SGM Herb Friedman (Ret.)

Although the use of fraud in any action is detestable, yet in the combat of war it is praiseworthy and glorious. And a man who uses fraud to overcome his enemy is praised, just as much as he who overcomes his enemy by force.

Machiavelli 1531

Field Manual No. 3-13.4, ARMY SUPPORT TO MILITARY DECEPTION, defines deception.

Military deception is actions executed to deliberately mislead adversary military, paramilitary, or violent extremist organization decision makers, thereby causing the adversary to take specific actions (or inactions) that will contribute to the accomplishment of the friendly mission. Deception applies to all levels of warfare, across the range of military operations, and is conducted during all phases of military operations. When properly integrated with operations security and other information-related capabilities, deception can be a decisive tool in altering how the enemy views, analyzes, decides, and acts in response to friendly military operations.

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Dummy Inflatable Sherman Tank

In the majority of our psychological operations (PSYOP) articles we select a specific leaflet campaign and then study it in depth. This article will be somewhat different. We will discuss the theme, "deception and disinformation" which may or may not have a major leaflet connection. In every case the psychological operation was meant to confuse the enemy and encourage him to react in a way favorable to U.S. forces. Some operations featured radio traffic; some involve the construction of real or fake military materiel, and others feature rumors or false newspaper reports.

The legal status of such deception ruses and deceptions are discussed by Peter J. Smyczek in “Regulating the battlefield of the future: the legal limitations on the conduct of psychological operations under public international law,” Air Force Law review, winter 2005:

Perfidy is an unlawful battlefield deception. Lawful deceptions in war are called "ruses." Ruses are defined in Geneva Protocol I as "acts which are intended to mislead an adversary or to induce him to act recklessly but which infringe no rule of international law applicable in armed conflict and which are not perfidious because they do not invite the confidence of an adversary with respect to protection under that law." Article 37 then goes on to give examples of permissible ruses: "the use of camouflage, decoys, mock operations and misinformation." Further examples of legitimate ruses include:

Counted surprises, ambushes, feigning attacks, retreats, or flights, simulating quiet and inactivity, use of small forces to simulate large units, transmitting false or misleading radio or telephone messages, deception of the enemy by bogus orders purporting to have been issued by the enemy commander, making use of the enemy's signals and passwords, pretending to communicate with troops or reinforcements which have no existence, deceptive supply movements, deliberate planting of false information, use of spies and secret agents, moving landmarks, putting up dummy guns and  vehicles or laying dummy mines, erection of dummy installations and airfields, removing unit identifications from uniforms, use of signal deceptive measures ...

Each of these operations has been covered in depth in various books and military after-action reports. We will just briefly discuss them and attempt to show how they were all part of the "black" side of PSYOP, the use of misleading and deceptive information to achieve a military goal.

Joseph W. Caddell discusses five types of deception in his December 2004 monograph Deception 101 – Primer on deception:

Strategic Deception: Deception which disguises your basic objectives, intentions, strategies, and capabilities.

Operational Deception: Deception which confuses or diverts an adversary in regard to a specific operation or action you are preparing to conduct.

Tactical Deception: Deception which misleads others while they are actively involved in competition with you, your interests, or your forces.

“A” Type Deception: “Ambiguity Deception” geared toward creating general confusion.

“M” Type Deception: “Misleading Deception” designed to mislead an adversary into a specific and preconceived direction.

In the following deception campaigns you will find all of the above.


A deception and disinformation campaign that might have helped the British stave off a German invasion from France involved a rumor that they had the ability to set the English Channel ablaze.

As the victorious German army gazed wistfully across the 21 miles of the English Channel in 1940, they were unaware that the British had almost no arms with which to defend themselves. Everything had been left behind on the beaches of Dunkerque. All of Britain was ripe for the taking. In occupied France the Germans were building landing barges and troops were being trained for an amphibious assault. It was just a matter of time.

The British Chiefs of Staff admitted "Should the Germans succeed in establishing a force with its vehicles in this country; our Army forces have not got the offensive power to drive it out." The weapons situation was so bad that in Manchester several rifles used in the Indian Mutiny were obtained from the Zoological Gardens and issued to the troops.

Meanwhile, the British were calling up everyone, building a civilian guard, and asking for old hunting rifles to be donated to defend the realm. They also devised several invasion scenarios, planning what steps to take when the German ships were sighted.

One plan involved dousing the channel with oil, then setting it ablaze to burn the Germans alive before reaching the shore. Of course, they did not have the ability to do so and therefore could only use deception, rumor, and propaganda to imply that the island was protected by a wall of fire.

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Sefton Delmer

Sefton Delmer, Director of Britain's "Black" Radio during WWII, talked about the British deception plan in Black Boomerang, The Viking Press, New York, 1962. Delmer ran numerous black radio and leaflet operations for Great Britain during WWII. He spoke perfect German and could imitate the speech patterns of both the elite and working social classes.

I went on the air in the BBC studio and did a little more teasing. I pretended to have a telephone conversation with my old friend Göring, told the story of my smooth and uneventful voyage, and taunted him with his inefficiency. A few days later I followed this up by broadcasting an English lesson for would-be invaders.

He goes on to talk about his English lesson to the Germans. The original wartime tape was played at a 1st PSYOP Battalion Command Briefing about PSYOP at Fort Bragg, NC, July 1973. Some of the tape is as follows:

We English, as you know, are notoriously bad at languages, and so it will be best, meine Herren Engellandfahrer, if you learn a few useful English phrases before visiting us.

 For your first lesson we will take: Die Kanaluberfahrt. The Channel crossing, the Channel crossing.

 Now just repeat after me: Das Boot sinkt. The boat is sinking; the boat is sinking.

Das Wasser ist kalt. The water is cold. Sehr kalt, very cold.  

Now, I will give you a verb that should come in useful. Again please repeat after me, Ich brenne, I burn. Du brennst, you burn. Er brennt, he burns. Wir brennen, we burn. Ihr brennt, you are burning.  

Yes, meine Herren, in English, a rather practical language, we use the same word "you" for both the singular and the plural. Ihr brennt, you are burning. Sie brennen, they burn.  

And if I may be allowed to suggest a phrase: Der SS Sturmfiihrer brennt auch ganz schon,  The SS Captain is also burning quite nicely, the SS Captain is also burning quite nicely!

Delmer concludes:

Crude stuff, but excellent in one important respect. The line about burning in the Channel fitted in perfectly, as of course it was intended to, with the information which our deception services had planted on Admiral Canaris, the head of Hitler's espionage. Our rumor agencies too, had been busy spreading it everywhere. The mean murderous British, it said, had apparatus in readiness with which they were going to set the Channel and the beaches on fire such time as Hitler launched his boats.  

This was a lie. But it went over so well that it is believed by many Germans to this day.

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Releasing the oil to set the Channel ablaze

The British went so far as to actually build some large oil pipes that stretched out into the English Channel. They made a great show of using them to set the channel afire. Journalists were invited to watch the demonstration.

Peter Fleming mentions the technology in Operation Sea Lion, Simon and Schuster, NY, 1957:

One of the few wholly successful experiments, which took place on 24 August on the northern shores of the Solent is described by the head of the Petroleum Warfare Department.

Ten pipes were rigged from the top of a thirty-foot cliff down into the water well below high water mark and ten Scammel tanker wagons connected to them delivered oil at the rate of about 12 tons an hour. Admiralty flares and a system of sodium and petrol pellets were used for ignition and within a few seconds of the pumps being started a wall of flame of such intensity raged up from the sea surface that it was impossible to remain on the edge of the cliff and the sea itself began to boil.

Fleming goes on to say that although the limited experiment was a complete success, it was extremely costly in steel, manpower and valuable oil. The Chiefs of Staff approved 50-miles of what the British called "Flame barrage," but the only complete sections were in Deal, St. Margaret's Bay, The Shakespeare Cliff, Rye and Studland Bay.

John Baker White discusses the plan in The Big Lie, New York: Crowell, 1955. London: Evans, 1955. White says:

Fire has played always an important part in defense against invasion. The Crusaders made unpleasant acquaintance with it in the Holy Land, as did the Spanish Armada with Drake's fireships. it was natural, therefore, that in 1940 it should figure prominently in our anti-invasion plans. The Finns had shown us in their short but gallant struggle with Russia the effectiveness of the "Molotov Cocktail" in dealing with armored vehicles. Countless thousands of these modern versions of the Chinese fire bottle were issued to the Home Guard, who had great difficulty in finding safe places in which to store them. Incendiary bombs were one of the chief weapons used by the R.A.F. in its attacks on the barges massing in the Channel ports.

The Army had discarded flame-throwers after the First World War, so none was available in 1940. A considerable number were improvised hastily from pressure-greasing equipment collected from garages and service stations. Filled with mixtures based on gasoline, fuel oil and creosote they were fairly effective weapons with a strictly limited life and range. There remained the problem of applying fire to the defense of beaches, and the machine finally adopted was operated on the same principle as the garage pressure greaser. From a pump and supply tank set back from the shore the combustible mixture was pumped, through pipes buried in the beach, to a series of flash points. In the same way as a truck garden irrigation system sprays water over a wide area, these points sprayed fire over the beaches down as far as the low-water mark. In operation they were a frightening spectacle, with clouds of thick, blinding black smoke through which shot great jets of red flame. It is difficult to say to what extent the pipe-line network could have been disrupted by bombardment, but this apparatus gave confidence to defending forces whose battle equipment was very meager.

Some of the details of the plot are told by James Hayward in The Bodies on the Beach. It is a study of the various myths surrounding the planned German invasion of Britain in 1940, and in particular the legend of an actual invasion attempt repulsed by the burning sea.

James Hayward also reported his findings of the English Channel flame barrage in issue 84 of After the Battle, Battle of Britain Prints International Ltd. Church House, Church Street, London, E15 3JA and again in another book: Shingle Street - Flame, Chemical and Psychological Warfare in 1940 and the Nazi invasion that Never Was, LTM Publishing, 40 Prior way, Colchester, Essex, CO4 5DH. UK 1994.

