10 June 2015


June 6, 2015 

Denial And Deception Operations Were Critical To The Successful Normandy Invasion, And The Ultimate Defeat Of Germany — Could Western Intelligence Agencies Repeat That Feat Today (2015)? Probably Not

Denial and deception operations have been employed in combat since the dawn of mankind; and this particular form of warfare is at least 3,500 years old — dating back to ancient China. Denial and deception operations became a staple of Persia’s back of tricks some 2,000 years ago; and, the Russian’s have been perfecting this particular art for at least several centuries. In the early 1900’s, Russia established the TRUST, to subvert dissident groups — which it did very effectively, and to the detriment of many a Russian dissident who ended up in the Gulag, or worse. Today, the Russian Security Service is utilizing the Edward Snowden fiasco to their benefit and skillfully manipulating the young and clueless Mr. Snowden. More worrisome, renowned scholars such as Michael Pillsbury, make a compelling argument that China is currently employing several different forms of deception — to keep Washington focused on the ‘wrong’ issues, while Beijing continues to build her economic and military might. And, what of Iran and their pursuit of nuclear weapons? Is Tehran employing a clever denial and deception campaign — until we recognize too late that they already have a nuclear weapon or weapons?

The U.S. is ‘the new kid on the block,’ when it comes to this very ancient form of warfare. And, this White House, and its ‘national security team,’ appear to be especially gullible to what China, Russia, and Iran…want them to believe. An intense desire about a particular outcome; along with a healthy dose of wishful thinking — can ultimately lead to fatal consequences. All one has to do is look at the Trojan Horse, and Hitler’s inner circle to see the consequences of being too susceptible to an exquisite deception campaign.

According to Wikipedia, “military deception refers to attempts to mislead enemy forces during warfare.” Wikipedia adds, “this is usually achieved by creating or amplifying an artificial fog of war via psychological operations, information warfare, visual deception, and other methods.” In Sun Tsu’s,classic treatise on combat, The Art of War, the influential Chinese General wrote that “All Warfare Is Based On Deception.” He writes: “When able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; and, when far away — we must make them believe we are near.” “Unable to simply show the enemy nothing; the strategist instead — shows his opponent something that he wishes to see; and, wishes to believe. Having shown something…but, having shown this something in a way that creates a false impression….the enemy is seduced into deceiving himself,”

“Thus, something more is required. This is the role of deception.”

“Why feign disorder?,” Jeremiah Boroque asks on his blog…..Sun Tzu And The Art Of War: A Blog On Sun Tzu And Strategy.” “Feigning disorder works because of a simple, time-honored principle: If you look like a sucker, someone is going to try and sucker punch you,” Mr. Boroque wrote. “This also true in martial arts,” he added. “A skilled martial artist who deliberately puts up a false front, pretending to be “slow” — mentally as well as physically — and, to be quiet and passive, can lure an aggressive, careless opponent into making a first move in a careless manner…that leads to a thorough beating. Such things have been known to happen. The reaction — seeing weakness, and pouncing on it — is a deeply ingrained, “alpha male” behavior,” Mr. Baroque elegantly wrote.

“If he is secure at all points, be prepared for him. If he is superior in strength, evade him,”Sun Tzu wrote.

“When engaged in warfare, every large deception you make — is built on every smaller deception you have already made. having seduced the opponent into deceiving himself as to your strength, disposition, intention, activity, and location, you lead him around calmly and effortlessly, as if leading a donkey via a dangling carrot. You show your opponent what he wishes to see, and he decides, purely by himself, that it is so; in a way, you deceive without ever having spoken a word to him, without ever having “lied” in a conventional sense. You have assisted him in lying to himself. Thus, believing his own overconfident conclusions, he is completely at your mercy,” Mr. Boroque writes.

“Thus, can superiority in numbers and other measurements of strength be brought low, purely due to reorganizing that an army is led by a fallible human being.”


“These military devices, leading to victory, must not be divulged beforehand.”

