Bodyguard: The Secret of Overlord's Success
Operating on roughly the same principles as OPERATION GRAFFHAM,
OPERATION ROYAL FLUSH also used diplomacy to deceive the Germans.
OPERATION ROYAL FLUSH, however, was a much "friendlier" operation
than OPERATION GRAFFHAM. It was designed, through sudden increases
in diplomatic contact, to indicate that Sweden was giving a great
deal of thought to joining the Allied cause. The flurry of diplomatic
activity between the Allies and Sweden did just that - convinced the
Germans that Sweden had knowledge of an impending Allied excursion
into Scandinavia, and was being coerced into joining the Allies.
Together, FORTITUDE NORTH, OPERATION GRAFFHAM, and OPERATION ROYAL
FLUSH succeeded in convincing the Germans that the phantom Fourth
Army was gearing up for an invasion of Norway. Nothing, however, could
be further from the truth - the Allies wanted no part of Norway's
harsh weather conditions and crack defenders. As it was, MacLeod's
two hundred man "army," and a handful of diplomats succeeded in tying
down "13 army divisions, 58,000 Luftwaffe members, and 89,000 naval
personnel . . . a total force of 372,000 men," in Norway.6
Had even half of those troops been present in France on June 6, the
Allied invasion force would have faced an additional number of Germans
equal to its own strength, and certainly would have faced a much more
difficult task, and could have possibly even failed.
The second half of OPERATION FORTITUDE was FORTITUDE SOUTH. It
operated in the same way as FORTITUDE NORTH, but without the aid of
OPERATION GRAFFHAM or OPERATION ROYAL FLUSH like operations. The reason
for this is that the Germans really needed no convincing that the
Allied invasion would be coming at France - nearly every major German
commander, including Hitler, was convinced that the invasion would
come at Pas de Calais, the "objective" of FORTITUDE SOUTH. Aside from
reaffirming the German belief that the invasion would come at the
Pas de Calais the aims of FORTITUDE SOUTH were twofold. First, to
deceive the Germans into thinking that the invasion would be coming
at a later date than it actually was. Similarly, to subsequently convince
the Germans that the real invasion, at Normandy, was actually a diversionary
assault, a precursor to the assault on Calais. By accomplishing this,
the Allies would ensure that troop dispositions in Normandy would
remain more favorable, since more forces would be sent to reinforce
the Calais coast. Moreover, once the invasion came, forces that would
otherwise be rushed to crush the invasion would remain out of the
fight, waiting for the invasion at Calais, an invasion that would
To accomplish this, FORTITUDE SOUTH utilized the same tools as
did FORTITUDE NORTH. Simulated radio traffic and dummy vehicles bore
the brunt of the deception operation. Through the use of radio traffic
and dummy vehicles, the Allies created a fictional army group of roughly
one million men, stationed in southeastern England, near the English
Channel's narrowest point, across from the Pas de Calais. From German
reconnaissance aircraft, the rubber and wooden dummy vehicles, tent
cities, and an enormous dummy oil dump were viewed as authentic, and
the army group's authenticity was "confirmed," just as the flurry
of radio activity of a "one million" man force confirmed the existence
of the army group.
Once again, however, the illusion of the army would be worthless
unless the Germans thought that it was slated for action against the
continent. In order to give this impression, a high profile general,
this time Lieutenant General George Patton, was appointed to "command"
the army group. Patton was chosen for the respect he commanded from
the Germans, who regarded him as one of, if not the, Allies' premiere
combat commander. The Germans felt that because of his skill, Patton
had to have a role in the invasion. Though this was not true, Patton's
name validated the existence, and more importantly, the mission of
Army Group Patton (as the Germans took to calling it).