He says that In September 1940, civilians in the village of Crostwick, a few miles north of Norwich, were surprised by the sudden appearance of an apparently endless convoy of army trucks and ambulances. The vehicles moved very slowly. When questioned, one driver told a local woman that they were carrying the bodies of German soldiers washed up on the Norfolk coast, the grisly aftermath of a failed invasion attempt.

Later that same month, troops were dispatched to Folkstone to search the beach between Hythe and St Mary's Bay for dead Germans. About a dozen were found, all wearing field-grey Wehrmacht uniforms. Some were burned from the waist down, and all seemed to have been in the water for some time. On 21 October the corpse of a German anti-tank gunner, Heinrich Poncke, was recovered from the beach at Littlestone-on-Sea. This was reported in the press and by the BBC.

American broadcaster William Shirer reported long hospital trains in Berlin, most of the men suffering from burns. The New York Times of 15 December claimed that there had been two attempts to cross the Channel, and in both instances the Nazis were literally consumed by fire.

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British Leaflet 473

British leaflet 473 uses humor to disguise its message that invading England means horrible death for the Germans. The British code is actually EH 473 although only the numbers appear on the leaflet. The internal "EH" represents "Electra House." The leaflet is larger than usual at 21 x 27 cm. At the top of the leaflet a German soldier is depicted looking at a large open book, WIE FAHREN GEGEN ENGELLAND (We Journey against England). This is the title of the famous German military tune that tells of their coming attack on England:

Our flag waves as we march along,
it is an emblem of the power of our Reich,
and we can no longer endure
that the Englishman should laugh at it.
So give me thy hand, thy fair white hand,
Ere we sail away to conquer Eng-el-land.

At the bottom of the leaflet there is a parade of goose-stepping German soldiers in bathing suits and life jackets boarding an invasion barge. The center consists of three vertical columns in German, French and Dutch. The title at the head of all the columns is "The Little Invasion Interpreter." There are 15 phrases listed under "Before the Invasion." Another 15 are listed "During the Invasion," and a final 13 "After the invasion." The columns continue on the back of the leaflet where two further images are depicted. At the top the invasion fleet is seen being destroyed, while at the bottom the white cliffs of Dover are shown pristine and secure beneath a Union Jack. Some of the phrases of the leaflet are:

The sea is vast - cold - surging.
This is a bomb - a torpedo - a shell - a mine
Our boat capsizes - sinks - burns – explodes.
The sea stinks of fuel oil.
The water burns here

Look how well the Captain burns.

The British dropped this leaflet over Germany and occupied Europe during 24 bomb raids from 1 February to 25 April 1941.

A rumor spread through France said that 80,000 German troops perished. Hospitals in Occupied France are filled with Nazi soldiers, all of them suffering from severe burns. Thousands of dead Germans have been washed ashore.

A story mysteriously appeared that said that there had been mutinies in September, with many German troops refusing to face the burning sea once again when they learned that a third attempt at invasion was being planned.

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Heavy flame-throwers in action

Where did these stories come from? John Baker White tells us more about this part of the operation in a chapter entitled "The Sea is on Fire!" He had just viewed the testing of the flame barrage apparatus and was wondering if he could build a PSYOP campaign from what he had witnessed. Some selected comments from the chapter are:

Setting the sea on fire. Setting the sea on fire. Setting the sea on fire. As we drove back to London the words went round and round in my mind.

I think we all saw the same sort of picture. The fleet of invasion barges approaching the coast suddenly engulfed in a sheet of flame…

Before the eight-word rumor was fed into the "Pipeline" that ran to the bar of the Grand Hotel in Stockholm, the Avenida in Lisbon, the Ritz in Madrid, and other places in Cairo, Istanbul, Ankara and elsewhere, not forgetting New York, it had to get over certain hurdles. It had to be technically watertight, so that the German chemical warfare specialists could not shoot it down as impossible. The next hurdle was to get it past the committee that had to study all rumors before they were launched. This was a very necessary precaution, because it was quite possible for the rumor inventors to manufacture a story that would quite unwittingly disclose something of operational importance.

The burning-sea rumor was passed back, approved, with the pungent remark. "No objection, but we think it a pretty poor effort." It then passed out of our hands, though in conjunction with the political warfare experts certain elaborations were started. Several weeks went by, and nothing happened, No come-backs from neutral capitals, no traces from postal censorship, not a word from that hive of rumor, the Café’ Bavaria in Geneva, no gossip from prisoners of war. All of us who looked upon the burning sea as our own particular baby started to get very despondent, until one morning there came the news for which we had been waiting. A Luftwaffe pilot shot down over Charing in Kent and taken to the Cockfosters reception center for interrogation said that in his Geschwader they knew of the "English burning sea defenses." Three days later another Luftwaffe man volunteered the same information-and he came from a different airfield.

Over the next two weeks or so the rumor seemed to spring up like mushrooms in the dark from all over the place, with some most interesting trimmings. It was given impetus by two wonderful strokes of luck. The R.A.F., using incendiaries on routine bombing of invasion barges in Calais harbor, happened to catch a German battalion in an invasion exercise. Since Calais at that time was an uncomfortable place in which to keep wounded men, and since some of the worst burned needed specialist attention, they were sent to hospitals in the Paris region. Thanks to the French underground, the burning-sea rumor had already had some circulation in the capital. Almost within a matter of hours it was all over Paris that the men in the hospitals had been burned in an abortive attempt at invasion. The French, who at this period of the war had not lost their sense of humor, would pretend to warm their hands at Germans sitting next to them in cafes and restaurants.

As the days passed rumor piled upon rumor, and then came a third stroke of luck. So convinced had the German Command become that the British really had a means of setting the sea on fire, they started to experiment with the fireproofing of barges. At a camp in Normandy they armored a barge with asbestos sheets which they filled with troops and steered into a pool of burning gasoline. All on board were burned to death. Some of the dreadfully charred bodies drifted out to sea and were washed up at various points along the French coast.

One of the mysteries of the whole operation I have not been able to solve to this day; nor, I think, has anyone else. That is how the rumor got back to Britain… It took on many guises. Men in German uniforms being brought ashore at Harwich, Newhaven and Dover with their faces and hands covered in bandages. A convoy of ambulances arriving in the dead of night at a hospital outside Norwich, and an "S.O.S." sent to other hospitals in the area for antiburn dressings. A great pillar of smoke rising from Sandwich Bay and the secret burial of hideously charred bodies in the sand dunes. These were but a few of the forms the rumor took, and there are plenty of people in Britain who to this day remain convinced that there was an invasion attempt in 1940 and that it was defeated by setting the sea on fire.

In mid-October 1940 1 had to go down to Portsmouth on duty, and one of the calls I made was on a well-known admiral. Having sworn me to secrecy he told me in great detail of the abortive invasion attempt, of the success of our secret weapon, of the heat-buckled hulks of landing craft washed ashore near Selsey, of the hundreds of charred corpses along the high-water line on Chesil beach. "I've seen 'em myself, my boy," he said with a note of triumph in his voice. "Hundreds of 'em, so many you couldn't count them." I felt that it was one of the occasions on which it would be unkind as well as unwise to contradict a superior officer. Imagination is a very powerful thing, as we were to discover many times before the war was over.

Researcher Lee Richards found another file that he believed quoted a 1944 speech by Baker in the British Archives:

The rumor was put out through various channels. It quickly reached the German army. It became the talk of neutral capitals. It grew and grew. And then it started to come back in its various forms. We traced it back from seven different countries and in seven different forms. While on a visit to Portsmouth I was assured most solemnly by a senior naval officer that we had defeated an invasion attempt by setting the sea on fire and that he personally had seen the charred bodies of hundreds of Germans lying on Chesil beach. I have seen intercepted letters from German soldiers in France who said they had visited their comrades in hospital – and they actually gave their names – who had been burnt in an invasion attempt on England. But we achieved something much more than that. We must have made the German High Command believe that we had some means of setting the sea on fire because they actually had built and tested out in Normandy a number of fireproof invasion craft manned by crews wearing asbestos suits. Perhaps I should add a postscript to this story of one of the wars most successful rumors. We did set the sea on fire. At St. Margaret’s Bay, Dover, where we knew the Germans would be able to see it, and it took us about six months to square up the petrol account with the D.A.D.O.S. [Deputy Assistant Director of Ordnance Services].

The chief press censor in Britain, Rear-Admiral George Thomson, later said "In the whole course of the war there was no story which gave me so much trouble as that of the attempted German invasion, flaming oil on the water and 30,000 burned Germans."

Of course, none of this happened. Operation Sea Lion, the planned German invasion of the British Isles in September 1940 was never authorized. Hitler postponed Operation Sea Lion indefinitely on 17 September 1940. However,  the threat of invasion was by no means ended. Had the Germans attempted such a risky mission, it would have very likely ended up with most of their ships sunk by the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force before they even set foot on English soil. The few Wehrmacht divisions that may have made it would probably have been cut down on the beaches, and there would be no miracle evacuation for Hitler’s troops.

All of the deception and disinformation was part of "black" operation, created by the Directorate of Military Intelligence, MI6, and the Special Operations Executive (SOE) to make sure that "Sea Lion" stayed postponed permanently.

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The Sea Afire

The British project to set fire to the English Channel was depicted on the History Channel's Secrets of War, Episode 51, and entitled "Psychological Warfare." Narrator Charlton Heston mentions that the British publicly set the Channel on fire for the cameras, but in their propaganda they neglected to say that just a small area of coastline was protected. Heston also states that, "Documents found after the war confirmed that the German High Command believed that the British had a workable plan to set fire to the English Channel."

On 25 September, British coastal defense units were told that "a scheme was afoot to produce an impenetrable barrage of flame on the sea to prevent or destroy enemy ships attempting a landing." Flame barrages were recommended at the following localities; Bawdsey, Mouth of River Deben, Mouth of River Orwell, and Felixstowe, from Ferry to Landguard Fort. No flame barrages were installed further north than Shoeburyness.

There are still those who believe the story. In the midst of researching this propaganda campaign, I received this letter:

My father who is now 90 was stationed on the South Coast in WWII somewhere near Hythe and he can clearly recall burnt bodies being pulled from the sea dressed in German ARMY not Navy or Air Force uniforms. They were all taken to a makeshift mortuary and the troops involved were each individually reminded of the penalties for breaking the Secrets Act and one officer of the unit was taken away after having discussed it with another unit commander. What exactly happened there he cannot say but he is convinced this had something to do with the operation you talk of.

