Last one out of the Kinjaverse, turn out the lights.

Otters Oddities

Oh my gawsh! Pee-Wee Herman was a soldier in a past life!

Well, I don't care what you say. I think he looks like Paul Reubens. It's not, of course, but it looks like him. Sort of.



This is a long post. But it's worth it.

His name is Joan. No, seriously. Joan Pujol Garcia. (Joan in his native Catalan, Juan in Spanish) He's from....Spain, duh. Duh, because I told you his name was Joan in his native Catalan, which is part of Spain. So, therefore, the duh. Duh.

Some of the more observant may notice his middle name, Pujol. Same as the last name of Tuesdays subject, Le Petomane. I can assure you, it is strictly a coincidence. Even though they were contemporaries. They weren't related, and I didn't really plan it. (I have a small note pad with a list of subjects, and I go through it and select whatever subject pops off the page and bops me on the noggin. I didn't have him listed with the Pujol name, but his other name, which you'll find out shortly)

Joan was born in 1912, in Barcelona. He was a fairly unremarkable person. He studied animal husbandry at the lRoyal Poultry School. (yes, it's a real thing). He was planning on being a poultry farmer. And learning about how you get chickens to canoodle is important.


His studies wee interrupted, though. In 1931, he was called up to serve his mandatory 6 months in the military. He didn't like it. He wasn't the sort of person to take orders.

So, after leaving the service, he managed a poultry farm. And he was quite happy to do so. Until 1936, that is.


That's when the Spanish Civil War started. Joan wanted nothing to do with it. He wanted to continue cajoling his chickens into canoodling. But, he couldn't. He was accused, and jailed, for being a counter-revolutionary, which he wasn't. Members of his trade union got him released, though.

The Republican government called him into service, but he didn't like them, because they mistreated his family. He was arrested for not showing up for duty, but was broken out of jail and supplied with false papers showing him to be too old to serve.


He ran a poultry farm that had been confiscated by the Republican government, but objected to their version of communism. (Yup, the republicans were the communists). So, get this, using false papers, he joined the Republican army. As soon as he was shipped to the front lines, he volunteered to lay telegraph wire. And when given the assignment, he promptly deserted and joined the Nationalist forces.

But, the Nationalists were fascist. And, they were just as bad as the Republicans. He became very good at avoiding any sort of assignment while serving the Nationalists, and eventually, he was discharged.


He came away from the civil war with a deep hatred for both communists and fascists, and by extension, the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.

Fast forward to 1940, and WWII was ramping up. The Allies were taking a brutal beating in France, and the Axis were steamrolling their way across Europe. Being a resident of Spain, he wasn't in any danger, as Franco, the ruler of Spain, was Hitlers toadie.


But Joan decided to do something. He approached the British on three separate occasions offering his services as a spy. And on all three occasions, they turned him down.

But Joan really wanted to spy for the Allies. So he came up with a plan. A diabolical plan. A plan that guaranteed acceptance by the British.


He offered his services as a spy to the Nazis.

He didn't just approach them and say, "Hey! Can I be a Spy? Pretty please?" No, he was cunning. He fooled a printer into believing he was an official in the Spanish government, and had a diplomatic passport produced for him. He then went to the Nazis and told them he was a high ranking diplomat with the government, and part of his job was to travel to London, frequently.


The Nazis took one look at his diplomatic passport, and said, "Oh, hells yeah you can spy for us!"

So the Nazis put him through spy school. They gave him code books, invisible inks, money for expenses, and then told him to move to London.


So, he moved. To Lisbon. Which, if you know your geography, is still in Spain. Using a British travel guide, magazines and news reels, he fabricated all sorts of documents that he sent to the Nazis that appeared to have come from London. He even recruited his own, extensive, spy network. All the spies working for him were made up, of course.

The information he made up was so compelling and believable to the Nazis, that they paid every expense voucher he submitted. And when Britain cracked Germanys Ultra codes, Joans information was again so believable that the Brits and MI6 launched a full blown anti-spy operation looking for him.


In 1942, shortly after the US had entered the war, he approached the US military liaison at the US embassy in Lisbon, and explained what he was doing. The US officer he talked with was no dummy. He immediately saw the value that Joan offered the Allies. So, he contacted the Brits.

Once his story was explained to the Brits, puzzle pieces began falling into place. The British knew someone had been feeding the Germans false information, and now they knew who it was. So they relocated Joan to England. MI5 and MI6 did extensive checks on him, and finally determined that he was legit, and he was perfectly willing to screw the Nazis all he could.


So, they assigned him the code name: Garbo.

Garbo, or Arabel as he was known to the Germans, turned over his code books to the Brits. And, since the Germans trusted him, they began feeding false information through Garbo and his 'network' of spies.


But, it wasn't just false information. The Germans would know something was up if all Garbos information didn't pan out. So, he fed false information, data of little military value, and actual sensitive intelligence.

For example, in 1942 Operation Torch, the North African landings, took place. Garbo made a document that looked like it came from one of his agents in the south of England stating a large fleet of ships painted in Mediterranean camouflage departed, heading south. They dated it, and had it postmarked a couple of days before the landings were to take place, and then airmailed it to the Germans. They timed it to arrive just a day late.


