The real James Bond

Born in Yugoslavia, Dusko Popov was 27 at the outset of World War II. He had been arrested by the German Gestapo several times for advocating democracy, but at the start of the war they asked him to join the Abwehr, the Wehrmacht's intelligence arm. He agreed - but only after agreeing to work for MI6 as a double agent. For the course of the war he would feed the Nazis such a convincing trail of information that they considered him their "best man in Britain", while all the time he was truely aligned with the United Kingdom.

Known as a playboy of huge proportions, Popov was charismatic, good-looking and rich. He had a family fortune thanks to a rich industrialist father, and the Nazis paid him massive sums under the pretense that his "cover" as a spy was as a wealthy playboy. He romanced women all over Europe and in the United States, including an infamous affair with Simone Simon, a then-famous actress. Popov was code-named "tricycle" for his love of three-in-the-bed sex romps.

Perhaps Popov's most audacious act, code-named Operation Midas, involved him setting up a "spy ring" in Britain. Unknown to the Nazis, all members of this ring were MI5 operatives, and the maintainence money the Nazis paid Popov went towards financing operations against themselves!

Popov arrived in the United States on August 12, 1941. He had microdots which contained orders from the Germans, who were so impressed with the "spy ring" he'd set up in Britain that they wanted him to do the same in New York. Among his orders were instructions from Japan to examine the defences and ships stationed in Pearl Harbor. Popov had no doubt about the Empire's intentions, and handed the microdots to J. Edgar Hoover himself. Hoover, viewing Popov as a decadent, useless agent with a complete lack of scruples, ignored the microdots and assaulted Popov for his philandering ways, accusing him of wasting money with his extravagent lifestyle. The FBI arrested him several times, and after the bombing of Pearl Harbor he returned to England, disgusted. He later worked on Operation Mincemeat.

In 1941, Ian Fleming met Dusko Popov in a casino. Popov became the real-life agent on which Fleming's brainchild James Bond was based after Fleming was embarrassed by the spy at the baccarat table. Fleming was at the time working for the British Navy Intelligence division, and had been arrogantly showing off his money. Popov promptly put $50,000 on the table, shaming Fleming and forcing him to leave the casino in disgrace.

Dusko Popov died in 1981. Understandably, his feelings about Pearl Harbor remained strong to the end, as did his feelings on Johnny Jebson, another top UK agent who Popov himself had recruited into the service. Jebson was sold out by a Gestapo officer after he had been involved in illegal financial dealings, and it is rumoured that Popov travelled into post-war Germany to hunt down and kill this turncoat officer. He was awarded with an OBE for his service to Britain, and granted citizenship.

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