It is hard to determine if this was a successful black propaganda campaign. Although it might have caused the Germans to think more cautiously, it is doubtful that it stopped the invasion. The British rumor that a small German landing had been repulsed, and later that a large invasion flotilla had been incinerated halfway across the Channel did spread across occupied Europe and to America, then filtered back to Britain. It might have encouraged the occupied nations to believe that the war could still be won, and may have helped Americans believe that Great Britain would be able to block an invasion. It probably had little effect on the Germans since they clearly knew that they had not attempted to invade England. In truth, It was Göring's inability to defeat the Royal Air Force that stopped the invasion. But, perhaps the rumors helped, and certainly they gave support and hope to the British and the occupied people of Europe.

A Good (But Failed) Idea Never Dies

The 5 November 1969 Operational Report 1st Infantry Division ending 31 October 1969 in Vietnam depicts the return of the old “set the water ablaze” concept. Here, the U.S. Army tests their ability to set a river ablaze to destroy Viet Cong supply boats:

During September an attempt was made to develop a flame system to set a river on fire. The logistics involved was too enormous to achieve success. The resupply routes of the Viet Cong/North Vietnamese Army cross the SAIGON River. The area in which they cross the river is from 30 to 60 meters wide. The exact crossing sites are unknown until they are detected by radar or visual sightings. The concept envisioned, engulfing the VC/NVA in the water with flame as they attempted to cross the river. Various methods were tested. These included the floating of 5-gallon cans of napalm down the river to a dump of fuel on the water and pre-positioning drums of napalm with high explosive charges along the banks of the river. The Navy PBR boats were used to conduct this test. The logistical burden precluded testing other expedients or conducting the actual operation. The desired munition would have been a chemical substance deliverable by helicopter that would ignite upon contact with water and create a mass of flames.

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The British “Underground Propaganda Committee” spread thousands of rumors

Before we leave this deception campaign we should mention that there were dozens of such stories being written and disseminated by the British. Besides leaflets, newspaper and radio stories, in an attempt to raise the morale of occupied Europe and lower the morale of the German military, civilians and their allies, the secret British “Underground Propaganda Committee” produced well over eight thousand rumors, (they called them “Sibs” from the Latin sibalare – to hiss). Researcher Lee Richards mentions the “whisper campaign” and many of these rumors in his book Whispers of War,, 2010. In regard to British propaganda rumors about the dangers of a cross-channel invasion and British secret weapons he lists dozens of moral-destroying rumors. The British were clearly working overtime attempting to make the invasion look like a perilous undertaking. I have selected a few of the more interesting ones:

13 July 1940 – Britain has a new and deadly sea mine designed for the special purpose of preventing the landing of German troops in shallow-draught boats…Another type of mine is concealed beneath the runways of airfields. It cannot be seen from the air and is remote controlled. It will destroy German aircraft attempting to land troops on British airfields.

27 July 1940 – Britain has a wireless controlled bomb-carrying aircraft

27 September 1940 – The British have a mine dropped from aircraft that spreads a thin film of highly inflammable liquid over the surface of the water…

17 October 1940 – The British have perfected a flamethrower for use in their aircraft…

31 January 1941 – Two hundred sharks have been sent from Australia to Britain and released in the Channel.

I particularly like that last one because in December, 2010, after a string of shark attacks in Egyptian waters, the South Sinai Governor stated that this could be a plot to destroy Egyptian tourism by the Israeli Mossad. A good rumor never dies.

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Silly Twaddle and Gossip

Speaking of rumors and “Sibs,” in the early days of WWII Germany conquered France and the French government collaborated with its occupiers. Many French fascists allied themselves with the Germans after their occupation and were perfectly willing to send their Jewish citizens off to the concentration camps and even produce their own anti-Jewish literature. This miniature 5-page fold-out comic booklet was produced by G. Mazeyrie, imprimeur-editeur, Paris. I have seen other similar miniature comics by this individual. This booklet consists of five collaborationist panels, implying that all the false gossip people spread about the Great English victory to come against the Germans is nonsense passed by the Jews and Masons, enemies of the German and French people. Some of the gossip is that the French Army marched away to protect the people better; a tunnel is being dug under the Channel so the British can sneak back into France; General De Gaulle has returned at the head of two million men; once the Germans have been driven out, France will naturally become a Communist state; and the Jews and Masons will be the death of France. We depict Panel 2 which says:

Yes, that is what I was told on the bus.
They’re digging a tunnel under the Channel.
They’re going to come out in the Place Blanche!
Nostradamus wrote about it!

The funny part about this rumor is that it is absolutely correct, just a trifle early. Many decades later the British (and French) would dig a "Chunnel" from Great Britain to France and quickly drive from one country to the other.

Ironically, British propaganda expert Lee Richards thought this might be proof that the British rumor campaign was working. He wrote to say:

There actually was such a rumor. Sib Q/869, dated 1 June 1942 says “The real reason why the British Government has to get miners out of the army is to finish off the Channel tunnel, which they have been getting on with slowly all the time. The great problem was how to dispose of the chalk without German reconnaissance seeing it. It was taken by special fast lorries by night to London and dumped in Hyde Park and Hampstead Heath, etc.”


The stories of how the Allies tried to fool the Germans about the time and place of the invasion of Europe are legion. Everyone knows of Patton’s phantom army group, the fake radio traffic to indicate that the real invasion force was still in England, the rubber tanks and aircraft placed wherever a German reconnaissance aircraft might spot them, and all the other collateral operations. We will discuss them briefly, and then talk about a black operation run by Sefton Delmer, Director of Britain’s "black" radio operations.

Shoulder Patches of the First United States Army Group (FUSAG)

14th Army Patch


25th Armored Division
5th  Airborne Division  9th Airborne Division   18th Airborne Division   21st Airborne Division   135th Airborne Division  
 11th Infantry Division  14th  Infantry Division  17th  Infantry Division  22nd  Infantry Division  46th Infantry Division  48th Infantry Division   50th Infantry Division 
55th Infantry Division 59th Infantry Division 108th Infantry Division 119th Infantry Division 130th Infantry Division 141st Infantry Division 157th Infantry Division

The most notable deception plan was surely the creation of the First United States Army Group (FUSAG), a totally nonexistent force created and placed under the command of General George Patton in southeast England with an order of battle larger than that of Montgomery's 21st Army Group. The mission of FUSAG was to deceive the Germans into believing that the real invasion of France would be at Pas de Calais, not Normandy. On paper, FUSAG was comprised of the 14th Army, 2 Corps, 1 Armored Division, 5 Airborne Divisions, and 14 Infantry Divisions. Added to this force were 1 Airborne and 9 Infantry Divisions that had been activated but not actually raised bringing the FUSAG's total force to 30 non-existent divisions. This deception was named "Operation Quicksilver."

Some businesses went so far as to reproduce the shoulder patches in hopes of securing a government contract. The Army quickly bought thousands of them and even issued them to troops at their points of embarkation so that the patches could be seen by German troops and their civilian agents.

Jon Latimer mentions the various operations in Deception in War, The Overlook Press, NY, 2001.

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He says that Quicksilver was broken into six parts. Quicksilver I was the story that the invasion would be launched at Calais several weeks after the Normandy feint.

Quicksilver II was the use of radio traffic to deceive the Germans. A special radio signals unit, the 5th Wireless Group, introduced a number of original features. All traffic was recorded in advance and equipment was devised that made it possible for one transmitter to simulate six, so that the complete traffic of a divisional headquarters and its brigades could be broadcast by a single radio truck.

Army Second Lieutenant Richard Kolks was an electrical engineer and an expert in radio. They wanted radio experts in Europe and Richard suddenly found himself on a converted B-17 on his way to England. His son-in-law Rob Schorry told me:

He was moved into the Communication division, where they selected and trained the radio operators with distinctive “fists” (those who had easily recognizable radio key techniques). They sent a lot of radio traffic in code; codes both broken and unbroken by the enemy.  But there was also the occasional uncoded message that said “The General’s (Patton) dog is sick again!” etc., to let the Germans know that Patton and FUSAG was still where they should be.

On the night of D-Day June 6, 1944, their boss, Colonel Oliver, came into the operations center and said “We’ve done it boys, we’ve done it! The Panzers haven’t moved!” 

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Dummy Gun and Plane

Quicksilver III was the fake landing craft all long the British coast. Fake vessels resembling Landing Craft Tanks (LSTs) were known as "big bobs" and other inflatable dummy craft as "wet-bobs." Some were moored in those creeks and inlets between Great Yarmouth and the Thames estuary, but the larger proportion of them were concentrated around Kent and eastern Sussex. The designers of Shepperton Film Studios were enlisted to build a giant "oil storage facility and docking area near Dover. This stretched several miles and was complete with storage tanks, pipelines, jetties, terminal control points and anti-aircraft defenses.

Quicksilver IV and V the bombing scheme where the area around Calais would be heavily bombed to look like the softening up before invasion.

Quicksilver VI the use of 65 fake lighting schemes along the British coast to fool the Germans into believing in a major buildup with railroad and naval traffic.

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A soldier uncovers the speakers on a loudspeaker equipped half-track for the sonic deception unit in World War II. The sonic deception unit would record the sounds of troops amassing in tanks and trucks and then  play those sounds back over loud speakers. The deception unit had a library of recordings of different engines moving over different terrain.

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British soldiers carry a decoy rubber tank

The phantom force was located near Dover, just across the Channel from the supposed target. The planners had construction crews build dummy installations of plywood and canvas and dot them with an array of inflatable tanks and vehicles. They also anchored a vast armada of rubber landing craft in the Thames River estuary, where German reconnaissance aircraft were certain to spot them. Eisenhower assigned Patton, the American general the Germans most respected, to command the phantom army and saw to it that known enemy agents received information on the status of Patton's force. Allied naval units conducted protracted maneuvers off the Channel coast near the location of the shadow army, and components of Patton's fictitious command indulged in extensive radio trafficking to signal to German intelligence analysts that a major military organization was functioning. A careful plan of aerial bombardment complemented the ploy. During the weeks preceding the invasion, Allied airmen dropped more bombs on the Pas de Calais than anywhere else in France.

