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

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  874 Ratings  ·  119 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
ebook, 304 pages
Published July 3rd 2012 by Mariner Books (first published January 1st 2012)
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Sep 05, 2012 Rebecca rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, history
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
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
Apr 13, 2013 Tony rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
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
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
Wei Lien Chin
Sep 26, 2016 Wei Lien Chin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I don't love spy novels, but I love books about real spies. Juan Pujol Garcia, also known as Agent Garbo, is one of the greatest spies out there. He did not singlehandedly save D-Day and win WWII, but he was definitely one of the anchor points. As a character, he is manipulative and charming, all the qualities you would come to expect of a great spy.

However, what's even greatest about non-fiction spy books are the various deceptions employed against the enemies. The Allies used just about every
Tony Taylor
Sep 04, 2012 Tony Taylor rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Bambi Wood
Apr 16, 2014 Bambi Wood rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 18, 2013 Trevor rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The start is quite intriguing, but when you get to the actuall deception and work in the war, there are too many prosey adjectives and fuzzy history. Granted I am pretty picky when it comes to history, and while I will say that this is written in a strong, popular, and readable style, the actual story that I wanted to hear gets quite thinned out by the other people in the war effort. The idea that "Garbo" tricked Hitler to save D-Day becomes harder to support as you see the large group of people ...more
This is one of those true stories that are stranger than fiction. A failed chicken farmer decides he wants to be a spy. He hates the Nazis and so goes the British and offers his services. Which are rejected as he is a nobody without any connections, education, or position that would recommend him for the type of work he is seeking.

So, he goes to the Germans and tells them some silly things about information he made up about the British and how he would love to spy for the Germans. He spins some
Mickey Biedermann
For the most part, I listened to the audiobook without engaging whispersync. I think I would have gotten more out of the book had I just read the whole thing. There were just too many characters and code names for me to remember. "Reading" the book would have allowed easy access to the cast of characters pages. Having said that, I did follow the story and did come away grateful to have a better understanding of spy networks, and the tough decision-making process at the time. Frankly, I thought t ...more
Sep 13, 2016 Lorraine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book took me a long time to get through. It is beyond my ken to grasp the methods and lengths the Allies went through to deceive the Nazis. Some of the things done and designed sounded impossible to pull off. Trying to keep straight the real and pretend agents and battles had my head swimming, and I would have to put the book down and pick up totally mindless books. Then back to "Garbo." Did it stop me? No. I was fascinated by all the deception, and wanted to find out more.
Aug 31, 2015 Terry rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Talty tells the surprising story of Agent Garbo, the double agent who understood the Nazi mind and set out to destroy Hitler and the Nazis through deception. The book is really about two personalities - Juan Pujol, the eccentric Spaniard who convinces the British that he wanted to be a double agent, and Garbo, the spy the Nazis believe they've planted inside England. Talty does a good job of telling this convoluted and amazing story. I took a class in college called "Spies and Counterspies". Too ...more
Shawn Doyle
Nov 28, 2014 Shawn Doyle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 28, 2014 Alex rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Himanshu Bhatnagar
It's a tough act to pull off. To strike a perfect balance, especially when writing a biography. What do you keep and what do you discard? How far do you go and where do you stop? These are difficult questions to answer, so when an author manages to pull the proverbial rabbit out of the hat, he/she deserves all the credit.

Agent Garbo is a tough character to write about. A man so unknown that few people, even among those who consider themselves WWII buffs, have ever heard of him. And yet, a man so
Jim Brown
Oct 04, 2015 Jim Brown rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
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
Aug 02, 2012 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Aug 02, 2012 Joan Adamak rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 15, 2013 Regina Lindsey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 11, 2013 Rebecca rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 16, 2012 Megan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 16, 2012 Jenny Karraker rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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
Jul 21, 2013 Ann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, espionage
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.
Heidi The Hippie Librarian
My husband is a serious aficianado of all things related to military history and he had never heard of Garbo. It made for an informational (if not always entertaining- to me) book club read and led to some great, in-depth conversations. I think Agent Garbo will really appeal to history buffs as he gave this book five stars to my three.

The best part of this read is how Garbo would not be deterred from his goal- which was to spy for the Allies. Even though he had zero experience, Garbo just knew t
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WW2 1 1 Nov 14, 2015 02:31PM  
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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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