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Operation Fortitude

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Operation Fortitude was the collective codename for a number of the deception operations used by the Allied forces during World War II prior to and following the Normandy landings. It was part of the overall deception plan for 1944, Operation Bodyguard. Fortitude had two forms: Fortitude North, which was to instill in Hitler and the German generals a fear of an amphibious landing in Norway[?], and, more significantly, Fortitude South. The principal aim of Fortitude South was to trick the German high command into believing that the landings would take place in the Pas de Calais rather than the Normandy beaches.

The deceptions used in Fortitude South were manifold. These ranged from the building of artificial airfields complete with papier-mâché aircraft in East Anglia, to radio traffic deception by a specially briefed outfit which drove around the south-coast of England simulating an army manoeuvring, to the broadcasting of misleading messages from secret agents who had effectively been 'turned' by the Double Cross System, such as Garbo. The Germans had about 50 agents in England at the time, but all of them had been caught, because of Ultra and many of them turned into counteragents. The British were desperate to maintain their cover as real agents to feed the Germans with false information that they even bombed vacant public buildings to demonstrate their agent's loyalty to the Germans.

In Operation Quicksilver The Allies created created and entire fake army. FUSAG, the First United States Army Group, was completly fake except for its leader, General Patton who was unpopular with the high command, but was still regarded as one of the Allies' best mechanized warfare experts.

The Allies were able to judge fairly easily the effectiveness of these strategies since the Ultra program had cracked the German Enigma code-system fairly early in the war, and were thus able to decrypt the German high command's responses to their purported overtures. They maintained the pretence of a staged landing at the Pas de Calais for some considerable time after D-Day[?], possibly even as late as September 1944. This was vital to the success of the Allied plan since the uncertainty which this caused forced the Germans to keep much of their reserve force bottled up, waiting for an attack which never came, thus allowing the Allies to maintain their marginal foothold in Normandy whilst building up their forces.

See also : World War II



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