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Dummy Tank and Troop Carrier

The Allies used various techniques to get the Germans to believe that this force was in preparing for the invasion. These techniques ranged from double agents, false radio traffic, "lost" documents, false marriage and death notices in local papers where the unit was noted prominently. One deception included the use of the magazine National Geographic. The magazine prepared a full color layout showing a wide variety of unit insignias that included many from the mythical FUSAG. In order to sell the deception, the Army allowed some issues to be distributed, then after a few days, suddenly pulled all the magazines off the newsstands, and replaced them with a revised version.

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American soldiers in a real tank watch a British soldier work on Dummy tank

It was not only German troops in France that needed to be fooled. Nicolas Booth mentions in ZigZag, Arcade Publishing Co., NY, 2007, that there were 28 German divisions in Norway that the Allies hoped to immobilize there by hinting that an Invasion of that nation might be in the planning stages:

Using double agents and simulating activity by false radio reports, they made it appear that a powerful force of allied ships and soldiers would soon be making its way toward Norway

As a later intelligence summary prepared for the Führer makes clear, all the evidence indicated another determined attack on Norway that autumn. The German Supreme Command believed - as the Allied deception staff wanted them to – that there would be four to six divisions involved.

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Wood and inflatable dummy trucks

In preparation for the attack, British counterintelligence agents used captured Nazi spies to feed the German high command false information that the invasion would come at Calais, a French port north of Normandy that was closer to England. The press was encouraged to write stories about Patton's travels in England to give the impression that he was preparing his phantom army to invade at Calais.

Latimer says that the most important source of information as far as both sides were concerned were the double-agents. Of these, the most significant was undoubtedly Garbo. This fake spy who allegedly ran 14 agents sent about four transmissions a day to his German handlers. As the invasion neared, other double agents such as Brutus, Tricycle, Treasure and Tate were added to the deception plan.

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General George Patton inspects members of his U.S. First Army Group. His presence in
south-east England was part of the Allied deception plan indicating a landing at the Pas de Calais

In one very imaginative operation, prisoner of war German General der Panzertruppen Hans Cramer was scheduled to be repatriated to Germany. He was purposefully driven to London through what he was told was southern and south-eastern England. He met and had dinner with General Patton who was introduced as the commander of the U.S. First Army Group, then sent home on a neutral Swedish ship. Upon his return he immediately reported that Allied troops and equipment were bound for Calais.

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Moving an inflatable tank

Operation Quicksilver was an overwhelming success. Although American commanders doubted that their ruses would have much effect, their schemes succeeded far beyond expectations. The Germans became so convinced that the Pas de Calais would be the Allied target that they held to the fiction until long after the actual attack had begun. As a result, nineteen powerful enemy divisions, to include important panzer reserves, stood idle on the day of the invasion, awaiting an assault that never came, when their presence in Normandy might have told heavily against the Allied attack. The German high command kept the bulk of their reserve forces there for almost 2 months after the Normandy invasion and refused to release troops from defensive duty there to prevent the Allies from establishing their beachheads. Patton would later be transferred to command the 3rd US Army and would be instrumental in the Allied push through France and later in stopping the German's Argonne Offensive in late 1944.

Corporal Wally Watson, 23rd Headquarters, 12th Army Group, Special Troops, United States Army, 1944-46 took part in some of the deception and subterfuge. His unit was assigned four general types of deception; sonic, visual, radio traffic, and infantry support. They had inflatable tanks that they would move into an area under cover of darkness and inflate. The sonic company would play recordings of tank movements, officers and NCOs giving orders, or whatever it took to convince the enemy that there was a large Allied force in front of him. The Quartermaster Company sent fake radio transmissions ordering supplies, and moving imaginary people around. Much information on the 23rd was classified until 1997, and as a result much of their contribution to the victory in Europe has gone unnoticed. Readers interested in learning more about army units that were involved in deception are encouraged to read Ghost Army of WWII by Jack Kneece and Secret Soldier - the Story of World War II's Heroic Army of Deception, Philip Gerard, Dutton, NY, 2002.

Sefton Delmer tells of his small part in the invasion deception in Black Boomerang, The Viking Press, N.Y., 1962.

He was not involved in fooling the Germans about the place of invasion. They were already well aware that the Allies had landed. He saw his job as fooling the Germans about the success of the invasion, telling them that their lines were broken, that they could be overrun and surrounded, and that their best hope was to leave their defensive lines and flee to safety.

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Nachrichten für die Truppen

Delmer was already regularly dropping the newspaper Nachrichten für die Truppen (News for the troops) on the German forces in occupied Europe. He describes the newspaper:

Of all the enterprises I launched during the war, this "News for the Troops" is the one of which I am proudest. This was a joint British-American venture, and the readiness with which my American friends at the Office of Strategic Services and SHAEF’s American psychological-warfare boss General Bob McClure placed a team of first-class editors and news writers under my orders, I still consider to have been the greatest compliment paid me at any time in my war-time career.

The newspaper team worked in yet another prefabricated barrack which had been erected in haste in the compound. Every night, for 345 consecutive nights, they put the paper together.

If the Soldatensender (Delmer’s black radio station, "German Soldier’s Radio Calais") was what Donald and I called "Gray," Nachrichten was a dirty off-white. Unlike other Allied leaflets it did not proclaim that it was issued by command of General Eisenhower of SHAEF. Nor did it, like "black" leaflets claim to have some German or non-Allied source. Nachrichten just dropped from the heavens, as an offering of the sublime objective truth. It did not refer to the Allies as the enemy. They were the Anglo-American forces or the Russians. The Germans were Die Deutschen Truppen.

For the most part the paper always told the truth, and although the news was always meant to destroy the morale of the German soldier, generally the news stories were straight-forward and without embellishment. Delmer had his enemy set up for the kill and now it was time to go "black" on him. He told Hans Gutmann, one of his chief news writers to prepare a special story that would "suggest to the garrisons of the Atlantic Wall defensive works that their line has been breached, that they are cut off, and that they might as well give up. We don’t want to say that of course. All we do is give them a picture of a situation from which they can draw their own conclusions."

The Ruperts

I cannot leave this invasion of the Continent without mentioning the parachute dummies dropped by the Allies to confuse and hopefully cause some of the German defenders to move towards the woods rather than the beaches. The U.S. Army dropped hundreds of these “Ruperts” dummy paratroopers packed with explosives or rifle simulators that detonated on impact to confuse the Germans. In the dark of night, the Germans could see the parachutes and hear the firing and certainly many of them thought they were under attack.  The dolls were made from burlap and filled with either heavy cotton or straw. Early on D-Day morning they would be dropped with several real paratroopers east of the invasion zone, in Normandy and the Pas-de-Calais. The dummies were dressed in paratrooper uniforms, complete with boots and helmets.


The Hollywood Ruperts

When the film The Longest Day was made it cost an astronomical (at that time) 8 million dollars. In Hollywood everything must be bigger and better. There was a scene where the paratroopers were introduced to the Rupert dummy, and of course Hollywood made him look like a GI Joe with full uniform, kit, and even a weapon on his back. He looked just a bit better than the reality Rupert.

Curiously, these dummies or something like them were used again during the Vietnam War. The Viet Cong and NVA often seemed to know where American forces like MACVSOG were going to land behind enemy lines for reconnaissance and other missions. The VC had a very good radio interception system and perhaps some spies in allied bases. One attempt at fooling their defensive forces was to drop these dummies by parachute at several false locations before making the real drop. VC watching the skies with binoculars might see the dummies and send forces there, which could allow the American Special Forces to land safely.

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British radio broadcast

Later that same day the Allies invaded France. The British black radio went on the air pretending to be a German announcement, "The enemy is landing in force from the air and the sea. The Atlantic Wall is penetrated in several places. The command has ordered an alarm grade 3." Meanwhile, Delmer was racing to his printing plant to have the newspaper made ready for dissemination. He says that the front page was "splendid" and the job was rushed to the point where he had one million copies in American B-17 bombers for airdrop over Normandy in just a few hours.

The newspaper, dated 6 June 1944 had the headline "Atlantic Wall breached in several places – Armor penetrates deep into the interior: bitter fighting with parachute commandoes." The text goes on to explain that the latest messages from the front state that the Anglo-American armor broke through the Atlantic rampart in several places two hours after daybreak along the coast of France. Other articles tell of the Soviet preparations for an offensive and of the German Army in Italy retreating and being broken up into two sections out of contact with each other.

This article is a good example of the anti-morale and defeatist type of news found in the Nachrichten. The text of story is:

Italian Retreat split in Two

German troops have never been forced to go through situations like those the soldiers in Kesselring's army are experiencing right now during their retreat from Rome.

 Thousands of Anglo-American bombers, fighter planes and military aircraft continually attack the separate fighting groups of the German army in Italy, blanket-bombing them and shooting at everything in sight.

Hundreds of burning, wrecked and bombed trucks are on the streets. Convoys more than 100 kilometers behind the fighting lines are incinerated by the rockets of fighter planes. The flat land of the Roman Country side offers no cover. The breakdown in front of Rome has split the German army in Italy into two parts which are in full retreat without being in contact with each other.

Remainders of four divisions; the 3rd tank grenadiers, the 4th paratroopers, the 65th and 334th infantry division are withdrawing along the coast as best they can. Anglo-American armor and infantry attack close behind them.

 Help not expected 

East of Rome, the remainders of nine German divisions flood the mountains. The retreat to the North is already blocked. The Anglo-American fighters and bombers attack them continually. They are ambushed by paratroopers.

It has proven impossible to reunite the divided troops in the mountains or near the coast into one defensive line or to restore communications between them. The two forces are on their own. The divisions and regiments are intermingled together and confused.

