PROJECT: Fooling Hitler

In 1943, Europe had been at war for approximately 3 years. During that time the mighty army of the German Third Reich seemed invincible. They had allies, Italy and Japan, and the war had been extended to the European colonies in Asia and Africa. Fighting these “forces of evil” were the UK, the USA and the Soviet Union.

However, a war is not fought only on the ground. There are a lot of backstage work that can determine its outcome. Spies are the most popular. Supplies are probably the less evident (yes, wars have been lost due to the lack of supplies).

At the beginning of 1943, important milestones had been achieved for those who were fighting “evil”. For example, the enigma machine (the machine used by the Germans to communicate between them in code) had been decoded. The Germans thought the machine was unbreakable, so they kept on happily using it… while the “forces of right” were happily hearing all conversations. Also, the “forces of right” had successfully sent spies to confuse them: they were pretending to be “evil” just to feed them with wrong information (double agents, they were called). On the other hand, on the ground, important battles were finally won by the “forces of right” such as in El-Alamein, in Egypt, and Stalingrad, in the Soviet Union.

But that was not enough. A massive offensive had to be getting underway on the Western front. The problem was: how would they prepare a massive offensive without the enemy realise it? After all, the surprise factor was paramount because the “forces of right” were not that mighty. But the enemy was on full alert. What would be the solution? The “forces of evil” had to be deceived.

The plan to deceive the German army began to take shape on July 1943 and was approved on December 1943 with the code name “Bodyguard”. This was the backstage support for Operation Overlord, the Normandy landings.

THE WEB OF DECEIT

The main goal of Operation Bodyguard was to make Hitler believe that the Allies had a much bigger army that they actually had and that they were preparing to attack in different locations [Norway (via Sweden, by land, and Scotland, by sea) and the Balkans and South France (via Mediterranean Sea)], with a huge invasion in Pas de Calais in North France (via South England). At the same time, they needed to divert attention from the troops that were being prepared to invade the beaches of Normandy.

This would need a lot of resources, a lot of effort, a lot of secrecy… and a lot of money. As they were at war and this was a war operation, money was not a big issue. After all, the army was getting paid by the Government to do whatever it took to win the war, so this was eligible for the war budget.

Besides using their double spy agents, they communicated false information through coded channels, which they knew Germans were monitoring. As the messages were in code, most of the people passing them on had no idea what was being said. In addition, high profile people were visiting strategic sites to look that they were making important plans. Some of them were even holding talks with neutral countries (for example, Sweden) to make it seem they were bringing them to the “forces of right”. The “forces of right” knew such talks were heading nowhere, but, then again, they were just for appearances’ sake. Another strategy was to gather a false army in South England (for the fake attack in Pas de Calais), with dummy ships, inflated tanks and some real soldiers, and even fake news about the soldiers published on local newspapers.

And when would those attacks take place? Much later than the date scheduled for the Normandy landings. Or better yet, the landings were going to be a red herring for the huge invasion in Pas de Calais, which supposedly would take place later.

Did the German army believe it? Well, not all of it. However, they did believe the story of Pas de Calais, which led them to only deploy troops from there to Normandy a little too late. And, so, the landings had a chance to be successful. And successfully they were.

For more detailed information:

  • Operation Bodyguard -D-DAY INFO 45762-200
  • Operation Bodyguard – WIKIPEDIA 45762-200
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