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Deception: The other ‘D’ in D-Day

An intricate plan of deception was central to the Allies' success in beating the Germans at Normandy on D-Day.

An astonishing 155,000 Allied troops disembarked on the beaches at Normandy on June 6, 1944, and 5,000 of them, including some 3,000 Americans, made the ultimate sacrifice that day. Yet the cost might have been far higher had it not been for a series of carefully planned Allied deceptions carried out months before the invasion.

Operation Bodyguard was an elaborate scheme giving the illusion of five fake offenses designed by the Allies to distract and divert German forces away from Normandy, where the real invasion would occur. Operation Bodyguard included a number of smaller operations, including Operation Fortitude, which was created to deceive the Germans about where the D-Day invasion would occur. Fortitude North planned a phony invasion of Norway through Scotland—the Allies rigged the Swedish stock market to make it look like Norway would soon be liberated, and radio chatter sent signals about soldiers obtaining winter gear supplies.

Meanwhile, Fortitude South feigned an invasion of France at Calais, through the Straits of Dover. Strategically, this seemed like the best place for an Allied invasion.

As part of the deception, the Allies set up dummy tanks, oil storage depots, and even airplanes on the ground. Spies and double agents helped convince German intelligence an invasion was coming and even created the “First U.S. Army Group,” or “FUSAG,” a troop of made-up U.S. and British forces to throw off the enemy.

To drive the point home, phony radio transmissions were made and they made it clear that Gen. George Patton, a field commander who had won respect from the Germans in the h Africa and Italian campaigns, was leading this "ghost army."

All the trickery paid off. On the day of the invasion, the Germans remained convinced that the landing at Normandy was just a diversion for the real invasion yet to come in the Pas de Calais area.  Operation Bodyguard is now remembered as a crucial part of the Allies’ success in winning the war against the Germany.

Is deception an important part of warfare? Learn more about Operation Fortitude South on a special Saturday at 6 P.M. ET.