To provide more physical evidence of the genuineness of Army Group
Patton's mission, the pre-invasion bombing strategy reflected the
invasion plans being "uncovered" by the Germans. The Calais area was
saturated with bombs, to support the idea that Calais was the prime
target. Normandy, of course, had to receive significant bombing attention,
for to do otherwise would be a horrible betrayal of the men involved
in OPERATION NEPTUNE, but it could not be hit too much, lest the Germans
become suspicious and blow all of OPERATION BODYGUARD. Accordingly,
roughly twenty-five percent of the bombs dropped on the French coast
fell on Normandy, and roughly fifty percent fell on Calais. The physical
evidence presented by FORTITUDE SOUTH, however, only became widely
accepted in the German ranks with the "proof" provided by German agents
As with FORTITUDE NORTH, FORTITUDE SOUTH made full use of the Double
Cross System. German "agents" in England returned report after report
verifying the existence of Army Group Patton, and confirmation of
Calais as the target of the invasion. In addition, information from
the double agents streamed in that indicated that the army group would
not be prepared to undertake the invasion until mid-July.
The claim that the army group would not be ready to launch the
invasion until mid-July served two purposes. First, and most obviously,
it would deceive the Germans as to the true time of the invasion,
hopefully meaning that the invasion would catch them off guard, easing
the task of the invaders. Secondly, the late date of the supposed
Calais invasion would keep the Germans, for some time, anyhow, from
committing forces defending Calais to the Battle of Normandy.
The duration of FORTITUDE SOUTH is the only major difference between
it and FORTITUDE NORTH. Whereas most of FORTITUDE NORTH became defunct
(save OPERATION GRAFFHAM) once the true invasion was launched, the
most important portion FORTITUDE SOUTH did not really kick in until
after D-Day itself. For the true purpose of FORTITUDE SOUTH was not
only to divert German troops away from Normandy, but to draw them
away, and hold them as long as possible, allowing the OPERATION NEPTUNE
forces to establish a viable, permanent foothold in occupied Europe.
FORTITUDE SOUTH did just that, and was instrumental to the success
of OPERATION NEPTUNE.
The third major operation used to divert forces from Normandy prior
to the invasion was OPERATION VENDETTA. OPERATION VENDETTA was "intended
to keep the German Nineteenth Army in Southern France pinned down
along the 300-mile Mediterranean coastline between Spain and Italy
- some 500 miles from Normandy - on D-Day and beyond."7
Commanded by Major General Alexander M. Patch, a distinguished veteran
of World War I, as well as World War II operations.
OPERATION VENDETTA, for the most part, relied on the prescence
of physical evidence to imply that the Allies were planning on invading
the Mediterranean coast of France as part of OPERATION OVERLORD. In
fact, the Allies had an invasion of the French Mediterranean coast,
OPERATION ANVIL, slated for two months after the initial invasion
of Normandy. Since OPERATION ANVIL was to be launched a mere two months
after OPERATION OVERLORD, a great number of troops, planes, ships,
and supplies were in place for operations against southern France.
The Germans knew that the forces were there, and it was a simple
matter to convince them that they would be part of the initial invasion;
the Germans had no reason to believe otherwise. OPERATION VENDETTA
also gained credibility from a OPERATION ROYAL FLUSH operation in
Spain to sway the "neutral" (Spain, though non-belligerent, had actually
been pro-Nazi for most of the war, until Franco realized that the
Axis was losing) Spanish over to the side of the Allies, just as had
been done in Sweden. Just as had happened in Sweden, Nazi sympathizers
passed information back to Berlin stating that the Allies were becoming
increasingly friendly with the Spanish.
This information, combined with the physical evidence, was almost
too much for the Germans to ignore. What wholly convinced the Germans
of OPERATION VENDETTA's authenticity, however, was the skillful work
of an actor. Playing the part of general Bernard Montgomery, Lieutenant
M. E. Clifton James paid a visit to Spain. During his visit, he dropped
numerous hints regarding an Allied invasion of Southern France, which,
in the usual manner, were all reported back to Berlin by German agents.
When the Germans discovered that Monty was involved with the Mediterranean
operations, they became certain that OPERATION VENDETTA was a real
operation that would be part of OPERATION OVERLORD.