Stories on the back tell of Jäger units being transferred to East – and reports of American bombers in Russia. Even though this propaganda was the main feature of the news story, Delmer adds, "Our reports were written to fit in with the Allied deception plan which was to mislead the Germans into the belief that the invaders were striking at the mouth of the Seine and at Calais." So, at the same time Delmer was claiming that the attacks were a success; he was also implying that they were feints and the real blow was still to come. Delmer concludes:

To top the whole thing off, Donald McLachan and Hans Gutmann had produced a box-insert under the heading Was bereit Steht (What is available). It showed the tenuous German resources and gave a most alarming picture of the over-extended German defense front. I will quote just three sentences from it: "An average of 18 Luftwaffe aircraft go with each German division in the West. At the time of the battle of France there were eighty German aircraft to each German division. During last week’s battle of Rome the Anglo-Americans had 160 aircraft for each of their divisions.

Although Delmer was proud of his work, the Germans did stand and fight and the Allies took a terrific beating before they were gradually able to push inland. It would appear that Delmer’s operation in frightening the German Army was a failure. However, Hitler held his panzer divisions after the initial invasion awaiting the real strike by Patton’s Third Army further south, so that part of the plan seems to have worked to perfection.

Were the Secret codes and cover names of D-Day published for all to see?

For years after the invasion of France I read different stories about how tight the security was around D-Day. There was a case where chess players sending postcards with coded chess moves were interrogated about the meaning of their strange writing on the cards. There were also some cases where newspaper crossword puzzles used words that were D-Day codes. They were investigated and said to be just a coincidence. I thought the only problem was the word Overlord appearing in a puzzle. It turns out it was much more than that. In the latter case, years later the person involved with the crossword puzzle admitted it was a security breach. A British researcher told me about it:

Some of the words that appeared in the crossword puzzles were GOLD and SWORD, the beaches assigned to the British, and JUNO, the beach assigned to the Canadians. Four more were mentioned on 2, 22, 27 and 30 May 1944. UTAH, OMAHA, OVERLORD, and MULBERRY. The first two were beaches assigned to the U.S. 4th Infantry Division and 1st Infantry Division, the third was the codename for the invasion and the last was the artificial harbors that were created where the allies could land men and war materials. On 1 June 1944 a puzzle had the answer NEPTUNE, the codeword for the naval phase of the invasion.

Although it was put down to a coincidence at the time this was not the case. The crossword compiler was the headmaster of the Strand School, and adjacent to the school was a large camp of US and Canadian troops preparing for D-Day, and as security around the camp was lax, there was unrestricted contact between the schoolboys and soldiers. The words spoken by some loose-lipped G.I.s were overheard by some of the pupils who supplied them to the headmaster as odd and interesting words who then put them in crosswords which he supplied to the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

British MI5 initially arrested the two men involved with the puzzles, Leonard Dawe the headmaster, and Melville Jones the crossword compiler. After extensive interrogation both were believed to be innocent and released. Dawe apparently was almost fired from his job at the school. Dawe then questioned Ronald French, the boy who gave him the words, and found them all in his notebook. He lectured the student about security and told him to burn his notebook and made the boy take an oath of secrecy on the Bible. It wasn’t until 1958 that the headmaster told the full story in a BBC interview.

What I found most interesting about this is that the vaunted MI5, guardian of the British secrets, found four breaches in one month and decided it was just coincidental. That seems impossible. Just a bit more interrogation should have pointed out the lax security precautions at the camp demanded greater separation and much tighter security. The puzzle compiler did not know he was giving away military secrets, but the Germans may have been able to use those words to figure out that the Normandy invasion was real and not a deception.



It is not RADAR, it is Carrots!

Station Hypo, the Cryptology Information Warfare website says that during the 1940 Blitzkrieg, the German Luftwaffe often bombed Great Britain under the cover of darkness. The British government issued citywide blackouts to make it more difficult for the German pilots to find their targets. The Royal Air Force had a secret defensive weapon called RADAR. Using it, they could locate the German bombers approaching the Channel early and mass their fighter forces against those bombers. The Germans would certainly figure out that the British had a new weapon and seek to destroy it. How could the British fool the Germans and keep their RADAR a secret?

Essential for night sight…
Image courtesy of Flickr user US National Archives Bot

The files of the Imperial War Museum, the Mass Observation Archive, and the UK National Archives, provided one possible answer. Carrots!

In 1940, RAF night fighter ace, John Cunningham, nicknamed “Cat’s Eyes,” was the first to shoot down an enemy plane using radar. He would later add 19 more kills while flying at night. The British Ministry told newspapers that the reason for their nighttime success against the German bombers was because pilots like Cunningham ate an excess of carrots that were loaded with Vitamin A.

Carrots keep you healthy…
Image courtesy of the World Carrot Museum

There is no evidence that the Germans believed the story, but there are rumors that the Germans started giving their own pilots large numbers of carrots. Better safe than sorry. The British civilians did seem to fall for the story. The saw posters that said, "Carrots keep you healthy and help you see in the blackout." The British Ministry's "War Cookery Leaflet 4" was filled with recipes for carrot pudding, carrot cake, carrot marmalade and carrot flan. Concoctions like "Carrolade" made from rutabagas and carrots emerged from other similar sources. Even Walt Disney got involved. He produced a Carrot Family cartoon for the British featuring Dr. Carrot, Carroty George, Pop Carrot and Clara Carrot.


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Count Claus Shenk von Stauffenberg

With all the publicity surround the Tom Cruise movie Valkerie, telling the story of Count Claus Shenk von Stauffenberg’s attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler, there are many people who believe that there was a strong anti-Nazi movement within Germany. In fact, there was not. There was, however, an attempt by the British to trick the Germans into believing such a movement existed. Its story is told in part in SOE’s Ultimate Deception: Operation Periwig , Fredric Boyce, Sutton Printing, UK, 2005.

The Allies were constantly looking for an anti-Nazi organization within Germany. Unfortunately, there was none. There were several attempts by various generals to eliminate Hitler, but there was never a serious organized opposition within the German people. Because the British wanted to attack German morale and cause their security forces some additional problems, a decision was made to run a black deception operation that would make the Hitler government believe that there was an organized anti-Nazi movement within Germany. It was called Operation Periwig.

The British PSYOP Order of Battle

Just as the American propaganda organization started out as the Coordinator of Information (COI) and later became the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and Office of War Information (OWI); the British went through similar growth problems. In 1939 there were three organizations duplicating each others work. There was Section D of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) also known as MI6 with the mission of covert offensive action; the Military Intelligence Research Unit of the War Office tasked with the preparation of guerrilla weapons and tactics against Germany; and Electra House, a propaganda unit attached to the Foreign Office also known as the Department of Propaganda in Enemy Countries. They were combined into the Special Operations Executive (SOE).

Winston Churchill ordered SOE to “Set Europe ablaze.” It was to promote sabotage and subversion and supply arms and equipment to anti-Nazi movements in occupied Europe. In 1940 its London headquarters was 64 Baker Street where it used the cover name Inter-Services Research Bureau. SOE initially consisted of three branches; SO1 (Propaganda), SO2 (Active Operations) and SO3 (Planning).

On 11 September 1941 the Political Warfare Executive (PWE) was announced. It was headquartered in Woburn Abbey and had the mission of spreading propaganda by leaflet and radio. The PWE actually was created from SOE’s SO1 branch, which had itself been formed from the old Electra House unit.

The two agencies worked fairly well together though there was certainly much infighting. This mostly ended in late 1943 when due to the coming invasion of Europe; psychological warfare was made a responsibility of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF). A Psychological Warfare Division (PWD) was created within SHAEF. This division was made up of a combined force of American OWI and British PWE operatives.

The Periwig Plan

The Periwig Planning Section was set up within the German Directorate of the SOE on 12 November 1944. The SOE and PWE were to use every method possible to convince the Germans of an anti-Nazi organization, to include dispatch of agents and supplies, false messages in easily broken code, open appeals over the radio and in leaflets, and the planting of rumors, what the British call “sibs.” SOE was certain that they could cause administrative chaos within Germany. There was even hope that perhaps British Intelligence was wrong, and there actually were German resistance movements that might be motivated to arise by the British campaign, especially among Germany’s Catholics. There was resistance to the plan. If the Germans were convinced of a resistance movement within their borders, they might increase security, making it more difficult for Allied agents in the Third Reich to accomplish their missions.

One of the darker operations was to have German double-agents airdropped into their homeland with defective parachutes. Such an operation is mentioned in Between Silk and Cyanide, Leo Marks, Simon and Schuster, 2000. The author mentions a British agent being told by his commanding general that a German volunteer who was dropped on his homeland with fake Periwig codebooks met with an “accident.”

You will be sorry to hear that your friend Schiller has met with a fatal accident. They will have found the code books on him by now so get a move on with those dummy messages…

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The People’s Radio

There were many such plans. Some would have been very deadly for innocent civilians as the British considered putting sabotage plans and codes in the baggage of individuals traveling to Germany. There was a discussion of preparing a radio transmitter that looked like the “People’s Radio” that every German was allowed to own. They British copies would be battery powered and could be dropped by aircraft where they would automatically turn on and transmit for brief periods on and off for up to seven days, making the security forces think there was active radio traffic to Britain from within Germany.

Other plans proposed the dropping of empty parachutes, empty containers, radios, propaganda and sabotage material, documents, German uniforms, carrier pigeons and various other objects that would imply that agents and supplies had been entered into the Third Reich.

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Periwig Postcard
Courtesy of

The Periwig postcard has red typewriter text that says in part:

If you want to spare yourself unnecessary pains, pay attention to the following instructions…The more vigorously you jump, the more reliable is the break of the neck... Don't hesitate! The Horst Wessel Standard is calling! Heil Hitler!" /p>

To show that the resistance movement was using the German post, in an operation called “G.7,” a number of postcards bearing threats were sent to prominent Germans. The cards are sometimes called “the horse cards” because they bear a cancel of a horse in red ink, allegedly the symbol of the underground movement.

There were actually so many plans and rumors that I hesitate to list them all since it would take several thousand words. Let me summarize thusly. The possible operations were broken up into: Agents, genuine activity, plants (neutral and occupied countries), Germany, wireless telegraph, the post, suspicious activities, rumors, pamphlets, the British Broadcasting Corporation and the Press. To study one category; “Pamphlets” entailed the distribution in neutral, occupied and German territory of pamphlets consisting of instructions, hints about the existence of the organization, details of an escape organization and encouragement to malinger, desert, strike or slow work production.

