THE GAMBLER, WOMANIZER SPY AND THE INSIPIRATION FOR JAMES BOND-DUSKO POPOV

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Tanuj Bansal

Born on 10 July, 1912 to a wealthy family in modern day Serbia than the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His parents were Milorad and Zora Popov. Apart from his native tongue Serbian he was influent in Italian, French and German from his teenage years. At the age of 18 he enrolled in University of Belgrade, over the following next 4 years, he became a familiar face in Belgrade’s night life and had the reputation of ladies’ man. “Women found him…. Irresistible with his easy manner, loose, sensual mouth and green bedroom eyes” wrote by Times columnist Ben Macintyre. In 1934, Popov enrolled in University of Freiberg with intentions of securing the doctorate in law.

He began his studies in the autumn in 1935 and in upcoming months he showed increased interest in politics and shred his views and vigorous political opinions through speeches and debates. He also wrote several articles for Belgrade’s Politika ridiculing Nazis. Around the same time, he befriended Johnny Jebsen, the son of German shipping magnate. They grew closer due to shared interests in their raucous lifestyle and love of sports vehicles. In the summer of 1937, he completed his doctoral thesis, and decided to celebrate by embarking a journey to Paris. Before he could leave, he was arrested by Gestapo on the accusations of being a communist. German undercovers were tracking his movements beforehand and questioned his acquaintances. Popov was incarcerated in prison of Freiberg without formal proceedings. After Jebsen received the bad news of his friend’s arrest, he told Milorad what had occurred. Popov’s father contacted the then Yugoslavian prime minister Milan Stojadinovic who then discussed the issue with German military leader Hermann Goring and after eight days in captivity, Popov was released and was ordered to leave Germany in twenty-four hours. He collected his belongings and took a train to Switzerland. He soon arrived in Basel where his friend Jebsen was waiting for him at station platform to pick him up. Jebsen told is involvement and role he played in Popov’s release; Popov expressed gratitude and told Jebsen if he ever needed his help he just has to ask.

After his return to Dubrovnik, in 1937 he began practicing law. In February of 1940, Popov received a message from Jebsen that they need to meet at the Hotel Serbian King in Belgrade. After Jebsen reached there, Popov was surprised after finding Jebsen a nervous wreck, chain smoker and extraordinal drinker. He told Popov that after the degree he joined is father’s business and need a Yugoslavian license to evade the Allied naval blockade at Trieste. Popov agreed to help Jebsen and travelled to berlin to collect documents. Two weeks later Jebsen returned to Belgrade and told Popov that he joined the Abwehr, the military intelligence agency of Germans as a Forscher(researcher). The news came as surprise to Popov as his friend shared his anti-Nazi views.

Popov informed Clement Hope, a passport control officer in legation of British in Yugoslavia. Hope enrolled Popov as a double agent with codename scoot and told him to cooperate with Jebsen. Once accepted, he moved to London. Popov used his cover position to report periodically to his Abwehr handlers and fed the information which was MI6-approved to keep them happy and unaware of his actions, and was well paid for this. The assignments given to him was of great value of information to the British in assessing enemy plans and thinking. His most important deception was convincing the Germans that the D-Day landings would be in Calais, not Normandy and was able to report back to the MI6 that they fell for this deception.

Popov was known for his playboy and lavish lifestyle, slept with dozens of women including French actress Simone Simon and his love of gambling and danger as his stimulant, while carrying out perilous and near-death wartime missions for British.

Popov, his friend Jebsen and his brother Ivo Popov ran an operation of recruiting Yugoslavians to commit espionage for British.

During 1941, Popov repeatedly stayed in Portugal during his mission. He stayed in Estoril in Hotel Palacio, in January and March in 1941, then again in between June and august in 1941. During this stay he met Ian Fleming at Casino Estoril, at that time Fleming was working for British Royal Navy as an intelligence officer who was assigned to protect Britain’s financial investments which was the 50,000$ of which Popov made the outrageous bet and won. This became the inspiration for the debut of James Bond in the book ‘Casino Royale’ by Ian Fleming. After this incident Popov who was assigned by German Abwehr to collect information and intel on Pearl Harbor Defense installations that the Japanese had asked from them for the attack. The British Loaned him out the U.S. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover that he will useful in weeding out German Spies. Popov came with armed proof of Germans gathering information on behalf of Japanese. But hoover who disliked Popov’s lifestyle ignored the warning and shoed distrust in him just four months before the surprise attack on Pearl harbor. Popov was crushed after the attack and his cover was nearly destroyed when legendary New York columnist reported that Popov was cavorting the French actress Simone Simon, the love of Popov’s Life. The Double agent Popov redeemed himself by convincing Germans with false information on D-day landings and the Nazis were left vulnerable for the Normandy invasion on June 6, 1944. He did pull it off, this courageous and cold-blooded spy exactly knew if he didn’t, he’d be killed brutally by Nazis after being tortured just as his friend Jebsen’s death who was caught by Germans shortly before Normandy landings.

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