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by
Rick Moran

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June 4, 2014 - 6:07 pm
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As the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings at Normandy approaches, you will no doubt read stirring accounts of the bravery and heroism of Allied troops that were involved. You’ll read about the logistics miracle that made the landings possible as well as the subsequent thrust into France. There will be articles about the planning that went into the attack (out the window when so many units failed to land on their designated stretch of beach), and the turn of the weather upon which Operation Overlord depended.

But before the 5,000 ships, 13,000 aircraft, and 160,000 men steeled themselves for combat as they approached the Normandy coast, the battle — and probably the war — had already been won.

A gigantic deception was being perpetrated on the German army by the most colorful cast of characters ever tasked with winning a war. Double agents, con men, British noblemen, radio operators with a sense of humor, and, finally, the most colorful soldier of them all: General George S. Patton.

The deception — known as Operation Bodyguard — had a dozen different elements each designed to further the basic goal: confuse the Germans about where the landings would take place, keep them guessing about how many troops were engaged, and mask the actual date of the assault. “Bodyguard” was chosen as a name for the operation based on one of Winston Churchill’s most famous quotes: “In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.”

Deception had attended every major Allied landing up to that time, and we were getting very good at it. Part of the reason was that the British had broken some high-level German army codes and were able to read some of what the Nazi plans were. But for two years prior to D-Day, the British and American spymasters had come up with several gimmicks that were destined to flummox the Germans on the lead up to D-Day.

It all began with Operation Double Cross — the capture of most of the German spies in England and their transformation into the most effective double agents in Europe. The operation was run by MI5 and was overseen by the Twenty Committee chaired by Sir John Cecil Masterman, who would go on to become vice chancellor at Oxford. Masterman designed an intricate plan that had the double agents feeding disinformation to the German army intelligence organization known as the Abwehr. Most of it was useless — or even fanciful, like reporting that the British had developed electric canoes — but there was just enough truth in the reports to get the Abwehr to place great faith in their spies. By June 1944, that confidence in their intelligence would be their undoing.

Essentially, Operation Bodyguard was the overall designation for a series of smaller operations. The most important of these was Operation Fortitude South, where, with spectacular panache, British intelligence built an entire American army out of nothing — First Army Group South, or FUSAG. Using deception techniques honed in Sicily and North Africa, fake radio traffic was generated, dummy rubber landing craft, tanks, and planes were placed in plain view, “leaks” to diplomats were generated, and having General Patton, who the Germans were convinced would command FUSAG and lead the invasion, show up in a variety of locations to keep the Germans guessing about where the main thrust of the invasion would take place.

All of this disinformation was regularly “confirmed” by the Abwehr‘s trusted spies in England, who were following the orders of the Twenty Committee.

Perhaps Fortitude’s most notable success was convincing the German high command that the invasion would take place at Pas-de-Calais and not Normandy. Reading German wireless messages, the allies discovered that the German army believed that’s where the invasion would occur anyway, so it was easy to feed into their expectations.

Other elements of Bodyguard were designed to freeze German garrisons in Greece, the Adriatic, Norway, and the Bay of Biscay in France. The more troops they could pin down elsewhere, the fewer  could be rushed to Normandy in the days following the invasion. The Nazis already outnumbered Allied forces considerably in France and hiding the actual invasion site for as long as possible was paramount in order to give General Montgomery, the overall commander of the invasion forces, time to build a broad front.

Indeed, the plan worked to perfection. Fully seven weeks after the Normandy landings, Hitler and Reich Main Security Office  (who had destroyed the Abwehr in 1943) were insisting that the D-Day landings were a diversion and the blow would fall on Pas-de-Calais. By the time the German army realized their mistake, it was too late.

One final deception was carried out by the U.S. Army Air Force in the days leading up to the invasion….

Top Rated Comments   
My father in law, who's 95, was a bombardier in the 8th. He has told me stories of intelligence drops that, to this day, I have heard nothing about. What we hear in these releases, really, is only part of what occurred.
May of the operations were seal sealing. Discrete entities within the intel community were allowed latitude to engage in missions without any record being generated. It is essential that someone with time, compile the oral history of any remaining vets and/or operatives who can relate these stories.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
"Deception had attended every major Allied landing up to that time...."

Well, no, not exactly.

By June, 1944, some 85 Allied landings had been accomplished in the Pacific, including Guadalcanal, Adak, Attu, Kiska, Tarawa, Kwajalein, and Eniwetok. It was not possible in the great majority of these landings, to carry out any sort of deception, except feints, or faked landings, in a handful of cases.

