June 6 is the 75th anniversary of D-Day, a day that virtually guaranteed the Allies’ victory over the Nazi forces of Adolf Hitler, effectively turning the tide of WWII against them.
Part of it was done by a massive element of surprise, something that may not be achievable in today’s high tech world of social networking.
The Allies had to fool the Germans into believing that the attack was not actually happening, or if it was, they didn’t know when, exactly where along the coast of France, or how extensive it was going to be.
According to an online article by staff at the Imperial War Museum, London, the Germans knew that at some stage the Allies would launch a cross-channel invasion, but they were unsure of exactly where or when it would take place.
As a crucial part of their preparations for D-Day, the Allies developed a deception plan to draw attention away from Normandy.
The D-Day deception plan was code-named Operation ‘Fortitude’ and was part of a larger overall deception strategy – Operation ‘Bodyguard’.
‘Fortitude’ consisted of two parts: ‘Fortitude North’ was meant to fool the Germans into thinking that the Allies would launch an attack on Norway, and ‘Fortitude South’ was designed to convince the Germans that an invasion would occur north-east of Normandy in the Pas de Calais.
As part of ‘Fortitude South,’ the Allies created the fictitious First US Army Group an imaginary force “based” in south-east Britain. This also helped give the impression that the invasion force was larger than it actually was.
Fake radio traffic and decoy equipment – including inflatable tanks and dummy landing craft – mimicked preparations for a large- scale invasion aimed at the Pas de Calais.
Double agents delivered false information to reinforce this deceit both before and after the Normandy landings.
The most famous of these agents, Juan Pujol Garcia (‘Garbo’), invented a network of imaginary agents who were supposedly supplying him with information on Allied preparations.
Allied air power also played an important part in the deception.
In the months leading up to D-Day, Allied bombers attacked road and rail networks in an attempt to isolate the invasion area, but additional attacks were made on other parts of northern France to divert German attention away from Normandy.
In Operations ‘Taxable’ and ‘Glimmer’, the RAF dropped metal strips – code-named ‘Window’ – along the French coast to confuse German radar.
On the night of 5-6 June, as part of Operation ‘Titanic,’ the Royal Air Force dropped dummy parachutists to simulate an airborne invasion and draw German forces away from key objectives.
The Allied deception strategy for D-Day was one of the most successful ever conceived.
The Germans overestimated the strength of Allied forces in Britain, particularly in the south-east, and believed as late as July 1944 that a larger second invasion would land in the area around Calais.
This helped the Allies achieve the key element of surprise and kept German reinforcements away from Normandy both on D-Day and in the weeks that followed.
In today’s technological world, in which social media prevents practically anyone from keeping a secret, could the same strategically complex attack be pulled off?
I mean, fake tanks and dummy landing craft?
I seriously believe that the extensive use of coordinated deception element of surprise would be difficult to pull off today.
Thank God and thank you to the men and women who fought in this operation dedicated to keeping the Allied nations free, and to the leaders of those nations who worked together to make sure the Allies could successfully pull off D-Day, and keep our nation free.