The Name’s Popov… Duško Popov
Sounds familiar? Duško Popov was the real-life Serbian spy during World War II who was the inspiration behind Ian Fleming's flamboyant James Bond. Women worshipped him, and he changed women more often than he changed his clothes.
With the codename 'Tricycle,' he received crucial information. He passed it on to the British, which directly led to the decision to launch an attack on the beaches of Normandy, known as the D-Day landings, which were a turning point in the war.
And James Bond was a schoolboy compared to Duško Popov. He worked as a double agent for the Abwehr, MI5, MI6, and the FBI during World War II, spoke five languages, was a crack shot, and was all of these while maintaining the image of a playboy Yugoslavian diplomat.
At the end of the war, he did what any loaded playboy would do: he moved to the south of France and led a flamboyant party life before settling down with a 19-year-old Swedish girl who went on to mother his three children. He died in 1981, aged 69, a long life for a spy who served three dangerous masters.
The Story of Duško Popov
Duško was born on 10 July 1912 in the territory of present-day Serbia. After completing his education, he began studying law at Belgrade. But a life of never-ending study, bureaucratic correspondence, and round-the-year examinations were not for him. More than the examination halls, Duško was a permanent resident at the German-International Society, where the parties' with the prettiest girls' took place.
He met a German friend, Johann Jebsen, who invited him to work for the Abwehr, headed by Admiral Wilhelm Canaris. Popov started working for the Germans but became deeply disillusioned by Hitler's plans for Europe and his policies. Making a decision that would alter the rest of his life, Popov decided to offer his services to the British and become a double agent.
After a detailed debriefing session with the British M16, Popov was finally accepted and given the code name 'tricycle' due to his love for having threesomes with women. The British decided to use Popov as a double agent, where he would continue working under the Abwehr and pass on crucial information to the Double Cross System, a department of British intelligence responsible for handling such agents.
Popov's luck changed when he got an assignment from the Abwehr to go to the United States to create a spy network. He was also given a microdot, a new miniature spy device invented by the Abwehr. The dot contained a list of questions that the Germans wanted to be answered for their allies, the Japanese.
Among the queries was information on American defenses at the massive naval base at Pearl Harbour, Hawaii, including sketches of Pearl Harbour, the depths of the water inside the harbor, and the number and locations of any antitorpedo nets.
This would have been the scoop of the century if the Americans had taken this information seriously and acted on it.
The Americans Were Skeptical
But J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, distrusted Popov when he passed on this information. Hoover disliked double agents, playboys, and foreigners, and Popov had all three bad traits. Moreover, he was a womanizer having numerous high-profile affairs, including one with French actress Simone Simon and her mother. "He cannot be trusted," Hoover stated, dismissing him curtly.
Popov was furious. The American distrust almost blew his cover away to the Germans, who started suspecting him. Luckily the British backed him, and he was sent back to the Germans with "false" information about the allies planning to liberate France by planning to land at the French Nord Pas de Calais. Of course, the allies had already planned to land at Normandy for the D-Day attacks.
This crucial information saved Popov's cover as he successfully deceived the Germans. One of the ally colonels later admitted that Popov was instrumental in keeping seven German divisions at Pas de Calais for three weeks after they had disembarked in Normandy, thus turning the tide of the war in the Allies' favor.
Ultimately, the battle for Normandy brought the greatest fame to Popov, who received many decorations for his achievements from the British and the other allies. He became the greatest British agent of all time.
After the War
After the war ended, Popov left the world of espionage and moved to the South of France, where he lived a flamboyant life of an international playboy living every day as if it was his last. He organized huge parties and sought all kinds of pleasures, including his favorite, his fondness for threesomes.
The FBI took over all the information about Popov's activities, and it was not until the beginning of the 21st century the information was declassified and made accessible to all. Popov finally married a 19-year-old Swedish girl and lived with her until he died in 1981 at 69 after leading a heady life of adventure, drinking, and women.
As Ian Fleming aptly pays tribute to the great spy when he says, "Never say 'no' to adventures. Always say 'yes,' otherwise, you will lead a dull life."
- He’s The Man Who Inspired 007
- Dusko Popov: Original James Bond Who Was A Triple Agent
- The Real Triple Agent Who Inspired 'James Bond'
- Dusko Popov – the legend of World War II and espionage world
- Into the Lion's Mouth: The True Story of Dusko Popov: World War II Spy, Patriot, and the Real-Life Inspiration for James Bond by Larry Loftis
- Spy/counterspy; The autobiography of Dusko Popov by Dusko Popov
- Codename Tricycle: The True Story of the Second World War's Most Extraordinary Double Agent by Russell Miller
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2022 Ravi Rajan