Lest We Forget:
   World War II












Operation Bodyguard: The Secret of Overlord's Success
Page 2

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 never come.

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 in England.

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 actually existed.

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

Copyright © 1994-2005 Stephen Payne