- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 9, 2003

As Gulf War II looms it is incumbent on strategists to remember that deception in warfare can save livesand provide a foundation for victory. In fact, one deception plan was essential, that is, if it had been unsuccessful the operation would have failed. This is Operation Bodyguard, upon which the Normandy invasion absolutely depended. Sun Tzu wrote 3,000 years ago:
"All warfare is based on deception. Therefore, when capable of attacking, feign incapacity; when active … feign inactivity. When near the enemy, make it seem that you are far away; when far away, make it seem that you are near. Hold out baits to lure the enemy… . Avoid the enemy for the time being when he is stronger… . Attack the enemy where he is unprepared, and appear where you are not expected." Students of Operation Desert Storm will see much of Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf's ground plan in that ancient writing.
Those wishing to understand ruse in combat are advised to read Jon Latimer's Deception in War (Overlook, $35, 356 pages, illus.), an outstanding, well-documented treatise on this indispensable art. Mr. Latimer outlines a history of bluff in warfare from antiquity to Gulf War I, discusses the importance of information, details the principles of deception: focus, action, coordination and centralized control, preparation and timing, security, credibility and confirmation, and flexibility.
Mr. Latimer also describes the methods of deception: deceiving the senses, double agents, electronic deception, psychological operations, substitution, false routine, the mask, the unintentional mistake, the piece of bad luck, the lure, the double bluff. He vividly illustrates each with historical examples such as when the British, Australians and New Zealanders withdrew the remnant of their forces from Gallipoli during World War I in the face of a huge Turkish ground force, without significant casualties.
Withdrawal is probably the most dangerous part of a war, and the ruses designed for the Gallipoli were brilliant (also necessary since the attack plan and execution, especially the latter, were terribly deficient and costly).
Mr. Latimer writes that the withdrawal deception plan "was not merely a fantastic piece of bluff but a supremely well-organized feat of logistical planning. The trick would be to persuade the Turks that nothing was happening by maintaining routine until the very last moment… .The gradual thinning out of artillery lines was covered by replacement with dummy guns and movement of the remaining real ones to alternative sites at night … . [T]here could be no apparent thinning out of stores dumps, medical units or daily administration." The Turkish lines were "literally only a few yards away from that of the Australians and New Zealanders."
The Turks were lulled "into accepting periods of total peace and quiet (so that they would not notice the period when the Diggers were moving away)" by commanders ordering the troops to "observe periods of complete silence when not a single shot was fired. Should the Turks conclude that the Diggers had abandoned a position and moved into the open, they would be swiftly disabused of this notion by withering fire. The Turks soon decided that this was all just bait and that the trenches opposite were as strongly held as ever. In reality, the ranks were being steadily thinned down to a skeleton force."
The 85,000-man force was withdrawn without a single death in front of 60,000 Turks. In its final stage, there were only 1,500 left to face the Turks, and these too were successfully withdrawn.
Given world events, readers might be more interested in leaders who were led to believe there would be an amphibious assault against their forces in order to pincer them.
Gen. Schwarzkopf did everything possible to reinforce this belief, leading the Iraqis to build trench lines, heavily mine, and otherwise prepare with artillery and other weapons the area most likely to be used for an amphibious assault. In addition to the waste of much time, energy and equipment to defend against an assault that was never to come, Iraq allocated six divisions to defend against a sham attack.
The Commander in Chief of United States Central Command, more importantly, misled the Iraqis regarding the main thrust of his ground attack. Through a skillful use of information, Gen. Schwarzkopf caused the Iraqis to believe that the main thrust would be across the Saudi-Kuwait border where Iraqi defenses were most solid. Instead the United States VII Corps, an exceptionally heavy force supported by thousands of armed helicopters and fighters, struck out of the undefended West and all but surrounded the remnant of the Iraqi army not previously destroyed by American and other allied air power.
Put simply, Gen. Schwarzkopf completely deceived the Iraqis and earned a massive military victory, cheaply. Mr. Latimer's book is an indispensable read.

Two new books by William B. Breuer bear on the same subject. Deceptions of World War II (Wiley, $24.95, 242 pages, illus.) is a thinly documented, popular treatment of deception, that focuses on the theatric. This makes for fun reading. For example, Breuer's treatment of Operation Overlord deals not with Operation Fortitude of Operation Bodyguard, but with a vignette.
The British prepared an actor named Clifton James to act as if he were Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery, and sent him on the eve of the Cross Channel attack to Gibraltar to mislead the Germans into believing the invasion could not be imminent if the key British commander were on the Mediterranean and on his way to North Africa. James was feted everywhere as if he were Montgomery and German agents dutifully reported the presence of the British war hero in both Gibraltar and North Africa.

Mr. Breuer also wrote Secret Weapons of World War II (Wiley, $15.95, 242 pages, illus.) which deals with such tools of war as the Enigma encoding machine, the atomic bomb, radar, etc. Like his anecdotal book on deception, the Secret Weapons is divided into numerous sub chapters (in this case 76, or one for every four pages, and an average of three or four documentation notes per sub chapter). His theme is this:
"[T]he decisive factor in the outcome of World War II was not the brilliance of highly publicized Allied military leaders and statesmen. Rather, victory or defeat in the century's climactic struggle hinged on the secret war of wits between each side's ingenious scientists and cryptanalysts (codebreakers)… .Both adversaries exerted gargantuan efforts to implement the often spectacular feats of the codebreakers and scientists through covert missions, plots, hoaxes, spies, conspiracies, and electronic sleuthing. The constant goal was to trick, foil, or outmaneuver the other side's armed forces." Most students of World War II would consider Mr. Breuer's comments to be exaggerated, but he does provide interesting sketches.

Philip Gerard's Secret Soldiers: The Story of World War II's Heroic Army of Deception (Dutton, $25.95, 400 pages, illustrated) is a more focused book on the exploits on the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, who were recruited and trained to deceive the enemy with numerous devices many of which were common (loudspeakers used to imitate the noises made by large formations, the use of costumes to fool enemy observers or spies, etc).
Some fascinating and highly imaginative men passed through the 23rd. One was Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., a rare individual in the Hollywood of the early 1940s he deliberately put himself in harm's way by volunteering to serve in the uniformed military. Fashion designer Bill Blass was also a part of the unit as were other celebrities. The author provides a smoothly written, documented account of the tactical effects created by the 23rd that makes interesting reading.

Alan Gropman is Distinguished Professor of National Security Policy at the Industrial College of the Armed Services, National Defense University.


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