Elaborate deceptions to conceal the targets of amphibious assaults generally only occurred in the European Theater.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (23)
All Comments   (23)
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The Normandy landing had been in the planning for well over a year but for serious shortage of landing crafts D-Day had been pushed back a few times. GARBO's main task - i.e. really his handlers' - had been to lure the main German forces away from the American and Canadian landing sites; in that they were successful. No aspect of GARBO's operations was 'funny' or 'whacky'; to the contrary , it was deadly serious and meticulously planned and executed. The 'funny' description may have befitted Selfton Delmer's black and grey propaganda efforts. Some of Ben Macintyre’s hindsight speculations - and that is what they are - seem at best to be spurious , at worst fail to consider WWII German military mentality.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hmmm. No mention of The Man Who Never Was? He was an integral part of this deception.

11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sorry, but you're referring to "Operation Mincemeat" which had nothing to do with D-Day. The dead body that the British left for the Spanish authorities to find was intended to deceive Germany about the landing in Sicily.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Read that book when I was in 5th grade and it was still recent history instead of ancient history.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Many of the operations were self sealing.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
My father in law, who's 95, was a bombardier in the 8th. He has told me stories of intelligence drops that, to this day, I have heard nothing about. What we hear in these releases, really, is only part of what occurred.
May of the operations were seal sealing. Discrete entities within the intel community were allowed latitude to engage in missions without any record being generated. It is essential that someone with time, compile the oral history of any remaining vets and/or operatives who can relate these stories.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Winder thought that the theatrics were actually counterproductive as the gimmicks became crazier the closer they got to D-Day. He also thought the upper class twits who ran the committee were only playing at war.

As I recall Patton didn't like the committee or Masterman either.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Oh, he *HATED* being a part of FUSAG!!

He was only there as a result of slapping that soldier, but Ike made the most of it.

Patton did his duty but did not like it at all.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
What's really amazing is that Wilhlem Canaris, the head of the Abwehr, may have been a double agent.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
I've read about that. Canaris has never been accounted for that I know of. Wikipedia says he was executed in April of 1945 but I have doubts. Others may have more solid information about what happened to the admiral. I am sure it was dreadful; by the time he died, he was probably ready to welcome death. That would be true even if the Wikipedia account is correct.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
IIRC, Peter Ustinov & David Niven were two of the major players in XX. Who'd a think.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
This is the kind of thing the Brits love to do, and they often are good at it. Imagine an operation like this being conducted by Monty Python.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
A classic failure of basic intelligence. There were really two, and only two, beachheads the Allies could possibly land at, which was determined by the top effective range of the most numerous fighter, the Spitfire.

A basic military dictum states that you base your plans and responses on what the enemy is capable of doing, not what you think they will do. We were fully capable of effecting landings along the Calvados coast, but the Germans allowed themselves to believe it must be at the Pas Du Calais, and nowhere else.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
Howdy Allstonian
The Germans followed your dictate to at least some degree -- the Calvados coast was seriously fortified, especially at what would become Omaha Beach.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
One can thank Irwin Rommel for that. As I understand it, he had to fight Hitler and OKW on down, tooth and nail, to obtain the forces and materials to do so.

My memory on Omaha was, it was fairly undefended, until the virtual last minute, when Rommel obtained the 352 Division, an Infantry formation of some skill.

Surely the "Greatest Generation," those guys, assaulting an enemy-held coast, with the Germans dug in and waiting...and win.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
In regard to that, and the article mentioning in passing "There will be articles about the planning that went into the attack (out the window when so many units failed to land on their designated stretch of beach)"...

Besides the deception, likely the other biggest factor in the invasion's success was when the plans of both sides went wrong in the early hours, individual Allied soliders on the spot took the lead and won the day with heroic improvisation, while the Germans had to wait for orders on high in Berlin to react to the invasion (a couple scenes from the "Longest Day" highlighted that duality nicely--Gen. Roosevelt realizes that the reason his forces landed without opposition was because they landed in the wrong place (!) and decides to go ahead anyway, while a German commander rages against the absurdity that his plans to counteract the invasion cannot go forward, because the Fuhrer was asleep and could not be awakened.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
The Twenty Committee was also wryly known as the XX Committee, with the XX standing for 'Double Cross'.
11 weeks ago
11 weeks ago Link To Comment
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