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

3.96 of 5 stars 3.96  ·  rating details  ·  590 ratings  ·  96 reviews
Were the D-Day landings saved from failure because of a lone secret agent?

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 agen
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published July 3rd 2012 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published January 1st 2012)
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I'd started to hear about the enormous fictional army that fooled the Nazis back when I was a child, but I feel like a lot more detail has become public knowledge in recent years. While I doubt any single book could encompass the sudden professionalization of the Great Game, this one does a very thorough, and fascinating, job portraying a single, key agent.

Juan Pujol, who would later be codenamed "Garbo", was a complete loser, a dreamer who failed at nearly everything he touched. Until he decide
AGENT GARBO: The Brilliant, Eccentric Secret Agent Who Tricked Hitler and Saved D-Day. (2013). Stephan Talty. ****.
This work focuses on Juan Pujol, code named ‘Garbo.’ He was one of a raft of double agents that worked for MI6 during WW II whose task it was to provide Germany with misleading information and fanciful (but realistic) scenarios of how the Allied war planning was going to proceed. The author did a good job on gathering his facts together on Garbo and his various exploits, his major o
Jeff Raymond
This was one of the most fascinating reads about World War II I've gotten my hands on in some time.

In a recent issue of Mental Floss, it gave the basic details of the spymaster named Garbo who effectively paved the way for the D-Day invasion to have some success by successfully diverting Axis/Nazi resources to a fake invasion location. His act involved a significant number of false resources and leads along the way and is credited to some degree for helping win the war. A truly eccentric charact
It is rather strange to be reading this book in Russia. We in the west have grown up on heroic tales of World War II derring-do (of which this book is one), but here in Russia they have a different view of how the war was won. For them, the hard slog of repelling the Germans at Stalingrad was the decisive moment, not D-Day. It was in Russia that Hitler suffered his first defeat.

27 million of their countrymen died in World War II, and (from what we’ve been told) Russians feel that western histori
Tony Taylor
Fascinating story about someone I never heard of before now. Garbo! Agent Garbo was a double-agent during WWII working in England for the British while sending false or almost false intelligence to the German spy agencies. He was a Spaniard from Madrid with almost no education and no training in the ways of being a spy, but using his imagination and inherent talents, he became the most famous spy of WWII and possibly of all time. His crowning glory was in being able to convince Hitler that the l ...more
Cathi Davis
Like reading wet cardboard The focus on the "brilliant" double agent seems misplaced. The real work was done by the British intelligence service. They appear to have taken a man's persona and then sequestered him away while they created and maintained a fictitious spy network in England. While true that their feints bought some precious time to shore up the D-Day invasion, Pujol's contribution appears negligible. A man who cut off all contact with his children, allowed his estranged wife to be t ...more
Bambi Wood
This was very interesting story of Juan Pujol, a Spanish double agent in WWII who helped deceive the Nazi's into thinking that the landing in Normandy was a feint and the real invasion was coming later, Germany fell for the deception and kept a large portion of the army in Calais, waiting for the invasion that never came.
This saved thousands of lives. Pujol was especially unusual because he decided on his own to become a spy for the Allies and had to first convince the Germans to hire him, then
Jim Brown
This is a most amazing story about events leading up to WWII and during WWI that I have never heard. It is the true story about a Spaniard who personally declared war on Adolph Hitler and became a double agent. He first gained the confidence of the Germans who thought he was in England reporting information to the Germans when he was actually in Lisbon getting the information from the public library. He then convinced the English that he was for real and they hired him as an agent working for th ...more
Shawn Doyle
Garbo is a masterpiece in the field of historical pseudo-novels. Talty keeps the reader gripped and turning pages in what boils down to a classic spy thriller. The expert pacing and flow leaves one wholly unconcerned with the fact that the outcome is printed on the dust jacket. Garbo is by no means a scholarly academic treatment, as many of our fellow reviewers falsely expect it to be. Placing our hero at the centrality of events, Talty's narrative merrily trumpets its great man theory throughou ...more
This was a fun read. Garbo was a failed chicken farmer named Juan Pujol who convinced the Nazi spy agencies that he was an ardent Nazi running, eventually, 27 agents in England. They were nonexistent agents, and they were responsible for convincing Hitler that the Allies had an entire second army waiting to pounce on the Pas de Calais while their troops were struggling ashore at Normandy. This is one of those "stranger than fiction stories," pitting the eccentric English MI6 against the meticulo ...more
Intriguing "untold" side of the D-Day invasion. Juan Pujol, a Spanish failed chicken farmer, used his incredible gift of imagination and deception to completely snowball German intelligence and save thousands of lives - both Axis and Allied. Years after the war was over, and about thirty years after his death was faked to protect him from Nazi retribution, he was discovered living a quiet, anonymous life in Venezuela. In multiple interviews and conversations with other, he claimed again and agai ...more
Joan Adamak
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Agent Garbo is a well put together book on Juan Pujol who dreamt a group of fictions agents that deceived the top military planners in the Third Reich and even Hitler himself over the later course of the war. Talty researches the life of one of the greatest dreamers to enter World War II and covers his life in great detail. The British were busy establishing the XX Committee which became known as the double cross system which fed false reports to German intelligence. The system was headed by the ...more
Regina Lindsey
On June 6, 1944, armed forces crossed the English Channel for the first time since 1688, transporting 150,000 men and nearly 30,000 vehicles. Eight hundred planes parachuted men 13,000 men. It was a fragile mission, and at one time Eisenhower assumed there would be a 90% mortality rate. Instead an estimated 10,000 lost their lives. Much of the success is owed to Operation Fortitude – a covert operation to convince Hitler, personally, that the invasion of Normandy was decoy and the real target wa ...more
I knew that D-Day was only a success because Hitler was focused on Calais; that's woven into most WWII history. But wasn't in the book is the reason why Germany was focused on Calais--the most I'd ever read was "faulty intelligence." Well, enter Agent Garbo, the double-agent that could tell the Germans to jump, and they'd ask "how high?" Or, in this case, he could tell them to turn their tanks around, and Herr Hitler himself would sign the order.

