Thursday, 30 May 2019

Imperial War Museums - Dummy tanks and double agents


Inflatable Tanks
© IWM (H 42531)
When it comes to D-Day, most people are familiar with the daring assault that took place by land, sea and air on the morning of 6 June.

What isn't so well known is the audacious deception campaign that was critical to it's success.

The German's knew that at some stage the Allies would launch a cross-Channel invasion. What they didn't know was exactly when or where.

The Allies made the most of this uncertainty and developed a deception plan to draw attention away from Normandy. The D-Day deception plan was code named Operation Bodyguard. It was part of the larger overall deception strategy, Operation Fortitude.

Fortitude was made up of two different strategies. The first, Fortitude North, was meant to fool the Germans into thinking that the Allies would launch an attack on Norway.

Fortitude South aimed to convince enemy intelligence that an invasion would occur north-east of Normandy in the Pas de Calais. This is the closest point to Britain across the channel.
D-Day 75
D-Day 75 © IWM
This June marks 75 years since the D-Day landings.

From 1-9 June you can visit any of our three historic branches, all of which played their part in Allied success. Find out more about special activities, tours, trails and more. 
Join us there
Operation Fortitude was complex. One of its features was dummy tanks. Real tanks were replaced by dummy tanks when they were moved from their holding areas.

Inflatable decoys made the Germans think the Allies had more tanks than they actually did. They also helped mask the fact that final preparations were being made for the invasion.

As part of Fortitude South the Allies created the fictitious First US Army Group, an imaginary force 'based' in south-east Britain.

This helped give the impression that the invasion force was larger than it actually was. Fake radio traffic and decoy equipment - including inflatable tanks and dummy landing craft - mimicked preparations for a largescale invasion aimed at the Pas de Calais.

Double agents delivered false information to reinforce this deceit. The most famous of these agents was Juan Pujol Garcia ("Garbo"). He invented a network of imaginary agents who were supposedly supplying him with information on Allied preparations.

His misinformation campaign was so persuasive that even after D-Day was under way he convinced the Germans that the invasion of Normandy was a diversion, and that the real objective, an assault on the Pas de Calais was still to come. The German's therefore kept previous reinforcements stationed at the Pas de Calais.
HMS Belfast
HMS Belfast
HMS Belfast led the fleet supporting British and Canadian assaults on Normandy beaches, opening fire at 5.27am on 6 June 1944.

Now moored by Tower Bridge, you can explore over eight decades of history and hear stories of life at sea.
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