Sun Tzu wrote those words some 2,500 years or so ago. A time honored wisdom that has been repeated countless times since that classic treatise; and, when successfully done — more often than not — it proved to be a critical component for the winning side.

Perhaps the most famous use of denial and deception in the ancient world, was the Greeks use of a Trojan Horse, filled with Greek soldiers, who — once inside Troy’s walls — exited the “belly of the beast,” and ultimately defeated Troy. Hannibal, perhaps the greatest — ‘Great Captain,’ and a master at deception — used these tactics to repeatedly defeat a well-led Roman Army that almost always — significantly outnumbered his own. Spartacus, Julius Caesar, William Wallace, Stonewall Jackson — who used engineer’s to survey ‘fictional’ routes of advance/retreat,and the list goes on, and on.

D-Day Landing/Operation Overlord Deception Plan — Played On German Preconceptions

As Andrew Warinner wrote on his blog: CodeMonkey.com, the Allied deception plan for fooling the German high command, relied on Hitler’s and his general’s preconceived notions about where and when the most likely Allied landing spot would be. “Pas de Calais was a logical landing spot for the invasion,” Mr. Warinner wrote, “it offered the shortest path across the English Channel, it had a major port (Calais); and, it was close to RAF airfields. “The genius of the deception story was that it didn’t conceal that Normandy might be the landing site. Any Allied attention to Normandy could be explained away by the Germans,” he contends, “as preparations for a diversionary landing.” Denial and deception if done correctly, and well, do indeed invite the adversary into a maze, and a wilderness of mirrors.

The German high-command knew how significant and important it was to stop America and her allies from establishing a beachhead on the shores of France/Western Europe; and, they spent a fortune of money, time, and resources in an attempt to find out where the likely landing would be — and, posture to “kill it before it got started.” That is one of the reasons that the denial and deception campaign — Operation Fortitude, and The Man Who Never Was, played an important role in the ultimate success of Operation Overlord. .

By the eve of the Normandy landing on June 6, 1944, Hitler, and nearly all of his high-command were convinced that the Allied invasion would not be at Normandy; but, instead, near the shores of Pas-de-Calais — the closest point (shortest route) between Britain and France — and, about 150 miles from Omaha Beach. Indeed, Sir Winston Churchill, remarking after the war — in one of his many profound observations — that, “In Wartime, The Truth Is So Precious, That She Must Be Protected By A Bodyguard Of Lies.”

There was disagreement within the German high-command on where, and how best to repel an expected Allied invasion — draw back from the beaches and save your artillery; and allow the allies to extend themselves logistically, and with long supply lines; or, make a stand at the coastline and deter/prevent the allies from coming ashore in any significant degree.

The Desert Fox, German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, favored the latter strategy, fearing that if the allies successfully established a beachhead along Western Europe’s coast, — things may not go Germany’s way. While Germany built up its defenses and fortifications around Pas de Calias, Field Marshall Rommel had been given the job of fortifying and protecting possible Allied invasion landings along France’s coastline. Upon visiting Normandy in the months prior to D-Day, Rommel surveyed the beaches and was struck by the similar terrain to another/previous successful — Allied landing — the beaches of Salerno, Italy in 1943. Rommel had an uncomfortable feeling as he looked over Normandy’s beaches — even though a majority of the General Staff believed Pas de Calais was the more likely landing point.

Rommel was so worried about a potential Allied landing at Normandy, that he asked in vain for more fortifications and lethal weaponry. Denied, he made due with what he could muster, timber, steel, barbed wire, defensive obstacles (including 17K land-mines); and, 20,000 troops. “Our only possible chance will be at the beaches,” he said. “If the invaders come to Normandy, we will stop them there.” Rommel expected Allied forces to come in at high tide — and, he intended to impale them at water’s edge,” according to Rick Atkinson, the great American historian who wrote a WWII trilogy, including, Guns At Last Light: D-Day, And The Liberation Of Europe.”

