Operation Fortitude

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Operation Fortitude was the codename for the deception operations used by the Allied forces during World War II in connection with the Normandy landings (Operation Overlord). It was divided into Fortitude North, a threat to invade Norway, and Fortitude South, designed to induce the Germans to believe that the main invasion of France would occur in the Pas de Calais rather than Normandy. Fortitude was one of the most successful deception operations of the war and arguably the most important. Both Fortitude North and Fortitude South were related to a wider deception plan called Operation Bodyguard.

Contents

Objectives

The principal objective of Fortitude was to ensure that the Germans would not increase their troop presence in Normandy, which it achieved by promoting the appearance that the Allied forces would attack German positions elsewhere. Equally important was to delay the movement of German reserves to the Normandy beachhead and prevent a potentially disastrous counterattack. The plan therefore aimed to convince the Germans that additional assaults were planned—specifically in Scandinavia and in the Pas de Calais.

Organization

The overall strategic plan for deception by the Allies in 1944 was planned by London Controlling Section and laid out in Operation Bodyguard. However the actual conduct of such deceptions was the task of the commanders in the theatres in which the deception was to occur. The execution of the deception "cover plan" for Overlord was therefore the responsibility of SHAEF under General Dwight D. Eisenhower. A special section called "Ops (B)" was established at SHAEF to handle it. Although Fortitude was controlled from SHAEF, London Controlling Section retained responsibility for what was called "Special Means": the use of diplomatic channels and double-agents.

Means

It was initially envisioned that deception would occur through five main channels:

During the course of Fortitude the almost complete lack of German aerial reconnaissance, together with the absence of uncontrolled German agents in Britain, came to make physical deception almost irrelevant. The unreliability of the "diplomatic leaks" resulted in their discontinuance. The majority of deception was carried out by means of false wireless traffic and through German double agents. The latter proved to be by far the most significant.

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