Being a Spy in World War 2 Could be Dangerous, Unique, or Important
When researching on the topic of the involvement spies had in the famous historical event that is World War 2, two of the first names you will probably hear of are Dusan Popov or Krystyna Skarbek (also known as Christine Granville.) These two people are famous for some pretty important things. Dusan Popov warned the FBI of the attacks on Pearl Harbor (which the FBI dismissed because they didn’t trust him,) and Krystyna Skarbek was able to fake tuberculosis to free herself from Gestapo, and rescue people in areas heavily controlled by Nazis. Reading these stories can lead to many questions, like “What would have happened if the FBI trusted Dusan Popov?” or “What if I were being interrogated by Gestapo, would I think to bite my tongue hard enough for it to bleed to get out?” These questions can pose an idea of not only how it is important to be a spy, but the thrill and creativity that goes into it as well. In World War 2, One spy could’ve changed the outcome of the war greatly, while others had their lives put on the line at points, and different spies could’ve done crazy things. Even when thinking about it from a purely theoretical standpoint, it made a lot of sense to recruit spies in World War 2.
The concept of spies in general is a good idea. Think about it this way, if a sibling of yours has a box of candy you really want, but he won’t let you have, there are a number of ways that you can approach the situation that can help you retrieve the candy. This sibling is likely protecting the candy, making sure you can’t obtain it. This means outright trying to steal it while making yourself noticeable won’t be a very good idea. While there are a number of ways that you could obtain the candy, doing something like getting a friend to borrow the candy from your sibling and give it to you, or retrieving the candy in a way that isn’t conspicuous is very effective.
For an amount of time your sibling will have no idea you took the candy. Considering things like spy networks date back to Ancient Rome, it makes sense that by World War 2, the whole concept had developed into something that could make a huge impact. In war, your enemies have information. To succeed, this information can be vital. Access to things like battle plans and general ideas or strategies that the enemy has can do helpful things, such as letting you know what to do to counter those plans.
In fact, this idea of spying was enough to make lots of countries paranoid, like how the American government wouldn’t let Jewish refugees in because they feared they were spies for Germany. There is definitely no doubt that there were whole agencies and organizations doing spy work for World War 2, considering the extensive history of spies. Although the stance is switched, there is one covert operation that is a good example of how finding information and plans can impact the decisions of a military force. Known as “Operation Mincemeat,” a group of British spies dressed up a dead man to make him look like an Ally, and attached a briefcase filled with fake plans to invade Greece to him. A submarine dropped him off on the coast of Spain to float there, and the Nazis found him, making them move their defenses to Greece.
This left Sicily and Italy perfectly open to invade for the Allies, and they didn’t have to worry too much about the Germans, considering how their defense was shifted to Greece at the time. You can also take the work of Roald Dahl as an example of how important spy work could be. He was able to convince many Americans into supporting the idea of teaming up with Britain and the rest of the Allies , as Britain was heavily interested in America at that point. Britain appointed Dahl with the role of seducing famous women as a way of gaining interest. If this hadn’t happened, there would probably be many opinions left unchanged from Americans about World War 2. With the years of spy work leading up to World War 2, it’s no surprise people involved had to get as creative as possible.
If there is one thing our years as humans on Earth has told us, it’s that people can find new discoveries and ways to do things as time goes on. One example of how unique and creative spying was in World War 2 is how the Allies and the Germans were able to use pigeons to carry around messages. The British believed that lots of these pigeons were used by spies, considering that these types of trained homing pigeons were used during World War 1 as well, including one named Cher Ami, who was able to carry 12 messages during his lifetime, and save 194 people with one of them. After Germany flew in an overwhelming load of pigeons to Britain, a Flight Lieutenant by the name of Richard Melville Walker gave hundreds of British pigeons the leg rings and wing markings of a German homing pigeon, and flew them out to infiltrate Germany. It seems Walker wanted to overwhelm Germany like he experienced, and it sadly didn’t work out, as the German’s hadn’t even detected them. Something like this was also used by America, where they used bats carrying explosives to attack Japan.
There is also a lot of uniqueness in the sorts of tools and gadgets spies used during the war, such as rats stuffed with explosives, hollow fence spikes used to carry messages, or even a compass that doubled as the fly button on a pair of pants. They also created prototypes for a pipe that could be used as a pistol, but they didn’t go any further with that creation. One of the inevitable things that comes with war is violence. Especially in a war like World War 2, casualties are definite. The bloodshed of war combined with the fact that spies were everywhere at the time, there’s no doubt some of them led dangerous lives.
The previously mentioned spy Krystyna Skarbek had a wanted sign put over her head at one point, showing that this is indeed true. The danger of being a spy is also evident in Juan Pujol’s story, known as the spy who was able to trick Hitler into thinking the Allies wouldn’t be attacking Normandy on D-Day. Pujol had no background in espionage, and he desperately wanted to work for the Allies. He was shot down when he offered work to them, so he turned to the Germans instead. He had to make up a story to convince a Nazi spy-runner that he would be suitable to do undercover work for them.
He was recruited as a spy, but one background check could’ve had him executed. Pujol was able to eventually work as a double agent for the Allies and go on to trick Hitler, so all of his time on the edge of being murdered paid off. Even when Benito Mussolini, Italy’s ruler, was captured, there were spies that let him out, and as you could assume, he was being heavily guarded. The spies that rescued him were able to bewilder the guards with an aerial attack on the ski resort Mussolini was being held at, however. There are tons of spy stories out there, with a rather large number coming from World War 2.
For every spy story there is, there are multiple adjectives to describe it, and although this paper used three specific ones, there are definitely more ways to sum up the act of spying in World War 2. In an interview with Vice News, when asked about what it was like to be a spy instead of a soldier in the World War 2, former French spy Marcel Jaurant-Singer said, “I’ve always found myself in situations where I can make my own decisions about what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. That was the nature of my commitment: to master my own war. I didn’t want to be a cog in a giant machine. I waged a comfortable war.” One adjective to sum this up is independent, and that can tell you a lot about the life of a spy.
In an interview with The Guardian, former World War 2 spy Rozanne Colchester said, to sum up her experience, “It was horrible and then occasionally it was wonderful. Everything was so intense. Like a love affair.” This tells you how the life as a spy has positives and negatives. So if there is anything that all of this tells us, it’s that a good batch of spy stories gives us more than one, more than three, even more than five words to describe them.