D-DAY Landing In Normandy — The 20th Century’s Best Kept Secret

Mr. Atkinson, in his book referenced above, wrote, “Ike’s proclivity to chain-smoke surely worsened, when he contemplated the impact of security slipups,” regarding the D-Day invasion/OPERATION OVERLORD. If the Germans could crack the Allies wall of secrecy — even just a day or two before D–Day — their ability to turn back the invasion would expand by a significant factor; and, as Ike well understood, a defeat at Normandy would cast the Anglo-American war effort into chaos. Inevitably, Eisenhower would have to let hundreds of thousands of men in on the secret: how could ruinous security blunders possibly be averted?,” Mr. Atkinson wrote.

“They would be averted, by means of a new, and highly restrictive security classification known asBigot.,” Mr. Atkinson added. “Only those issued this code, would be given ID cards would be informed of Operation OVERLORD secret; and, gain access to the locations — under twenty-four-hour guard…where the invasion plans were secured.” “The miniscule number of those issued this secret code in early 1944, swelled by as the Supreme Headquarters Allied Forces Europe (SHAPE) disseminated OVERLORD documents to the units tasked to carry out the mission; ultimately, when 150,000 assault troops were briefed in the fortnight preceding the invasion on their hour-by-hour D-Day roles, the top brass restricted them to marshaling areas known as “sausages,” due to their appearance on maps. Formidable coils of concertina wired the sealed the GI’s and Tommies inside,” Mr. Atkinson describes, “where stern Counter Intelligence Corps men censored letters — which would not be mailed till D-Day, in any case — and ensured no conversations would take place with inquisitive locals approaching the wire. Presently, escape would come from this miserable, cooped-up existence: troops would depart the ‘ sausages'; march like humpbacks overloaded with equipment through the verdant English countryside, fragrant, with foxglove and Queen Anne’s lace; and, proceed to the ships, or airplanes that would carry them across the Channel — to meet their fates in Normandy.”

“Enforcing secrecy among military personnel was straightforward,” Mr. Atkinson wrote, “to address the much thornier issue of civilian security. Churchill, created a committee, headed by a sixty-five-year-old former Indian civil servant named Sir Findlater Stewart. Among the recommendations made by Stewart’s committee, and later adopted by the British war cabinet, were restrictions that made travel between Britain and neutral countries, particularly Ireland, difficult — if not impossible; prohibitions on neutral diplomats’ movements and correspondence; and, a travel ban starting on April 1, 1944, by British civilians to England’s 500-mile southern, and southeastern coastline from Land’s End to East Anglia; an injunction that Stewart estimated would impact 600,000 people per month.”

Jeff Nilsson, writing on the June 5, 2014 website, Saturday Evening Post, notes that “Allied intelligence officers had been given the job of keeping the Normandy invasion secret, even though it was well known — in part, or entirely — to thousands of Allied officers. In the six months preceding the Allied invasion, Mr. Nilsson writes, “they [Allied command] diligently hunted for any signs that spies in Britain were sending information to the Germans. In May, 1944, they discovered several code names for invasion destinations: “Utah,” “Juno,” “Gold,” “Sword,” – being used as answers in the London newspaper, The Daily Telegraph. Then, on May 22, the puzzle had used “dives” an invasion target “Omaha,” a beach landing site; and, “Dover,” the invasion’s departure point.” “The following week,” Mr. Nilsson wrote, “one of the puzzle answers was “mulberry,” which was also the name of the Allies ‘top secret, artificial harbor.’ As Mr. Nilsson notes, “British intelligence interrogated the puzzle-maker; but, in the end, decided the words he had chosen were coincidental.” Wow, what a scare.

Then, astonishingly, “three days before the invasion,” Mr. Nilsson noted, “a teletype operator in London was practicing her typing by composing a make-believe news release about the [Allied] invasion. Her false memo “was mistakenly entered onto the Associated Press Wire Service,” and the story — as we would now say — went viral. “Within minutes, 500 American radio stations interrupted their broadcasts, to read her practice headline: “Flash – Eisenhower’s headquarters announced landings in France. Although a correction was issued two minutes later, the nations phone lines were jammed with calls from Americans eager to share the news.” Today, we would have social media and the going viral syndrome — globally, instantly.