Different propaganda was prepared for each target group. Among those groups and the code allotted to each was the Wehrmacht (German armed forces - W), the separatists (S), the church (C), Railway workers (R), foreign labor (F), industrial and mining labor, the Party and police (P) and the industrialists (I). There are other codes whose meaning is unknown. An example of the coded operations is R.5 which involved the planting of a fake Reichsbahn (National Railway) circular concerning sabotage which would fall into the hands of a Swiss railway official. Operation C.1 was a letter from an alleged Catholic group to a Bishop demanding his cooperation with the resistance movement.

Some agents were actually dropped into Germany. Lee Richards mentions the operations in British Black Propaganda – Operation Periwig, on his website:

The first two Bonzos (German volunteers) were dispatched on the night of 2/3 April. Dressed in military uniform they were parachuted into the Bremen area. One agent, Gerhardt Bienecke, using the alias Breuer, was assigned the task of supplying codes and a signals plan to SS-Sturmbannführer Dr. Eggen in Berlin. The codes were disguised in a packet of coffee which had to be passed on to Dr. Eggen using cut-outs or, as a last resort, by direct contact. The mission of the second agent, Leonhardt Kick, alias Kauffmann, was to act as a courier for a Bremen resistance cell. W/T equipment including the high-speed squirt transmitter was parachuted with him. Kick later reported that his W/T equipment was lost during the jump and probably ended up in the hands of the German authorities, just as SOE had hoped it would. He also claimed to have shot one of two Gestapo men who doubted the authenticity of his papers. After which he traveled to the town of Delmenhorst and awaited the arrival of Allied troops. Bienecke surfaced in the Russian zone in August 1945 and had by all accounts tried to fulfill his mission.

A second pair of agents was parachuted on the night of 18/19 April west of Chiem See. Otto Heinrich, alias Hoffmann, and Franz Lengnick, alias Lange, were dropped in Luftwaffe uniforms and tasked to contact a resistance organization in the Bavarian mountains. They were to train them in the latest techniques of preparing landing operations for the exfiltration of important persons. They both survived the mission and alleged to have in fact contacted several small resistance groups and undertaken an unsuccessful sabotage operation. Of course their stories could not be substantiated.


The Periwig Operation appears to have been a failure. The concept was to overtax the German security apparatus and force them to waste time constantly looking for resistance operations within the Third Reich. It soon became clear that the German security forces were far greater than any small threat that a propaganda operation could send against them. There might have been some minor discomfort to the German security, but the British were simply unable to put together an operation large enough to cause any damage. Some critics of the propaganda operation say that all it accomplished was to convince many people outside Germany that there was a viable German underground. That resulted in the myth of the “good” Germans who had fought in the resistance against Hitler. PWE Propaganda Chief Sefton Delmer mentions this myth in Black Boomerang:

How ironic is this legend of the good upright patriotic Germans of the Wehrmacht being the bitter enemies of the Nazi Party and the Gestapo! How ironic that this legend should now be the justification for all those things happening I hoped would not happen. For the Germans forgetting that they were responsible for Hitler, for their rearmament, and the revival of their ambitions of territorial conquest. (`Restoration of Germany's lost territories' is what they call it today.) For the return of Hitler's judges and civil servants to key posts in the new Germany. Ironic, because the propagation of that legend was the work of my unit and my men… We bolstered and built up the legend to help in the overthrow of Hitler. Now, in this flourishing, rebuilt, reinvigorated Germany it is being used to summon back his ghost.


The Japanese build an Optical Illusion

 The Japanese are not known for their deception at war (except perhaps for sneak attacks against the Russian and United States Navy before war was actually declared). This is an interesting attempt at preparing an optical illusion. Duck hunters put out decoys to call ducks to the area where the hunters are hiding with their shotguns. The Japanese tried to decoy Americans into an area of concentrated flak by painting a 300-foot B-29 at the Tien Ho airfield in China on March 9, 1945 that from bombing altitude would appear to be a B-29 in trouble with its port engine afire. The Japanese thought other B-29s would fly over to see the condition of the aircraft and possibly count the crew bailing out. An interesting trap but it is doubtful that it was successful. 

KOREA 1950-1953

The Far East Command report Psychological Warfare Operations states:

To support the planned September landings at Inchon, Far East Command devised a leaflet campaign to support deception operations designed to convince the North Koreans that a U.S. amphibious landing was planned for the Kunsan area rather than 100 miles north at Inchon. Leaflets dropped near Kunsan and other cities along the southwest coast encouraged civilians to stay away from beaches and dock areas and coincided with the appearance of a U.N. naval task force and commando landing at Kunsan.


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Beer Bottle Bombs

Sometime truth is stranger than fiction. In two motion pictures the dropping of empty bottles was featured. In the 1966 motion picture Cast a Giant Shadow Frank Sinatra plays an American member of the fledgling Israeli Air Force who flies an unarmed biplane over Arab forces and drops seltzer bottles on the enemy in an attempt to frighten or disorient them.

In the 1980 movie The Gods Must be Crazy a member of the Sho tribe name Xixo finds an empty cola bottle that has been thrown from an airplane over the Kalahari Desert. The bottle turns out to be a curse sent by the Gods to his peaceful society and he attempts to walk to the end of the earth to throw it away.

Political Officer Peter Hinchcliffe was assigned to Aden during the “Emergency” when Arab nationalists tried to overthrow the British-supported government. He was the representative of the Government of Aden liaising between the authorities in Aden and the up-country sheikhs and sultans. He told me of a British deception operation that involved empty bottles:

Another example of PSYOP was the dropping of empty beer bottles on rebelling tribesmen from a Shackleton bomber at 20,000 feet. The bottles whistled as the came down but when hitting the ground they disintegrated silently. The tribesmen were led to believe that these were time bombs which would be activated unless they made their peace with government. I can not vouch for the accuracy of this but it was widely talked about as a tactic when I was in South Arabia.  My impression at the time was that PSYOP was not taken seriously, was generally crude and unimaginative and no way could cope with the inspirational nationalistic rousing output of Cairo Radio-Saut Al Arab-which was beamed into every transistor in the land and with which our feeble propaganda broadcast from Aden could in no way match.


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General Edward Lansdale (USAF) is mentioned in The Vietnam Experience - Passing the Torch, Boston Publishing Company, MA, 1981. He was the master of “Dirty tricks.” Lansdale had served with the Office of Strategic Services in WWII. In the 1950s, Lansdale was transferred to the Philippines-based Joint United States Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG), to advise the intelligence services of the Armed Forces of the Philippines that were then faced with a serious threat to national security posed by the Communist Hukbong Mapagpalaya ng Bayan, (People's Liberation Army). While involved in the campaign against the HUKs, Lansdale helped create an ingenious military and intelligence operation that utilized a local and much feared legend: that of the terrifying Asuang Vampire. He said in his book In the Midst of Wars: An American’s Mission to Southeast Asia, Harper & Row, New York, 1972:

To the superstitious the HUK battleground was a haunted place filled with ghosts and eerie creatures…One PSYWAR operation played upon the popular dread of an Asuang, or vampire, to solve a difficult problem…Local politicians opposed Magsaysay’s plan of moving more troops out of defensive garrisons to form further mobile and aggressive battalion combat teams. In one town local bigwigs pointed out that a HUK squadron was based on a hill near town. If the troops left, they were sure the HUKs would swoop down on the town and the bigwigs would be their victims.

A combat psywar squad was brought in. It planted stories among town residents of an Asuang living on the hill where the HUKs were based. Two nights later, after giving the stories time to make their way up to the hill camp, the psywar squad set up an ambush along the trail used by the HUKs. When a HUK patrol came along the trail, the ambushers silently snatched the last man of the patrol, their move unseen in the dark night. They punctured his neck with two holes, vampire-fashion, held the body up by the heels, drained it of blood, and put the corpse back on the trail. When the HUKs returned to look for the missing man and found their bloodless comrade, every member of the patrol believed that the Asuang had go t him and that one of them would be next if they remained on that hill. When daylight came, the whole HUK squadron moved out of the vicinity.

The Eye of God

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Symbol of "The Eye of God"

Lansdale also took part in a program called “The Eye of God.” The concept was to get very exact and personal information about the enemy and then broadcast to him, using the names of officers and troops and pointing out that they were being watched. The guerrilla was made to believe that he was being watched at all times and had no secrets from the government. The Philippine Army later made use of the “Eye of God” against local HUK sympathizers. At night, while they slept, a PSYWAR team would sneak into town and paint an eye on the wall of a house facing the suspect.

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The Barefoot Soldiers

It was easy for the Viet Cong to track American soldiers through the bush because the heavy combat boots with the big anti-slip pattern on the sole was quite obvious. How to fool the Communist trackers? One experiment was to let them find the track of a person walking barefoot, surely a fellow Vietnamese guerrilla.

The U.S. Army Research Laboratory came up with these experimental boots during the Vietnam War to fool the enemy. They did not work very well because the weight of the American soldier still pushed the imprint deeper than a Vietnamese would, and often the actual sides of the boot also touched the ground living a border around the foot. Still, it was a nice attempt. The “sole boot” was an experiment and never an issue item. Natick Labs shipped about 20 pairs of the boot to Vietnam and it is believed that only a few were every used.

American Special Operations Group soldiers were already using various ways to disguise their footprints: wearing socks over their boots; strapping a pair of Ho Chi Minh sandals over them; grinding the tread off them; wearing tennis shoes; wearing Ho Chi Minh sandals; and even walking barefoot. It is doubtful that any of these tricks would fool a good tracker. They are looking at the length and width and depth of a footprint and a 200-pound American’s track will always be very different than a 130-pound Vietnamese.

Note: Retired Major Ed Rouse, our webmaster told me that while he was attending the Tactical Intelligence school at Fort Huachuca he got to see and actually handle a pair of these "barefoot" boots.


