Congratulations to my niece, who graduated from 8th grade last night.
Today is the 69th commemoration of the Allied invasion of the Normandy beaches on 6 June 1944. I've written before about these events.
- In 2008 I wrote about US Army E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne Division
- In 2009 I wrote about the diversity of the combined Allied effort
- In 2010 I wrote about US Army 2nd Raider Battalion
- In 2011 I wrote about the British 6th Airborne Division
- In 2012 I wrote about the Omaha Beach assault by elements of 1st and 29th Divisions of US Army V Corps supported by 5th Ranger Battalion and 5th Engineer Special Brigade
I could write whole essays about each of the things the Allies did to deceive and misdirect Germany, but I'm just going to give you a very brief sketch about deception and spy craft.
The build up to the invasion of Hitler's Fortress Europe included more than a million troops from 12 different nations and nearly 7,000 vessels from 8 different navies. That's a lot to keep secret across a 21 mile channel.
The strategy relied on creating fake units and the illusion of more ready divisions than were actually available, controlled leaks of disinformation, wireless traffic on frequencies the Allies knew the Germans had broken, false information communicated through double agents, and the conspicuous presence of well known allied commanders in phony staging areas. It also helped that the Germans had no airborne reconnaissance presence. They couldn't fly over and verify what was real and what wasn't, so Hitler relied on a vast intelligence apparatus that was compromised in many respects.
British counter intelligence operations ensured that there were no German agents operating in England that were not known and controlled. Any information they fed to the Nazi high command was given specifically to them, and purposely designed to make Hitler believe that Normandy was the feint and the northern invasion route through Norway and across to Calais was the true threat.
|Fictional 1st Army Group Patch|
In addition, the British had broken German High Command codes, so they could monitor communications to see how well the deceptions were working. They could tweak and reinforce what they were doing to keep Nazi eyes where they wanted them.
The deception of Operation Fortitude was one of the most successful intelligence operations of World War II. It thoroughly fooled Hitler and his High Command into reinforcing the defenses in Calais. That didn't mean that the Normandy beaches were undefended. We know how costly it was for the Allies to get onto the beaches and then move inland to begin what would become the eventual defeat of Germany. Roughly 130,000 to 156,000 Allied troops landed on 6 June 1944, with as many as 12,000 casualties on that first day.
So the Germans knew that an invasion was coming. Allied deception and spy craft kept the location secret and the timing nearly so, such that the Nazi defenses were heaviest in the wrong place. On D+1, the Allies were lodged on the beaches and moving inland.
On D+305, Germany signed the instrument of surrender and the war in Europe came to an end.
It is also my grandfather's 89th birthday today. He lied about his age in 1940 so he could go to sea as a Merchant Marine. Happy Birthday Grandpa!