The final OPERATION BODYGUARD threat similar to OPERATION FORTITUDE
and OPERATION VENDETTA was OPERATION ZEPPELIN, which threatened the
Balkan region. Because of the proximity to North Africa and Italy,
Hitler and the Germans took the possibility of an Allied invasion
of the Balkans seriously. Churchill himself had wanted to strike at
what he called "the soft underbelly of Europe," until he was talked
out of it, for the simple fact that there was nothing at all soft
about the mountainous terrain of the Balkans.
Just like OPERATION FORTITUDE, OPERATION ZEPPELIN was extremely
successful. Though the aim of OPERATION ZEPPELIN was to prevent the
transfer of German troops from the eastern Mediterranean to the area
of OPERATION OVERLORD, and not to divert troops to the Balkan region,
this did in fact happen. "Reading a distinct threat to the Balkans,
. . . [Hitler committed] 25 divisions that would be sitting idly hundreds
of miles from Normandy on D-Day and beyond."8 These troops
were on the whole high rate soldiers, including paratroopers, mountain
troops, and Panzers -- troops that could have easily turned the tide
on the sixth of June.
The threat that the Germans perceived was an impending bogus assault
from Tobruk against Crete, and also from the threat of Allied-Soviet
cooperation to recapture the Balkans. This assault was only partially
fictitious, for the Allies did have designs on Crete and Greece, but
the vast majority of OPERATION ZEPPELIN was a hoax. Just as in OPERATION
FORTITUDE, not only was the plan a hoax, but much of the force the
Germans feared was entirely fictional - in fact, nearly half of the
OPERATION ZEPPELIN force was fake.
OPERATION ZEPPELIN was also accompanied by a OPERATION ROYAL FLUSH
operation in Turkey, which made the OPERATION ZEPPELIN threat more
serious and believable. The Turks were the most receptive to Allied
diplomacy, and were very cooperative. OPERATION ZEPPELIN and OPERATION
ROYAL FLUSH took a huge number of Germans out of OPERATION NEPTUNE's
path, and like OPERATION FORTITUDE, was crucial to OPERATION OVERLORD's
success. The existing military operations in Italy (OPERATION FERDINAND)
was also instrumental in drawing large numbers of German troops away
from the invasion site.
In addition to the numerous operations run by the Allies before and
after D-Day, the Allies used three deceptive operations on D-Day itself.
These operations were designed to sow confusion in the German ranks as
to what exactly was happening, and also where it was happening. To achieve
this, the Allies turned to technology, and used the advanced German radar
protecting the coast of France as an asset instead of a handicap. First,
the Allies located the German radar stations. Once located by triangulation,
radar installations, except for select installations which would figure
into deceptive operations, were pounded with thousands of pounds of bombs
until they were damaged or destroyed (which often took a great while,
for they were amazingly strong).
The stations that were spared were to play key roles in OPERATION TAXABLE
and OPERATION GLIMMER. OPERATION TAXABLE was a simulated assault upon
Fécamp, and OPERATION GLIMMER was a simulated assault upon Boulogne that
took place during the actual assault upon Normandy. To simulate these
two assaults, the Allies would attempt to fool both German radar, and
the German radar operators into believing that major invasion fleets were
sailing for, and then assembling off of Fécamp and Boulogne.
The only problem, however, was that the Allies were using almost
every available ship for OPERATION NEPTUNE, and could not spare any.
Since the Allies could not then sail actual ships in the decoy operations,
scientists were called in to figure out how to fool the German radar
system. They "conceived an intricate electronic scheme to make it
appear on German radar that two large Allied fleets, each deployed
over an area of 256 miles was approaching."9
In order to do this, the Allies used a device known as "Moonshine,"
which received a radar signal, and returned it greatly magnified,
giving the impression of a much larger object than actually existed.
The "fleets" sailing for Fécamp and Boulogne consisted of the following
- a line of boats equipped with radar jammers that would jam the German
radar, but not so well that the Germans could not see the "fleets"
bearing down on them. Behind the radar jammers came boats towing two
"Moonshine" devices, which simulated a number of large ships.
Circling above the ships were planes dropping chaff (strips of
aluminum foil) that literally filled German radar screens with hits.