These are two of the strangest deceptions ever invented by American forces. The first was an attempt to make a sensor that would be invisible to the Viet Cong enemy. These scatterable sensors were small devices, mostly seismic. They consisted of a seismic detector, a transmitter, an internal antenna, and a battery in a fiberglass or plastic case made to look like animal droppings. Because they were small, their batteries and transmitters were small. The battery life was not long, just a few days. The sensors are about 4 inches long and fashioned in the shape of animal feces. The report U. S. Air Ground Operations Against the Ho Chi Minh Trail, 1966-1972 adds that the sensors were first made to look like dog excrement, but it was then discovered that there were no dogs along the Ho Chi Minh Trail. I have also heard “back-channel” that one of the problems was that the Viet Cong burned water buffalo turds to make their tea and rice and many of the very expensive sensors were burned by hungry guerrillas. 

National Museum of the U.S. Air Force says about these sensors:

In the jungles of Vietnam, the USAF had to get creative in its efforts to transmit radio signals on the ground. First deployed in 1970, this 4-inch-long T-1151 “Doo” Transmitter was made with a peat moss shell to resemble the feces of a dog or monkey. Because its outward appearance discouraged close examination, the radio transmitter’s signal usually lasted up to several weeks.

The Fake Scrotum
Photo byTina Krohn: The International Spy Museum

Even stranger that the fake feces was the fake scrotum invented by Tony Mendez, the CIA's former Chief of Disguise. He designed a fake scrotum during the Vietnam War as a means of concealing an escape radio when captured and strip-searched. The logic behind it was that captors are less likely to spend a lot of time searching a man’s groin area. This idea although brilliant and certainly outside-the-box was never used in combat. I suspect it would have been quite uncomfortable to wear.

Communists Weapons Exploding in Vietnam

Technical Intelligence Brief 2-68

During the Vietnam War the U.S. Military Assistance Command - Vietnam warned the troops that they should not pick up captured AK-47s and fire them. It seemed like a normal safety memorandum and said in part:

In recent months, several incidents have been reported to COMUSMACV concerning CHICOM AK-47s which have exploded in use. Technical intelligence brief 2-68 explains in detail two early incidents and contains a comprehensive technical analysis of the possible causes of failures as well as the resulting injuries to the users.

MACV Directive 381-24 prohibits use of the captured weapons and munitions. Chief among the reasons for this is the fact that the degree of quality control exercised in the manufacture of Communist Bloc arms varies from excellent to poor. The allied soldier who uses a captured weapon is gambling that it will not blow up in his face, causing either serious injury or death.

Secondly, retention of these weapons by the individual deprives allied agencies of information required for technical intelligence purposes, which in turn benefits every soldier in the field. (MACV)

The question we must ask is was this written to warn our soldiers of danger not because of poor workmanship, but because the United States was leaving AK-47 ammunition around the battlefield sabotaged so that it would explode when fired. At the same time MACV was warning soldiers of the sloppy Russian and Chinese manufacture, MACV-SOG, their “Studies and Observation Group” under the various code-names Project Eldest Son, changed to Italian Green or Pole Bean after word of the operation started to spread, was infiltrating exploding cartridges into supplies used by communist combat forces. The sabotaged rounds would increase the typical chamber pressure of a Type 56 AK from 45,000 PSI to 250,000 PSI!

AK-47 cartridges were sabotaged to explode in the barrel when fired

United States technicians assembled 11,565 7.62×39mm cartridges for AK-47 rifles, 556 12.7×108mm heavy machine gun cartridges, and 1,968 82mm Type 67 mortar shells to detonate in the weapon when firing was attempted. This operation seemed to have existed from about 1966 to 1969.

Captured ammunition was partially disassembled and reassembled by CIA technicians in Okinawa. Rifle and machine gun cartridges had the smokeless powder replaced with a high explosive of similar appearance which would generate approximately five times the design pressure of firearms. The bolt and pieces of an exploding AK-47 receiver would typically be projected backward into the head of the individual firing the rifle. Substitute fuses were placed in the mortar shells to detonate the shell when the mortar fired. Explosions of the team-fired machine guns and mortars often killed or injured anyone near the exploding weapon.

At the same time, the SOG spread rumors of Chinese armaments factories producing faulty munitions. According to some of these planted stories, deficient ammo was knowingly being transferred to communist troops in Vietnam by careless and indifferent government officials in Beijing. It was hoped that this might lead to a rift between the two communist powers. The U.S. Armed Forces Radio Network, which was routinely monitored by enemy intelligence, added to the disinformation by advising GIs to avoid using captured weapons because of the risk posed by defective Chinese bullets.

Technical Intelligence Brief No. 2-68, circulated to U.S. and South Vietnamese units, examined several exploded AKs, concluding they were destroyed by "defective metallurgy resulting in fatigue cracks" or "faulty ammunition, which produced excessive chamber pressure." An SOG operative left a copy at a Saigon bar whose owners were suspected enemy agents.

The SOG even went so far as to forge official looking VC and NVA communiqués reporting the hazardous ammunition. The bogus documents were dropped in the field for enemy units to recover and pass along to their superiors. One forged Viet Cong document said:

We know that it is rumored some of the ammunition has exploded in the AK-47. This report is greatly exaggerated. It is a very, very small percentage of the ammunition that has exploded.

A second forged document announced:

Only a few thousand such cases have been found thus far. The People's Republic of China may have been having some quality control problems, but these are being worked out and we think that in the future there will be very little chance of this happening.

The Military Assistance Command clearly did not want to talk about this operation. In their own report titles MACSOG documentation study – psychological operations, 10 July 1970 they state that they will just mention it but go into no depth:

Because of being a unilateral program and because of the nature of its activities, information concerning the program was very closely held within SOG and higher need-to-know organizations.

The report is hundreds of pages long, but Eldest Son is mentioned just four times and Pole Bean is mentioned 9 times. Some of the comments are:

Authorization to implement a program that involved contamination and insertion of Chinese Communist 7.62 mm small arms, 12.7 mm machine gun, and 82 mm mortar ammunition into the Viet Cong / North Vietnamese logistical system was given by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in August 1967. The nickname assigned to the project at that time was ELDEST SON. Because of the sensitive nature or the project, the nickname was first changed to ITALIAN GREEN, and later to POLE BEAN. The object or the program was to cause incidents and casualties among the enemy, thus instigating doubt, fear, and lack of confidence in the reliability of Soviet and Chinese weaponry

The ammunition was controlled and inserted by U.S. personnel only and in a manner to prevent detection or US involvement. In October 1967, Military Assistance Command-Vietnam proposed to expand ELDEST SON into Cambodia and the Republic of Vietnam. The approval from the Joint Chiefs of Staff authorized the operations in the Republic of Vietnam but held the expansion into Cambodia in abeyance. It was to be a year, October 1968, before the DANIEL BOONE teams were authorized to insert ELDEST SON into Cambodia.


One of the strangest deception campaigns ever was probably the Vietnam War “Magic Eye.” The declassified United States Military Assistance Command Vietnam Command History Volume II 1967 says in part:

During early 1967…the 4th Infantry Division developed a novel PSYOP device for detecting Viet Cong which was called the “Magic Eye.” It consisted of two boxes which were equipped with impressive dials, gauges, colored lights, horns and an antenna. The people…were told that the device would reveal anyone who was a Viet Cong, and those who confessed would not be mistreated. When known Viet Cong entered the area between the two boxes, a hidden observer activated a switch which caused lights to flash and horns to sound. In one community three Viet Cong confessed before reaching the “Magic Eye.”

The operation itself proved a failure. After the second mission, some members of our staunch allies, the Army of Vietnam (ARVN's) were seen running off with our generator set from what had once been a locked storage shed at Binh Thuy Vietnamese Air Force Base. Without the power source all further missions were cancelled. Those spotlight missions were innovative and showed a great deal of originality and imagination, but unfortunately it would take a lot more to defeat the Viet Cong insurgency.

Major Michael G. Barger says in his U.S. Army Command and General Staff College 2007 Master’s thesis Psychological Operations Supporting the Counterinsurgency: 4th PSYOP Group in Vietnam:

Another problem with combat commanders failing to integrate PSYOP into their plans was overestimation, where commanders thought PSYOP could produce instant results on the battlefield. This misunderstanding sometimes resulted in resort to gimmickry in an effort to produce immediate results, such as the 4th Infantry Division’s use of a device they called the “magic eye,” two boxes with non-functional dials, gauges, antennae, and remotely operated lights. U.S. personnel told villagers that the device would detect VC, and that they would receive better treatment if they confessed before the device revealed them.

Lieutenant Colonel Beck [Commander – 6th PSYOP Battalion], in his Senior Officer Debrief, called the use of such gimmickry, “more-or-less desperate attempts to find a quick solution” to show “solid evidence of positive results.” Beck asserted that effective PSYOP takes time and instant results are usually the result of other factors that predisposed a target audience to complying with a PSYOP argument. He also pointed out that units could not sustain trickery for long, and once the lie was revealed it would damage the credibility of PSYOP personnel. Worse, once gimmickry failed to achieve results, the commander who once overestimated the potential of PSYOP now was even more inclined to relegate PSYOP to an ancillary function rather than integrate it into his combat plans.

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The People Sniffer vs. the bucket

During the Vietnam War, the Allied forces needed a way to “sniff out” the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army troops hiding below the triple canopy jungle. The Navy had used a similar technique during WWII to locate submerged German submarines emitting an invisible diesel exhaust trail into the air. Using high-tech methods, a number of “people sniffers” were invented that allowed a machine to find organic smells and point out where the enemy might be hiding. The General Electric detection method used by people sniffers depended on effluents unique to human beings; such as the ammonia found in urine and sweat. The system was designed to be used by individual soldiers using a man-pack, and helicopters using large suction systems.

The man-pack systems were very risky because if the wind was from your back you might walk into an enemy position, or get multiple false readings from your own squad walking behind you.

The “Snoopy” helicopters had two large air scoops that led to a console with a visor over it so that an operator could stick his head in there and read what was being smelled even in bright light. Since the choppers had to fly low and slow to sniff, it was a very dangerous mission. This operation was mentioned in the formerly secret United States Military Assistant Command Vietnam Command History Volume II 1967. In a section entitled “Novel Ideas and Innovations” we find the following comments.