Juan Pujol was a Spaniard who failed at everything
Paul Lyons
Juan Pujol was indeed a hero of World War II. Using his intelligence, and vast imagination...Pujol (as Agent Garbo) managed to fool Nazi Germany with false information, and elaborate fabrication for years...culminating in the ultimate deception by tricking the Germans into thinking that the D-Day invasion at Normandy was only a feint, with the real attack being staged further north. This one clever act saved thousands of lives, and turned the course of the war. However, Pujol, though a ...more
Talty does an excellent job of bringing dramatic tension to this story. First, we get enough details of Juan Pujol's life and motivations to appreciate who he is as a person. An ardent pacifist who thoroughly believed in the evil of Hitler and his minions, Pujols felt that intelligence operations were the best way for him to fight Nazis without having to literally fight people. Then, we get to see his struggles to become a spy for the Allies - as a Spaniard, it wasn't the most natural thing in t ...more
Read worthy for some insight as to how part of the war was fought by duplicity, but disturbing to read just how inept governments, on both sides, really are. The allies: bombing and killing off an entire French village for appearance sake? Hundreds of young boy soldiers drowned and killed by friendly fire during an exercise? What did those in command think would happen
to heavy laden soldiers if they had to abandon ship in an emergency. Why didn't advance scouting reveal a German presence before
Jenny Karraker

This was a very interesting book. When Pujol described himself as a kid as running around having adventures in his mind, I was reminded of Bill Bryson's book The Thunderbolt Kid and his similar musings. It was interesting how the author compared the spy business with Hollywood--with casts of main and supporting actors, writers who created the story lines, researchers who gathered historical and local history, costumes, hair stylists, set builders, publicists who released info to the public, etc
A major factor in winning a war is not the number of tanks and airplanes that your armies possess, but the successful deception of your enemies. In this book, we hear about the life and fertile imagination of one of the most productive confabulists of the second world war. Juan Pujol was a Catalan whose experiences during the Spanish Civil War had forged in him a determination to help the Allies fight the Nazis. Unfortunately, every time he walked into a British consulate offering his help, he w ...more
I learned about Agent Garbo (the spy, not the book) when he was mentioned in another WWII espionage story, Operation Mincemeat. As with that book, I have never really been particularly interested in WWII, so this is rather a large departure for me.

