Selling the Nazis on the Pas de Calais invasion
It was an audacious double-cross that fooled the Nazis and shortened World War II. Now a document, here published for the first time, reveals the crucial role played by Britain's code-breaking experts in the 1944 invasion of France.It helped that the Brits had the Ultra machine so they could know that the Germans bought the ruse. I think there were other aspects to the scam. The corpse of a homeless man in London was cleaned up and dressed as a British officer. In his uniform was more misleading intelligence. He too was dropped in Spain. Then there was George Patton, whom the Germans feared the most visiting phony divisions in preparation for the Calais invasion. There were also blow up vehicles and tanks prepared by Hollywood veterans to fool the Nazi aerial recon planes.
All the ingredients of a gripping spy thriller are there - intrigue, espionage, lies and black propaganda.
An elaborate British wartime plot succeeded in convincing Hitler that the Allies were about to stage the bulk of the D-Day landings in Pas de Calais rather than on the Normandy coast - a diversion that proved crucial in guaranteeing the invasion's success.
An intercepted memo - which has only now come to light - picked up by British agents and decoded by experts at Bletchley Park - the decryption centre depicted in the film Enigma - revealed that German intelligence had fallen for the ruse.
The crucial message was sent after the D-Day landings had started, but let the Allies know the Germans had bought into their deception and believed the main invasion would be near Calais.
Behind the story of this crucial message and its global impact lies Juan Pujol Garcia, an unassuming-looking Spanish businessman who was, in fact, one of the war's most effective double agents.
The Nazis believed Pujol, whom they code named Alaric Arabel, was one of their prize assets, running a network of spies in the UK and feeding crucial information to Berlin via his handler in Madrid.
In fact, the Spaniard was working for British intelligence, who referred to him as Garbo. Almost the entirety of his elaborate web of informants was fictitious and the reports he sent back to Germany were designed, ultimately, to mislead.
But agent Garbo was so completely trusted at the top level of the Nazi high command that he was honoured for his services to Germany, with the approval of Hitler himself, making him one of the few people to be given both the Iron Cross and the MBE for his WWII exploits.
To establish his credibility, he sent advance warning ahead of the Normandy landings on 6 June 1944 - but too late for the Germans to act on it.
Then, in the days afterwards, he fed them entirely fictitious intelligence from his fake "agents" that the invasion had been a red herring and "critical attacks" would follow elsewhere - most likely down the coast in Pas de Calais. He also reported, again falsely, that 75 divisions had been massed in England before D-Day, meaning that many more were still to land in France.
It was an account the Nazis took extremely seriously. As can be seen in the document reproduced by the BBC, it was transmitted to their high command by Garbo's German handler.
As a result, German troops were kept in the Calais area in case of an assault, preventing them from offering their fullest possible defence to Normandy.