Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia on May 19, 1974 · Page 161
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Sunday Gazette-Mail from Charleston, West Virginia · Page 161

Charleston, West Virginia
Issue Date:
Sunday, May 19, 1974
Page 161
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"I never took anything too seriously" says the legendary Popov, known for his nonchalant, debonair style. "Maybe that's how / was able to make it" continued --and interrogated by--the men from whom he would receive orders for the duration of the war. "Until I came along/' he says, "most of our double agents were captured German spies who had been persuaded to switch sides. They were typically very unreliable. As my situation was fairly special, I worked for both the British intelligence and counterintelligence sections--known as MI-5 and MI-6 respectively. I'll never forget what the head of MI-5--by the way, he's known as C, not M as in the Bond books--told me after our first meeting. 'Popov/ he said, 'you have the makings of a very good spy, except that you don't like to obey orders. You had better leam or you will be a very dead spy.' Needless to say, I took his advice." Lessons of the Blitz Popov learned something else in wartime London. "When I experienced the German blitz firsthand," he says, "any doubts I had about the moral or ethical value of the work I was engaged in-the lying, treachery and so forth--vanished. Whatever doubts I may have had were cleared up in an instant when I saw what the German bombers were doing and how the British were standing up to it." After a crash course in hand-to-hand combat and other commando techniques at a secret base in Scotland-"just in case it came down to that"-he was plunged into a vast espionage program 'designed to deceive the enemy. "All of the information I gave the Germans was prepared by British intelligence officers--the so-called backroom boys, for whom I have the greatest respect We had the best brains in England preparing this information . . . because the slightest little slipup could have blown my cover. Sometimes it took months for us to confirm that they believed what we were feeding them. Sometimes we never knew for sure. But they must have--because after D-Day we captured maps which showed they had deployed their troops exactly as we had wanted them to." According to Gen. David Petrie, head of MI-5, Popov--by passing on carefully prepared misinformation--was instrumental in diverting seven to 15 German divisions at the start of the Allied invasion. Ewen Montagu, naval representative to the "Double-Cross Committee" responsible for all double agents during the war--the committee, derived its name from its famous XX symbol-writes of Popov: "He... had steel within, the ruthlessness and the cold- blooded courage that enabled him to go back to the German Secret Service headquarters in Lisbon and Madrid time and again, when it was likely that he might be 'blown'; it was like putting his head into the lion's mouth." Popov's own analysis, however, is somewhat different. "I enjoyed the game," he admits, "it fitted my personality. Actually, I think I survived because I didn't take anything too seriously. I learned--if this makes sense-to be lighthearted without being superficial." Lisbon's spy scene Lisbon during the war was an intensely cosmopolitan city, teeming with all kinds of political refugees, adventurers and spies--including, even, a number of cunning free-lance agents. Like "the game,"" Portugal's capital fitted Popov's personality--and he moved through its human maze with legendary flair. One of his favorite haunts was the casino. He showed up there one night with $80,000 in the breast pocket of his dinner jacket The cash was part of an operation and Popov had been assigned to hold it overnight. Passing one of the chemin de fer games--in which the bank rotates among the players-he overheard a man whom he had disliked for some time arrogantly declare, "No limit!" Slowly and deliberately, Popov paused at the table and proceeded to count out 50,000 of the dollars he was due to pass on to the British the next morning. As he had expected, his opponent had been bluffing--and was forced to leave in a state of obvious embarrassment. "But I also gave someone else a shock that evening," says Popov. "For some reason, Ian Fleming, who at that time was one of the backroom boys in naval intelligence, had been following me and saw the whole thing. He turned pale at first; then, when he saw the outcome, an amused smile came across his face." More than a decade later, Fleming made a card game between a dashing continued Dramatic Caftan $£98 6 This glamorous caftan has a sweep of swirls in the prettiest shades of blue or rose. If s hand washable because it's 100«/o knit acetate. Style H7888 Sizes S-M-L $6.98 Style F0005 Size XL '«" MESUMKEft FASHIONS D«pt PAR 102 I Asbury Park. N J. 07712 ! HUM M« M *t MM* tat. K I I m mt *MM. I mt, tMn DM Mm ta lll*p»ii«M*iMtre»«iM*» SyteNo. 1st Color Ziri Color Sta ***fcl«tf MfefMSljQifcrMdliM. Total Met IMMTIra IftcctNo.. CUT eente MAKING YOUR EARS HURT AND ITCH? 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