimately developed his own fake spy network that he used - on his own - to give disinformation to the Germans?

This is a story that could easily be dismissed as the product of an over-active imagination - if it weren't so well-researched and filled with corroborating detail. It hasn't got quite the page-turning quality of a James Bond yarn, but the fact that this is a true story more than makes up for that. If you want to learn a fascinating bit of history or even if you just want a good spy story, this is the book you should read. ( )
3 vote TommyB | Jul 26, 2012 |
Showing 5 of 5
Books of this sort often get mired in the complexities of war and tradecraft, forcing the reader to plod through lessons on machtpolitik before getting on with the story. But Talty's ardent, almost jaunty prose never bothers to tell the reader that "this is the homework part." In that respect, the book is evocative of Evan Thomas's magnificent The Very Best Men. The pace never flags, and the book presses ever forward down a path of historical marvels and astonishing facts. The effect is like a master class that's accessible to anyone, and Agent Garbo often reads as though it were written in a single, perfect draft.
added by dwbwriter | editThe Atlantic, D.B. Grady (Jul 6, 2012)
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For Alfie Wright, teacher and friend
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In the middle of the snowless English winter of 1944, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Allied commander overseeing the forthcoming invasion of Europe, was anxious to get the hell out of London.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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