But, luck was on the American and Allied side and the secret held. As Mr. Nilsson notes, “the Allied intelligence services had kept the invasion site secret — by a massive disinformation campaign. They misled the Germans with fake army camps, filled with inflatable trucks and tanks, and supported with dummy warships. To add to the deception, a make-believe invasion force was put under the command of General George Patton, a U.S. military leader highly regarded by the Germans.”

“To support the deception,” Mr. Nilsson wrote, “British intelligence agents had spread hints that Pas de Calis would be the Allied invasion point; and, perhaps the most ingenious deception since the Trojan Horse — The Man Who Never Was — removed all German doubt. Berlin focused on Pas de Calis as where the Allies would try and establish a beachhead.

And finally, “twelve copies of a top-secret dispatch, which Mr. Nilsson says “gave the whole show away, blew out and fluttered down into the crowded streets below. Staff officers pounded down the stairs, found eleven copies, and spent the next two hours in an agonized [and ultimately futile] search for the twelfth. It had been picked up by a passer-by, who gave it to the sentry on the Horse Guards Parade on the opposite side of Whitehall. Who was this person? Would he be likely to gossip? No one ever knew.”

Could Today’s Western Intelligence Agencies Conduct A High Risk/High Reward Deception Operation?

Without A Robust Denial And Deception Program — We Become More Susceptible To Becoming a Victim Of This Very Ancient Art

To conceive of, and successfully orchestrate and conduct a strategic denial and deception operation on the scale utilized against Nazi Germany, in the months and weeks leading up to the Normandy invasion — required enormous skill, depth of thinking and analysis, a extremely thorough and deep understanding of the adversary, and of course — a fair amount of good luck and serendipity. Could the U.S. and her Western allies conduct such a this denial and deception operation now? In the 21st century — where the Internet, social media, satellites, drones, cell phones, GoPro cameras, big data pattern analysis and other sophisticated intelligence collection means are readily available? I submit the answer is probably not. Even, if you were able to make the adversary — ‘deaf, dumb, and blind,’ — there are just some many more methods today — than there were in 1944 — that would provide the adversary enough of a ‘picture’ to likely ferret out anything of this magnitude. That isn’t to say that we don’t currently conduct successful denial and deception operations; but, something tells me we are no where close to where we need to be — especially with respect to: talent, skill-set, experience, and a deep understanding of just how difficult and important this particular aspect of combat and intelligence operations are. One must know everything there is to know about one’s opponent — his/her preconceived biases, tendencies, habits. expectations, etc.

And, I do wonder if today’s current intelligence community, understands, and fully appreciates the significance and benefits of a robust and elegant denial and deception program. Do today’s leaders value it?, promote it?, practice it?, believe in it? It isn’t something that you can just ‘pull off the shelf,’ when you think you need it. And, if you wait till you need it — in order to turn the tide of battle; or, successfully prosecute a high value intelligence collection operation/campaign — it is too late, and more likely a prescription for failure — or worse — disaster.

Benjamin Franklin once wrote that “Three people can keep a secret — and, two of them are dead.” Perhaps we are entering a period when even one — cannot keep a secret. It is getting much, much harder; but, the importance of being able to successfully prosecute tactical and strategic denial and deception operations — remains a very important talent and skillset — that we must always nurture and keep available.

Seventy-one years ago, America and her allies conducted one of the greatest denial and deception operations/campaigns in military history. The fruits of this endeavor, were key ingredients in the successful allied landing at Normandy; and, Germany’s ultimate surrender. But, that was some seven decades ago. What has the Intelligence Community done in the recent past — to ensure this most valuable form of military and intelligence art — is preserved, and practiced? And, if we aren’t conducting serious denial and deception operations — then, it makes it all the more difficult to recognize when one has, or is in the process of being deceived by a clever adversary.

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