The piece of paper that fooled Hitler

 
Select
one one two two three three four four five five six six seven seven eight eight nine nine ten ten

GROUP II / IA
MADRID I to BERLIN
RSS 128, 130/9/6/44
TPC on 12896 kcs at 1030 GMT 9/6/44
AUI on 9288 kcs at 1107 GMT 8/6/44
256

267. To HEROLD. Please engage LUDWIG MARTIN in this. Other departments have not. V ALARIC ARABEL reports 9th June from GOLF COURSE via FELIPE. After personal consultation on 8th June in LONDON with my agents DONNY DICK and DORICK, whose messages forwarded today, I believe on the basis of the fact that there are strong provisions of troops in South East and East England, which are not involved in present operations, that these operations are red herring, with the aim to bind hostile resources, and that there will follow critical attacks elsewhere. Bearing in mind the air attacks that have happened there and the strategically advantageous situation of the mentioned marshalling area, these could well happen in the area of PAS DE CALAIS, especially as during such an attack the nearest airbases would alleviate such an endeavour with air strikes. As I have heard yesterday from my contact V AMY (letter KO SP OKDOS No 934, 4/44), there were 75 Divisions in ENGLAND before the start of the FRANCE operation.

KOSP 5879.

1. GROUP II/IA
MADRID I to BERLIN

GROUP II/IA refers to the German agent transmitting the message and their controller. Madrid is where the message was sent from with a German Enigma encryption machine.

2. RSS 128, 130/9/6/44

128 tells us the code was the 128th message picked up by the British Radio Security Service (RSS) that day. 130 is the number of the agent listening in.

3. TFC on 12896 kcs at 1050 GMT 9/6/44
AUI on 9288 kcs at 1107 GMT 8/6/44

The message was sent twice, on 8 and 9 June 1944, at different times from stations AUI and TFC, call signs the Germans changed every day.

4. 267

This was message number 267 from Madrid to Berlin that day.

5. An HEROLD

HEROLD is the German codename for a senior German army officer, probably Gen Alfred Jodl, based in Berlin.

6. LUDWIG MARTIN

Code for a figure, unknown to the British, who the agent believes should be informed of the memo's contents.

7. V ALARIC ARABEL meldet 9ten Juni aus GOLFPLATZ ueber FELIPE

"V ALARIC ARABEL reports 9 June from GOLFPLATZ via FELIPE". V means secret agent. Alaric Arabel is the German codename for Juan Pujol Garcia - a Spanish businessman and British double-agent who the Nazis believed was running a network of spies in the UK for them. Golfplatz is the German code for Britain, Felipe is Pujol's handler.

8. DONNY, DICK AND DORICK

These are the names of three entirely fictitious spies for Germany who, Pujol writes, have told him that large numbers of Allied troops remain gathered in southern England. This, Pujol says, means the initial D Day landings were just a "red herring". Of course, this is disinformation.

9. PAS DE CALAIS

Pujol writes that the "critical attacks" are still to come, most likely to be focused on Pas de Calais in northern France. In truth, this is a bluff on Pujol's part, intended to keep German forces away from the rearguard of the actual invasion sites in Normandy.

10. AMY

Here Pujol quotes AMY, another fictitious agent, telling him that there were 75 divisions in England before the France landings - meaning more were still to come. The Germans have no idea that this is untrue.

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.

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 secrets of Enigma

Enigma machine
  • Enigma machine allowed operators to type in message then scramble it
  • Nazis convinced its code could not be broken, so used it for communications on battlefield, at sea, in sky and within secret services
  • But it had been cracked - 10,000 code breakers at Bletchley unscrambled top-secret messages using Bombe machine, co-created by Cambridge mathematician Alan Turing

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.

It was an insight that saved countless Allied lives and arguably hastened the end of the war.

Now archivists at the site of the code-breaking centre hope that a new project to digitise and put online millions of documents, using equipment donated by electronics company Hewlett-Packard, will uncover further glimpses into its extraordinary past.

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.

Start Quote

He had the Germans completely fooled”

End Quote Amyas Godfrey Royal United Services Institute, on agent Garbo

"He was no James Bond - he was a balding, boring, unsmiling little man," says Amyas Godfrey, an associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute.

"But he had the Germans completely fooled. They thought the information he was sending was so accurate."

To maintain his cover, much of what Garbo fed the Germans was absolutely genuine. But when it came to the looming Allied invasion of France, his "intelligence" was anything but.

Ahead of D-Day, the British launched Operation Fortitude, a plot to confound the Nazis about the location of the landings. Garbo was an integral part of the plan.

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.

But what truly gave the Allies the edge was the fact that they knew the Nazis had been duped.

Unknown to Berlin, the Germans' seemingly foolproof Enigma code for secret messages had been cracked by Polish code breakers.

Start Quote

Peter Wescombe with the D-Day document

It was like turning up a crock of gold”

End Quote Peter Wescombe Volunteer, Bletchley Park

In Bletchley Park, Buckinghamshire, some 10,000 men and women were employed deciphering the messages. And when the document above was cracked, the Allies knew they could press forward in the confidence that thousands of German troops would be tied up vainly standing guard at Calais.

"The whole of the 20th Century might have been very different if it wasn't for this," says Kelsey Griffin, Bletchley Park's director of museum operations.

"Churchill's official biographer, Martin Gilbert, said it was difficult to imagine how the D-Day landings could have happened without Bletchley Park.

"We had an army of unarmed intellectuals here."

The intercepted document - in its original, freshly-released, German language version - is all the more extraordinary for having been found by volunteers digging through Bletchley Park's archives.

One of them, retired civil servant Peter Wescombe, 79, recalls the excitement of realising its significance for the first time.

"It was like turning up a crock of gold," he remembers. "It was absolutely wonderful."

It is a find archivists at the site, run by the Bletchley Park Trust, hope will be repeated after HP donated scanners and experts to provide technical expertise to the digitisation project.

Many of the records at the centre have not been touched for years, and the charity hopes that by putting them online in a searchable format they can "crowdsource" the expertise of historians and amateurs alike.

And surely then many more real-life tales of deception, double-crosses and painstaking effort will emerge.

 

More on This Story

In today's Magazine

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

Comments

This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
 
  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 1.

    “Taking into account the numbers of british and americans lives saved by the action of the spaniard Juan Pujol Garcia we kindly invite to the British Govern to order to Mr. Picardo (Gibraltar Minister) to retire the blocks of concret launched into the Gibraltar outer waters of his harbour in order to avoid more problems to the spanish fishermen. Thank you. Pablo Romero”

 
 

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.