10 Historical Spies Who Silently Saved their Nations – Part 1
Some of us have probably encountered the likes of Mata Hari, Nathan Hale and Anna Chapman. But considering the secretive nature of the job, we can safely say that not all heroic spies have been made public. Many of them secretly worked in the background to ensure their countries remain safer than before. The following is a two-part series of the historical spies who guaranteed their countries battlefield victory.
1. James Rivington
Easily ranks as one of the most confusing spy of all time. Was he part of the British crown or the American Revolution’s? Determining the truth about this English bookseller and publisher has overtime proved to be a daunting task. He was a successful London businessman until his business all of a sudden collapsed, forcing him to try his luck in New York’s Wall Street.
The British monarchy and the colonists were constantly entangled in war, in which Rivington fiercely wrote against the rebels via his Rivington’s Gazette. A mob of revolutionaries didn’t take his hard line position kindly and opted to not only burn his house but also demolish his press in 1775.
He fled to England and returned after two years, this time round switching sides to work for the revolting colonists as a spy. He rebuilt his shop close to a coffeehouse where high-ranking British officers would hold their meeting.
James Rivington took advantage of the opportunity and personally took the secrets gathered to George Washington.
2. Elizabeth Van Lew
She was a spy of her own kind, having been raised in a wealthy family with strong roots in the slave business. She grew up in Richmond, Virginia and joined a Quaker school where she developed strong abolitionist sympathies. During the American Civil War, Van Lew would visit the Union soldiers in their prisons and secretly found ways to help them flee. She would also hold conversations with guards and prisoners to collect vital information about Confederate strategy.
Having learnt about her tactics, Union General Benjamin Butler recruited Van Lew as a spy by 1863 and also placed her in charge of the entire espionage network based in Richmond. She would send coded messages to the Union leaders, especially through her servants such as Mary Bowser. Some ways she hid the message included invisible ink and using hollowed-out eggs to hide dispatches.
Not only did she spy but also set out on a recruiting mission, bringing onboard new members such as a high-ranking official at Libby Prison. Victory came in April 1865 after the Union forces defeated Richmond.
3. Yehudit Nessyahu
She is one of those girls who lived an undercover life for a better of their lives. Yehudit Nessyahu was born in Holland in 1925 and moved to Israel as a young girl. She was enrolled in a 1950s operation that would smuggle Jews taken captive in Morocco. She would pose as a wealthy and eccentric Dutch while at the same time hid falsified documents in her shopping bags.
The legendary Mossad team got took on a 1960 mission to capture Adolf Eichmann, the embattled Nazi leader. Yehudit Nessyahu was the only woman on this highly accredited team. The Holocaust mastermind had been living under a false name in Argentina and upon his capture was taken to Jerusalem to stand trial.
Nessyahu would later on take on yet another successful mission that saw her infiltrate an insular religious community in Antwerp and help set free an Israeli boy who had been kidnapped. The historic spy died in 2003, living behind a trail of many successful operations.
4. John Scobell
John Scobell is a former Mississippi slave who would later on become an undercover officer for Allan Pinkerton, the man in charge of the Union intelligent services during the Civil War. Scobell was posted as a cook and used the chance to finish top-secret missions against the Confederate officials.
On one occasion when he took the job of a deckhand at a sympathizer’s steamboat so as to learn about the enemy’s troop movements and battle strategy. He also held conversations with some members of a clandestine slave organization and talked them into acting as courier service providers providing information on any prevailing circumstances.
There is also this other time, as noted in Pinkerton’s memoirs, that Confederate agents opened fire on Scobell and a female Union operative – to whom he pretended he was a servant. Being a talented shooter, he single-handedly fought against the Confederates, killing some and saving his life and that of Lawton.
5. Juan Pujol Garcia
Juan Pujol Garcia was a Spanish businessman who was mischievously trusted by high ranking Nazi officials during the World War II. The Nazis identified him simply as Arabel. They would pay him to explore his spy network which apparently consisted of a Dutch airline steward, a U.S. soldier in England and a British censor for the Ministry of Information. All these would collect intelligence on the British troops and transmit it to Berlin.
What the Nazis didn’t know is that as much as the paid Garcia for information gathering, he was actually a British double agent using the codename Garbo. All the spies he used to elaborate were imaginary, same as the “secrets”. His main task was to divert the German’s attention for the British to easily invade them. This is a mission he effectively implemented.
The Nazis received vital intelligence from Garcia on June 9 1944, some three days before the D-Day. The information misguided Adolf Hitler that the Allied troops had plans to attack Pas de Calais. This made the world number one dictator to position his best troops in this region instead of Normandy that was actually under ambush.