Just finished reading 'The Deceivers' about the art of deception in the 2nd world war. Not the novels of the same name by Forsyth or Masters, but a well-researched nonfiction account. Boring you say, as most everybody has heard about the phantom armies in Southeast Britain facing across the channel from the Pas de Calais and perhaps about the ‘man-who-never-was’. But this book goes into the organized deception campaigns in the Chinese/Burma/India Theater, North Africa, Italy, the Eastern Front, and both the Central and Southwest Pacific Theaters also. Very detailed and interesting. The Americans and French learned it as well from the Brits. The Soviets too but that part is not quite as detailed, due I am sure to unavailability of the appropriate Russian records to an American researcher.
Admiral Hewitt in NW African waters and the western Med used it with his Beach Jumpers for mock amphibious landings to disguise the real intended beachhead. The original idea came from Hollywood (Doug Fairbanks Jr) and they were later used in the Pacific.
Nimitz took to deception and used a notional invasion of the Kurile Islands from the Aleutians (termed Wedlock) to mask his intentions in the Marianas and later the Palaus. That same deception plan also also benefited MacArthur at Leyte. It worked as evidenced by the buildup of Japanese ground troops in the Kuriles from 14K in 43 to 64K in January 44 plus four air regiments were moved to Hokkaido in February 44 from southern Japan and from Manchuria. Later Nimitz used a notional invasion of Formosa and mainland China coast (codenamed Bluebird) to disguise the largest amphibious assault of the Pacific – the Okinawan campaign.
MacArthur himself was a natural and used tactical deception brilliantly during the Hollandia campaign. But for strategic deception requiring coordination with other theaters his imperious Chief of Staff, LtGen Sutherland, and his G-2 and G-3 did not take kindly to outside advice so lost many opportunities. The Japanese were no slouches at deception themselves as witnessed by their outfoxing Halsey at Leyte. But they entered that game too late and their efforts were to no avail.
Mountbatten used it extremely well in Burma, his prime practitioners being General Slim and also Peter Fleming,elder brother to Ian, the author of the James Bond novels, some even claim that Peter was a literary clone of 007. General Stillwell did not like the concept of deception and would not allow it by his command. His later replacement, Wedemeyer, used a notional drive to the coast of the South China Sea by a Chinese Army Group, reputedly led by Patton (?) so they could link up with Nimitz’s Bluebird ruse.
The book is not new, it was published nine years ago, so is relatively inexpensive but is well worth a look. The author, Thaddeus Holt, is a former Deputy Under-Secretary of the Army. He has also written articles on military history for MHQ, JMH and the NYTimes. Good read but not for the faint of heart as it is 805 pages plus another 300 or so pages for the Appendices. My only beef is that he seems to spend too much time on the personalities of the various deception staff officers and some of their arguments with each other. Otherwise it is great reference work not just for deception but also for the real operations they were designed to protect with their <i>”bodyguard of lies”</i>.