I just might be on the verge of a WWII British espionage kick. The genius of Bletchley Park, MI5, MI6, and all the personnel involved is just absolutely fascinating. The audacity of the plots and the agents who carried them out defy belief.

Juan Pujol,
Mary Blendermann
Truly an incredible book. I've never really read another one like it. The author uses on-point historical research to tell the fascinating narrative of the man who literally saved World War II. It reads just like historical fiction, which is super cool considering that it's all real, and you'll learn tons about World War II without even trying! I recommend it for any high school or college student looking to gain a deeper insight into WWII espionage or the details of D-Day.
Stephanie Fosnight regester
This book was so interesting and very hard to put down! I learned all about the practice of deception, and its importance in WWII. When my book club discussed this book I learned it offers only a narrow lens on a major event in human history, however I thought that lens was an excellent focus for sharing one man's perspective on a huge story.

It tells the story of self-taught double agent Juan Pujol, who was born into privilege in early 20th century Barcelona but became disillusioned during the s
Michael Kerr
Juan Pujol - a highly active and imaginative child - grew up in a privileged Barcelona family just before the advent of General Franco. Then, as a young man, he was traumatized and impoverished by the Spanish Civil War and developed a profound hatred of Fascism. Hitler's rise inspired Pujol to focus his considerable creative and imaginative energies on fighting the Third Reich. He became a double agent, feeding misleading information from the British directly to Berlin.

This novelistic treatment
Amber Berry
An engaging story of a man who became a pivotal spy through both perseverance and accident. He lived through the Spanish revolution (is that the proper name for it?) during his early 20s and spent much of WW II living in Portugal working (and being paid by) the Nazis while trying to get the British to take him seriously. In a bizarre fashion, it all somehow worked out to a point where he worked in London feeding Berlin misinformation in the build-up to D-Day. He was a "hero" to both sides!

A few
This is EXCELLENT. It’s the true story of Juan Pujol, a completely ordinary Spanish man who decides, during World War II, that the Nazis are absolutely awful and that he wants to help the Allies defeat them. He has nothing to offer them at first, so the British turn him down. He decides to insinuate himself into the Nazis’ good graces by presenting himself as a rabid supporter who would love to spy for them, utterly inventing his “information” on the Allies. It works. The Nazis trust Pujol and b ...more
I stumbled across this book after reading about Garbo in a newsletter. I'm so glad I read this! I had no idea about all of the spies during ww two. The story moved well and added another level to the D day story I didn't know about. It kept my interest throughout. Was a quick read and now I want to explore more!
An intriguing story of a 'hero' who went by the cover name of Garbo, this book certainly caught my attention. I never knew much about how WWII happened before reading this book and even so, I assumed it was the leader's tactic that won the war. However, learning about Garbo, I was surprised to find a normal spy agent deceived Hitler and turned the tide of war.

Following the adventures of Juan Pujol, this story take you behind the scene of one seemingly normal civilian and going on a seeming fant
Edward A. Korgan Jr.
Great book

Great book

I really enjoyed reading this book. It tells of the many sacrifices this man went through to make this world better. Little did I know of him, but I have learned much more since reading this book.
A really remarkable tale of a man who invented entire armies in order to fool the Abwehr during WWII, and convince them that the D-Day invasion would be at Calais, not Normandy. He built an enormous and completely fictitious network of spies, working with MI5, and had the Nazis fooled into thinking he was one of their top agents. He even got an Iron Cross for his perceived help of the Nazi cause.

Behind that brilliant, cunning, devious mind was a man with some personal failings; the brilliance of
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Stephan Talty is the New York Times bestselling author of six acclaimed books of narrative nonfiction, as well as the Abbie Kearney crime novels. Originally from Buffalo, he now lives outside New York City.

Talty began as a widely-published journalist who has contributed to the New York Times Magazine, GQ, Men’s Journal, Time Out New York, Details, and many other publications. He is the author of t
More about Stephan Talty...
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