D-Day classic: The most amazing lie in history

The Allies’ top-secret weapon.

How a chicken farmer, a pair of princesses, and 27 imaginary spies helped the Allies win World War II

Only one man in history was both awarded the Iron Cross for his service to Nazi Germany AND also made a member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire by King George VI. That man was Juan Pujol Garcia, a draft-dodging chicken farmer and failed businessman from Barcelona who decided during World War II to become a double agent in order to help the Allies defeat Hitler. Here is his amazing story, as recounted by Lucas Reilly in Mental Floss:

In the weeks leading up to D-day, Allied commanders had their best game faces on. “This operation is not being planned with any alternatives,” barked General Dwight D. Eisenhower. “This operation is planned as a victory, and that’s the way it’s going to be!” Indeed, more than 6,000 ships were ready to cruise across the English Channel to plant the first wave of two million troops on the white beaches of Normandy. Nearly 20,000 vehicles would crawl ashore as 13,000 planes dropped thousands of tons of explosives and thousands of paratroopers.

The sheer size of the invasion—it would be the largest in history—was staggering. But so were the stakes. With the first day’s casualty rate expected to reach 90 percent and the outcome of World War II hanging in the balance, the truth was that Eisenhower was riddled with doubt. He’d transformed into an anxious chimney, puffing four packs of cigarettes a day. Other Allied leaders felt equally unsure. “I see the tides running red with their blood,” Winston Churchill lamented. General George S. Patton privately complained of feeling “awfully restless.” Chief of the Imperial General Staff Alan Brooke was more blunt: “It won’t work,” he said. The day before the invasion, Eisenhower quietly penciled a note accepting blame in case he had to order retreat. When he watched the last of the 101st Airborne Division take off, the steely general started to cry.

They were worried for good reason. With so many troops and so much artillery swelling in England, it was impossible to keep the attack a secret. Hitler knew it was coming, and he’d been preparing a defense for months. Only one detail eluded him, and he was confident in a Nazi victory if he could figure it out—he needed to know where, exactly, the attack would happen. To make D-day a success, the Allies needed to keep him in the dark: They’d have to trick the Germans into thinking the real invasion was just a bluff, while making it seem like a major attack was imminent elsewhere. The task seemed impossible, but luckily, the British had a secret weapon: a short, young balding Spaniard. He was the king of con men, an amateur spy gone pro, the world’s sneakiest liar. He was also, of all things, a chicken farmer.

[story continues here]

15 Responses to D-Day classic: The most amazing lie in history

  1. Laura B Mielcarek says:

    Absolutely amazing! Thank you for posting this.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I can’t understand why great stories like this are not taught in schools. I endured countless dreary, dull history classes in the course of my misspent youth (misspent because most of it was spent in school), never knowing how exciting history is until I finally finished serving my sentence and began learning on my own. Even so, I had never heard of Juan Pujol Garcia until just a few years ago.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Laura B Mielcarek says:

        I don’t know why history seemed so dull and boring as a child, but is so interesting and exciting to me now. Maybe it’s because as an adult one understands that history actually happened – they were real people living real events – just as we are doing now.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. This is the greatest story! I heard it for the first time…last year? I think I wondered then what I wonder now—has no one made a movie about this?

    Liked by 3 people

  3. egorr says:

    God works in truly mysterious ways!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you for this; I’m English ( I’ve lived in Australia since 1951 we migrated 6 years after the war finished.)

    I grew up in London during WWII (I was born in the 30’s) and this is the first time I’ve ever read or heard of Jaun Pujol ( sounds a bit like a Pope John Paul).; which is something I’m feel ashamed about having kidded myself as being somewhat of an amateur historian of the 2 world wars.
    Thank you again .

    Liked by 1 person

  5. V.M.Sang says:

    What an incredible story. One man, to all intents and purposes, ended WW2. You couldn’t make it up. Or if you did, people would say it was too far-fetched.
    We all owe so much to this man, whom we have never heard of.
    Thank you for bringing this story to our attention.

    Liked by 1 person

    • As Tom Clancy said, the difference between reality and fiction is that fiction has to make sense. If someone had made up a story like Juan Pujol Garcia’s, it would have been too ridiculously implausible for any publisher to touch. I can just hear him/her saying “Who’s gonna believe anything that crazy?”

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Tricia says:

    Absolutely fascinating story about an amazing man. Thank you for sharing this!

    Liked by 1 person

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