This Is How One Married Couple’s Argument Almost Changed The Course Of World War II
If you know a lot about World War II, then chances are you’ve heard the story of Juan Pujol García.
Also known by the code name “Garbo,” this man pretended to be a double agent for Germany, but he kept the country misinformed about many Allied operations. Most notably, he played a key role in deceiving Germans about the location and time of the Normandy invasion, or “D-Day,” which began the liberation of northwestern Europe from Nazi control.
But did you know that his wife almost completely blew his cover, which could have led to a German victory?
During WWII, Garbo wanted to help Britain spy on Germany, and approached the British Embassy three times. They made it clear that they weren’t interested in working with him, so on his own, he pretended to be a pro-Nazi Spanish government official who was spying on England on Germany’s behalf.
Though Germans believed he was living in London, he had actually moved from Spain to Lisbon, Portugal, and made up information to give them from maps and guidebooks he had.
Garbo’s wife, Araceli, had a huge role in making all of this believable. She personally handed over his early messages and successfully convinced his German contacts that he was loyal to them.
Araceli’s persuasive abilities were so good that after secretly contacting Edward Rousseau, the American assistant naval attaché in Lisbon, and telling him what they had been doing, British intelligence services finally took notice and decided to employ Garbo as a double agent.
The couple and their child were then moved to England so Garbo could work for Military Intelligence, Section 5 (MI5), but things began turning sour. Garbo spent most of his time with his case handler, Tomás Harris, and Araceli became lonely and homesick.
The family didn’t speak English and she wasn’t allowed to associate with anyone from the Spanish community in London because they were believed to be pro-Germany. She also wasn’t included in any of MI5’s operations, and quickly became fed up with her situation. During dinner one night, she wildly told Harris that she was planning to blackmail the Germans, risking all of their work.
She apologized for her statements the same night, but her behavior became increasingly more erratic and emotional. One day, she got into a huge argument with her husband and said she would reveal everything to the Spanish Embassy unless she could go back to Spain. Worried about the security risk, Garbo and MI5 officers pretended that he had been put in prison because of her noncompliance.
This only served to make things worse. When she was told that her husband was behind bars, she called an MI5 wireless operator, who came to the house and saw that she had turned all the gas taps on.
On the incident, Harris reported this:
She thought that if she could lure him [the wireless operator] round, that she would terrify him by a pretence of suicide; that when he reported to us, as she had anticipated, in panic, she would have called our bluff and we would come running up to her.
Despite what had happened, the MI5 still kept up the story that Garbo was in prison until Araceli agreed to make a statement that she was to blame for everything and that she would do nothing more to threaten their operations. After they pretended to release her husband, she fully complied with them but had zero involvement in any of their work.
(via The National Archives)
It’s crazy to think that one woman’s actions could have changed the entire outcome of a war. Let’s just be thankful that this never happened.
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