Combined, the jammers, "moonshines," and chaff planes created a remarkably
accurate simulation of a large invasion fleet. So accurate, in fact,
German radar operators reported both OPERATION TAXABLE and OPERATION
GLIMMER as authentic assaults.
The true assault, OPERATION NEPTUNE was supposed to be masked completely
by radar jamming of its own. The jamming however, was not sufficient
to overcome the powerful German radar, which detected and reported
the fleet. By this point, however, the Germans were in a state of
such disarray and confusion that it did not matter - they could not
tell what, if anything was happening. Some officers recognized the
invasion for what it was, while others refused to even accept the
reports coming in as accurate.
To make matters worse for the Germans, OPERATION TAXABLE and OPERATION
GLIMMER were not the only operations inhibiting their grasp of OPERATION
NEPTUNE and its ramifications. OPERATION TITANIC (which had four subdivisions
for the four different areas it was executed) created utter chaos
in the German ranks. OPERATION TITANIC was a supplementary operation
to the OPERATION OVERLORD air drops that was used to give the impression
of a much larger airborne force landing in a much larger area than
To do this, the Allies dropped dummy paratroopers. The dummies
were made in the shape of a man, but only about half size, because
the dummy only had to be identified as a paratrooper in the air -
and the shape of a man, at night, under combat conditions, falling
from the sky, would always be seen by a nervous soldier as an actual
paratrooper. Once on the ground, however, the dummies flexed their
true deceptive muscle. When the dummies touched down, several things
happened. First of all, the dummies emitted an odor similar to that
of explosives and gunpowder. Secondly, they played sound recordings
of the sounds of war - gunfire, screams, and explosions.
These dummies, with very few exceptions, fooled the Germans into
believing that paratroopers were landing in much larger numbers, and
over a much wider area, and engaging their forces in large scale firefights.
In some cases, twenty or so dummies caused local commanders to report
"large paratroop forces" landing in their areas. The disarray caused
by the dummies and the simulated assaults on Fécamp and Boulogne set
the stage for all of OPERATION NEPTUNE. The Germans were caught off
guard, shocked into disorganization, and never recovered.
With the amount of chaos created by OPERATION TITANIC, OPERATION
TAXABLE, and OPERATION GLIMMER, combined with the erroneous picture
of OPERATION OVERLORD that the Germans had, ensured the success of
the D-Day invasion. OPERATION BODYGUARD succeeded in misleading the
Germans about the true nature of OPERATION OVERLORD, and thereby weakened
the German strategic and tactical position and ability to prevent
a successful invasion.
The hundreds of thousands of combat troops, equipment, and materiel
that OPERATION BODYGUARD kept out of the battle on June 6, 1944, and beyond
was the single greatest factor leading to OPERATION OVERLORD's success.
If not for OPERATION BODYGUARD, D-Day would have been a debacle for the
Allies, the climactic failure of the Second World War, and not "the climactic
battle of World War II."
1 Charles Cruickshank, Deception in World War II,
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), p. i
2 William B. Breuer, Hoodwinking Hitler: The Normandy
Deception, (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1993), p. 123
3 Ibid., p. 123
4 Charles Cruickshank, Deception in World War II,
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), p. 113
5 William B. Breuer, Hoodwinking Hitler: The Normandy
Deception, (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1993), p. 128
6 Ibid., p. 164
7 Charles Cruickshank, Deception in World War II,
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), can not locate page (lost
bookmark - sorry!)
8 William B. Breuer, Hoodwinking Hitler: The Normandy
Deception, (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1993), p. 164
9 Ibid., p. 176
Ambrose, Stephen E., D-Day: June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle
of World War II, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994
Breuer, William B., Hoodwinking Hitler: The Normandy Deception,
Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1993
Cruickshank, Charles, Deception in World War II, New York:
Oxford University Press, 1980
Haswell, Jock, D-Day: Intelligence and Deception, New York:
times Books, 1979
Norman, Albert, Operation Overlord: Design and Reality, Westport,
CT: Greenwood Press, 1952
Rostov, W.W., Pre-Invasion Bombing Strategy, Austin: University
of Texas Press, 1981
© 1994-2005 Stephen Payne