Legal History

Nazi Spy Almost Cost US WW II Win, Declassified File Says

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The owner of a Portuguese fishing boat came close to changing the course of World War II, a newly declassified British military file shows.

Gastao de Freitas Ferraz allegedly was sending coded messages to Nazi-run Germany about the Allies’ military ships as a massive Operation Torch convoy neared. The fleet, which was about to mount a crucial attack on French North Africa, included the USS Augusta with Gen. George Patton aboard, reports the London Times.

But a British warship intercepted the Gil Eannes fishing vessel on the high seas as the Operation Torch convoy was about to pass by, and Ferraz was detained, the newspaper recounts. Eventually transferred to an interrogation center in West London, he reporrtedly confessed and was deported to Portugal.

Had Ferraz, who was a wireless operator, not been captured before transmitting information to the Germans about the convoy, an unprecedented campaign of deception would have been revealed, and the outcome of the war might have been entirely different, historian Chris Andrew tells the Daily Mail.

A British-run disinformation campaign using other German spies as double agents had persuaded the Nazis that the Operation Torch attack was to take place in France or Norway, but information from Ferraz about the convoy would have revealed otherwise.

“There had never been a deception like this in British history,” Andrew tells the newspaper. “The fact that the deception worked means that it was the precursor to an extraordinary program of deception.”

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