Many people know about the role of the double agent Garbo in deceiving the Germans over the location of the D-Day landings but a new book has uncovered evidence that the success of D-Day might have actually hung on the ability of one double agent, dubbed Artist, to hold out under torture by his Nazi captors in Berlin.
Ben Macintyre, author of Double Cross, said that the wild card in the story was a man called Johnny Jebson who was a German intelligence officer who was recruited by MI6 during the war as a deep mole and was passing over extraordinary amounts of information on things like secret weapons.
"But he was too good," said Ben Macintyre, "and he began to reveal information about the spies the Germany believed it had operating in Britain" without knowing that these spies were being used as double agents by Britain in the great "D-Day deception".
He told the Today programme's Justin Webb that Jebson became privy to the D-Day secret because he realised that when these spies were not all rounded-up they must all be controlled.
"This was terrifying for MI5 and MI6", he said, because Jebson was an international player with lots of lovers and was also a friend of PG Wodehouse, bankrolling him through a forgery scam.
Historian Antony Beevor said that it was an "enormous deception operation" and there were a whole lot of others and they were a huge contribution to the main plan to prevent the Germans reinforcing their forces in Normandy.
He said that some of the people involved were reliable such as Garbo and they made a tremendous contribution but "inevitably in the spying world... you had a lot of fantasists and adventurers" and the intelligence agents had to be very careful in using them.
Ben Macintyre said that this story is only one of five spies, "each one slighter odder than the last".
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