However, the Germans responded that they regretted the fact that it arrived a day late to be of use, but they commended him on the quality of his information. Garbo was impressing the Nazis.

The Germans decided in 1943 that they wanted a method of faster communication, so Garbo was issued a radio, and began direct communication with his Nazi bosses. This created a slight problem. Garbo had to come up with reasons why he didn't deliver information he should have known about in a timely fashion.


Garbo was a clever man, though. To cover the fact that he didn't report a major fleet movement, he told the Germans that his agent in that area had fallen ill, and was unable to get the information out. And, a little while later, the 'sick agent' died. A fake obituary was published in the newspaper, and the Germans saw it. Since this 'agent' had provided very good information in the past, the Germans paid his 'widow' a pension for his service to the Reich.

One of the bonuses of having Garbo communicate by radio was, the Germans had to keep him supplied with the current codes. Copied of which were sent to Bletchly Park, where the code breakers used them to great advantage. The way it worked was, Garbos coded messages were sent to the Germans and decoded. They were then entered into the Enigma machine and sent to Berlin. Since the code breakers knew what the messages said, Garbos messages were a crucial tool for the cracking of the Enigma code.


Everything that had happened up until then was just small potatoes, though. In January 1944, the Germans requested that Garbo find any information he could about the expected invasion of the mainland.

The Allies had already instituted Operation Fortitude in an effort to fool the Germans, and Garbo fit right into the plans. The object was to convince the Germans that Normandy wasn't the actual target, but the Pas De Calais was. He sent up to 20 messages a day detailing the battle plans for the landings at the Pas De Calais.


Finally, in June, Garbo informed the Germans that they needed to keep continual contact on the night of the 5th/6th as he suspected something big was going to happen.

It was decided that Garbo would give the Germans actual information on the Normandy landings, and the paratroop drops, but timed so that the Germans wouldn't have time to react.


For some reason, when he tried to contact the Germans at 3am, the Germans didn't answer. In fact, they didn't answer until 8am. That actually worked out, as Garbo was able to give them information that he wasn't originally intended to give. But the delay made it useless. However, had it been delivered at 3am, it would have made a significant difference for the Germans.

He complained bitterly to his bosses that he was risking his life, and the lives of his agents, to get this information to them, and if they were going to ignore him, he might as well stop. The Germans, realizing the information he had supplied, and what it would have meant had they received it on time, worked very hard to placate Garbo. Even though he had no intention of quitting. This raised their confidence in Garbos data even more.


Their confidence in Garbo was so high that, when he radioed on the 9th that there was still 75 divisions in England, including the fictional 1st Army Group, under the command of General George Patton, the Germans kept their armored divisions at the Pas De Calais to repel the actual invasion.

Garbos information, coupled with the fact that Patton was still in England, convinced the Germans, and Hitler in particular, that Normandy was only a diversion. In fact, they believed it so fully that, two months after the Normandy invasion, they were still reinforcing the Pas De Calais in anticipation of the actual invasion. (the Germans couldn't believe that Patton would be kept out of the actual invasion. They expected him to be the commander of the invasion forces)


The next request from the Germans was to report on the results of the V1 rockets. MI5, leery of giving false information, as it could easily be discovered, and not wanting to give actual results, decided to 'arrest' Garbo for a couple of days. Within a week, however, an official letter of apology, Which was intercepted by the Nazis, was sent to the Spanish government for the unlawful detention.

However, this told the Germans that MI5 was watching their spy, and they stopped requesting data from him to keep him safe.


On July 29, Garbo was awarded the Iron Cross. This was an honor that was usually reserved for front line troops, and was personally approved by Hitler. He didn't receive the actual medal until after the war, though. In total, the Germans paid over $350,000 to Garbo and his 'agents' for expenses and as compensation for their work.

Garbo was also awarded the MBE by King George VI. This made him the only person to be awarded for service to the country by both the Axis and the Allies.


The Germans never knew he wasn't working for them. They thought he was a loyal agent, and was one of their most valuable resources. Fearing for his safety after the war, MI5 helped Garbo fake his death in 1949.

His secret was kept until 1984, when a politician who had been researching him 1971, finally found out who he was. He spoke with him and convinced him to return to London where he had an audience with Prince Phillip at Buckingham Palace, and was, by all reports, was treated as a guest of the highest magnitude. He was an official guest of the royal family at the 40th anniversary of D-Day, where he saw the battle fields for the first time.


Garbos contribution to the Allies war effort can't be quantified. The work he did in tricking the Germans was invaluable, and some experts feel the Normandy landings would have failed had the Germans moved their armored divisions to the battle on the first day. Garbo kept them away. Without Garbo, it's entirely possible the Normandy landings would have failed.

Joan Pujol Garcia passed away in October of 1988.

Not too bad for a man who originally wanted nothing more out of life than to be a pimp for chickens.


tl;dr, go back and read it. You won't be sorry.

*Authors Note*

I'll admit, the story of Garbo isn't all that odd. But you have to admit, it sure was interesting....

Share This Story