D-Day: When Allied Scams Helped Us Win The Battle

Scams are often used by law enforcement personnel to trick and trap criminals.  We love to hear the details and learn how cleverly the plan was put together.  And we love to see how badly the bad guys were beaten. 

Today we celebrate D-Day, June 6, 1944.  It was a day when 160,000 Allied troops participated in this colossal, and dangerous, invasion effort. It involved 5,000 ships and 800 planes which dropped over 13,000 men in parachutes. Over 100,000 Allied troops made it to shore that day - British, Canadian and American being the largest groups.  US casualties are estimated as 1465 dead, 3185 wounded, and 1928 missing.

But there was an unusual factor that played a major role in the victory.  In fact the casualties suffered would have been much higher had it not been successfully employed.  The very success of the Normandy Invasion, itself, might never have occurred.  And if Germany had been successful in crushing that operation, the course of the rest of the war would have been greatly different

The factor referred to is how we used a wide range of scam techniques to deceive and mislead the German military.

Here are some notable examples:

Spy-scam:  The British definitely had the best intelligence units at that time.  Long before D-Day, they had identified every German spy in England.    But they didn't move against them.  Instead they tricked these spies into relaying false information back to Germany about the intended locations and planning of Allied operations.  As a result, German headquarters originally believed the invasion of Europe, when it did come, would be aimed at Southern France or Scandinavia, and not the English Channel.

An interesting example:  Our major force accumulated for the Normandy Invasion was an army group known as FUSAG, or the First US Army Group, commanded by Patton himself. Its Invasion role was to lead the forces across the Channel and to attack our principal target, Calais.  That would be the shortest length for such an invasion force, which in the uncertain weather of the area, made it the best choice by far. 

The allies made inflatable boats, barracks and buldings to establish its role as the launching point.  They even invited journalists to view the major preparations.  There was constant radio chatter about the activities.

There was just one trouble.  The whole thing was a scam on the Germans.  There was no FUSAG army.  It was all to convince them that Calais was absolutely and positively the objective of the Allies and not Normandy.

The phantom army:  The concept behind FUSAG was further used to build a truly "Phantom Army."  If FUSAG was the Army Group, other fictitious elements were needed to round it out and create something that certainly would appear to be the major military force in the area.   These additional, though actually non-existent, elements included an army -- the 14th Army, together with 3 corps, 1 armored division, 5 airborne divisions, and 14 infantry divisions.  The spies in England reported everything they could learn about it.

And since none of it actually existed, it was a monumental, and successful scam.

The National Geographic Magazine scam:  The magazine played a major role in establishing the Phantom Army in the German military leadership awareness.

The magazine was given permission to print an impressive, full-color spread of US Military insignia, including shoulder patches.  It was a beautiful section, and of course the US Army provided all the help needed in producing the artwork.  The layout included the many non-existent patches of the non-existent Phantom Army units.

The scam continued when after the first batches of the magazine were published, the printing was suddenly suspended.  But printed magazines got into circulation.  The apparent problem was that enemy agents would have a very complete directory of our army units.  

Of course, the Allies made very certain that the spies in England learned about this "dangerous" accident and tracked down copies. 

The rest of the print run occurred after the special insignia were removed, helping establish the fact that this was a major goof-up.

And as expected, when the spies got all of it to the Germans, the damage was done.   Who could doubt the existence of the Phantom Army any longer? 

Many real patches were made and selectively given to soldiers shipping out to England.  When they turned up in England, the German High Command quickly concluded that personnel for the attack on Calais were beginning to come in.   The actual attack must be coming soon.

Fortitude North -- Our plan against Norway:  This plan covered a very large-scale amphibious invasion of Norway.  Just as its creators had expected, Fortitude North bothered Hitler because he knew he needed to keep control of Norway.  Its valuable iron ore supply was essential if the War in Europe got underway.  Norway was also important because its location afforded the Germans a jumping-off place to attack Russian convoys.

As a result, Hitler would not tolerate any plan to reduce the military presence in Norway.  The Germans were not allowed to transfer troops to strengthen the forces that would oppose the actual Allied Invasion.

Copperhead:  In this scam, an actor who resembled Field Marshall Montgomery, was flown to Gibraltar and then Algiers where he held "top level military conferences" with prominent officers.  It confused the issue of where the Invasion action would really originate.

We tell the Germans the Normandy invasion is for real:  This deception was organized to make the Germans think when the actual attack did began, that it was really only a feint.   It would appear to be intended to draw German reinforcements away from the places like Calais, where the "real" attack would occur.  The word went out from the spies in England.

This campaign worked so well that even a month after the actual invasion, the Germans still held back many of their reserve forces waiting for the "real" attack to occur.

That part of World War II marked the most extensive and the most successful use of these types of tactics that had ever occurred in successful military planning.  For one of the few times it happens in life generally, when the scams showed up, we became the winners.

One measure of that success was that on the weekend of the Normandy Invasion, the German military was so convinced there'd be no attack because of the bad weather, that they considered Calais to be safe.  So convinced were they, several of the high-ranking officers took a few days' leave.  In fact, one of these was no less than the Commander-in-chief, Field Marshall Rommel.  He was so sure there was no imminent threat, he took a couple of days to go home and visit his wife.

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