In November the 9th Infantry Division developed a hard-hitting PSYOP plan to be used with the “People Sniffer,” a human detection device mounted on a helicopter. Once the enemy elements are located by the people sniffer, leaflets were dropped and loudspeakers were used to warn the enemy that an air or artillery attack was eminent. Following the offensive action, the enemy was reminded again by leaflets and loudspeakers of the destruction that could be brought upon them, and urged to rally to the Government of Viet Nam. Maximum psychological impact could be gained by locating the enemy in an area he thought was safe, by warning him of the destruction that was going to be brought to bear, and by following up with an appeal to him to rally to avoid future attacks.

This all sounds very nice and one might ask, “Where is the deception?” The Viet Cong were not stupid. The quickly learned about the high-tech system and used what might be considered the lowest-tech system possible to defeat it. Since the sniffers were looking for ammonia and other organic smells from human sweat and waste, the Viet Cong hung buckets of mud with urine or feces in trees, urinated on, and “marked” trees, and then moved to another area. These very basic and almost primitive tactics essentially rendered people sniffers ineffective in jungle terrain, but they remained useful in open areas, such as those found in the Mekong Delta.

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Is that a South Vietnamese Machine gunner?
Associated Press

In November, 1972, as the war slowed down, the Viet Cong and NVA still sent occasional infiltrators into Allied bases and fired artillery rounds as a form of harassment. Here the ARVN has prepared a dummy with an M-60 machine gun outside an army base near Quang Tri and placed it out in the open. It was hoped that this would slow the infiltration and also mislead enemy forward Vietnamese observers who had been directing artillery attacks on South Vietnamese units. Let them waste shells on dummies.


Leaflet H7-89-70

We talk about “The Magic Eye” above. This is another invention that might or might not exist. I lean toward the theory that it was a PSYOP hoax to keep the local Vietnamese out of areas that were prohibited, but there is a remote possibility that some sort of security device was used. The leaflet was requested by the American 101st Airborne Division and handed out to Vietnamese workers on their base in 1970. It tells of a secret, invisible ray that will identify Viet Cong spies and saboteurs:

Attention Citizens:

To protect the Vietnamese Nationals who work on this base, the police at this installation are using a special kind of light beam to root out communist saboteurs who infiltrate the base by mingling with innocent groups of workers.

This detecting device, operated by electricity, puts out an invisible beam. It is completely harmless. When honest people approach the device, no signal is given off. But if communist saboteurs or their accomplices pass by, then an alarm will be set off.

When these troublemakers sneak out at night and enter restricted areas, special kinds of extremely small particles attach themselves to their clothing. When they pass by the detection device at the installation, these small particles will cause the invisible beam to give off a signal and, thus reveal the presence of the infiltrators. Those who do not visit restricted areas cannot activate the device.

Something like this could be done today, but remember, this is over 50 years ago. I asked some veterans that were expert in electronics if something like this is possible, and the answer was “not at that time.” One thought that there could be way to use particles, but not a secret beam. Another said that similar tactics were used with lie detector tests and the machines cold be made to make a loud sound whenever they wanted to convince a suspect that he lied, or even print a piece of paper that said “Lie.” So, until I learn more, I am going to call this leaflet “deceptive.”

Fake NVA and Viet Cong Fighters

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South Vietnam Special Forces soldier dressed as a soldier of the People’s Army of North Vietnam

I should start this section by mentioning that the British had used what they called “Pseudo Operations” for years against guerrilla forces. In Kenya and Malaya they used some white soldiers with dyed skin and captured clothes to act as Mau Mau or Malayan Communist soldiers along with former enemy soldiers that had defected. In Rhodesia the government dressed white soldiers in blackface as Communist insurgents and sent them behind the lines with black troops. They could meet and be accepted by the enemy as allies and kill or capture them, or harass friendly civilian villages hoping to make them think it was done by the guerrillas and making them distrust and hate the insurgent forces. In Vietnam the Americans used members of the South Vietnam Special Forces Luc Luong Dac Biet (LLDB) to go behind the lines dressed as the Viet Cong or the People’s Army of North Vietnam. This was part of Project Delta operations.

To Bomb or Not

We all know about camouflage and as an NCO I had to teach my own troops how to apply and use it. They would hide their fighting holes and I would walk down a kill zone and try to spot them. In every war, our troops learn to camouflage the artillery, tanks and sometimes entire armies as the Germans did in the “unpassable” forest before they invaded France. In Vietnam, along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the Viet Cong would tie trees together and pull them so that they made a thick green screen over their vehicles. In the picture above, a reconnaissance aircraft spots this tree in an open field. Does it call in fighter-bombers or not? The answer is yes. This is a truck, either VC or Pathet Lao hidden in the open with only camouflage to protect it. I think I can almost see the tire tracks leading to that tree in the lower left corner.


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Lansdale hinted that the United States might drop atom bombs

General Edward Lansdale (See Philippine section) was next sent to Saigon by the Central Intelligence Agency to gather intelligence on the Communists and do everything possible to disrupt Ho Chi Minh's organization of the populace of North Vietnam.  His organization in Vietnam was called the Phái Bô Quân Sú Saigon (Saigon Military Mission).

Lansdale organized rumor campaigns in Hanoi threatening Chinese rule under Ho, and claiming that Chinese soldiers were raping Vietnamese women. He printed fake Viet Minh leaflets which were disseminated in the North and threatened property confiscation, monetary changes and harsh treatment of workers under the Communist regime. He started rumors that “Christ has gone to the South” and “the Virgin Mary has departed from the North.” He hinted that the United States might eventually drop atom bombs on the North. He produced leaflets that implied that Vietnamese would be sent into China to work as railroad laborers. Whatever he did, nearly one million North Vietnamese fled southward, many of them Catholics. Photographs of the mass migration were all over the newspapers and newsreels, making wonderful anti-Communist propaganda.

The Falkland War Sinking of
the British Aircraft Carrier Invincible

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Invincible silhouette on Argentine aircraft

This is an interesting story that could be a clever deception operation or simply a mistake. Governments might be involved or it might be wishful thinking on the part of excited pilots and patriotic citizens.

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Argentine Super Etendard

There is an Argentine study of the Falklands War sea battle by Rolando Mendez entitled, “30 May 1982 - Not so Invincible – The story of an Attack Denied by the British.” Mendez claims that on 30 May an Argentine Super Etendard armed with an AM39 Exocet missile piloted by Lieutenant Commander Alejandro Francisco and two A4 Skyhawks each armed with three 500-pound bombs piloted by First Lieutenant Ernesto Rubén Ureta and Subaltern Gerardo Guiller attacked the British aircraft carrier Invincible. They allegedly used information stolen from a Russian satellite relay station to pinpoint the carrier. They attacked from the south after refueling twice from C-130 Hercules tankers. The Super Etendard navigated to find the target and fired the last Exocet in the Argentine inventory at a distance of approximately 24 miles. The Invincible was allegedly struck by the missile. The A4s followed the wake of the missile and bombed the carrier scoring three hits. Allegedly, the pilots were questioned in detail after the raid and were absolutely positive that they had hit the Invincible. The author says that the British later claimed that the target was the Atlantic Conveyor, a giant container ship that might look like an aircraft carrier. The British say that the Invincible was never attacked. Still, the author’s article depicts an Argentine fighter bearing the symbol of a hit on the Invincible on its fuselage so it appears that the Argentine Government, or the aircraft commander or crew chief was convinced.

So, what are the options? The Argentines might have claimed to hit the Invincible to shore up their morale. The British might have hidden the strike to shore up their morale. The mission might have never happened. One conspiracy theory claims that there were two aircraft carriers Invincible. What could be the origin of such a story?

The theory that the Invincible was sunk or severely damaged during the Falklands War has been on the internet for years and may be widely believed in Argentina. There are some conspiracy theorists that even go so far as to claim that there were two identical Invincibles and one was sunk, or that press photos of the Invincible returning home at the end of the war are fake. Let’s assume that the pilots genuinely believe they had hit the Invincible. Could there be two of them? During the Second World War the British started a rumor campaign that there were two identical Ark Royal aircraft carriers. The idea was for the Germans to think that the perfidious English had cheated on the Washington Naval Treaty and the Royal Navy had twice as many capital ships as they were authorized to have. Could it be that some Argentine General recalled the old British deception of the two Ark Royals from WWII? After the Argentine pilots claimed to have sunk the Invincible and the BBC depicted the Invincible sailing into harbor intact, he might think that it was just like WWII when those crafty British had two identical Ark Royals. Now they have two Invincibles. He might believe that his pilots were right and did sink one of them. So, we must ask, is it British or Argentine disinformation?

The website El Malvinense (The Falklander) adds that according to the British official history, on 17 September 1982, the aircraft carrier HMS Invincible returned to Portsmouth after 166 days on the high seas. It then says:

Curiously, there aren’t any photos of the arrival. However, you can see lots of photos of the Hermes and other important ships that returned to England. The Queen of England, accompanied by Prince Philip visited the supposed Invincible that day, but no photo exists. It was the last ship to get to port. (The others arrived between June and August).

The only investigators of the mystery, the Yahoo group “Malvinas, seguimos ganando*” (who maintain that the ship sank), have discovered that the Invincible was replaced after the war by its twin, the HMS Illustrious, in order to hide what really happened on 30 May 1982.

* might be translated as "Falklands, We Continue to Win."

I don’t know who is fooling who and am not sure that anyone is fooling anyone. I leave it for the reader to put together this puzzle. Until proven otherwise I must assume that the Invincible returned home safely and the Argentine claim of a strike on the carrier is either deception or error.


The U.S. Army Central Command (CENTCOM) attack plan for Operation Desert Storm is stated in a condensed form in Conduct of the Persian Gulf War, Department of Defense, 1992:

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The plan envisioned a supporting attack along the Kuwait-Saudi Arabia border by the I Marine Expeditionary Force (I MEF) and Arab Coalition Forces to hold most forward Iraqi divisions in place. At the same time, two Army corps, augmented with French and United Kingdom divisions, more than 200,000 soldiers, would sweep west of the Iraqi defenses, strike deep into Iraq, cut Iraqi lines of communication and destroy the Republican Guards forces.


CENTCOM Leaflet – The Wave (Color)

The problem was that the attack from the west was so obvious to even the most amateur of tacticians that it seemed impossible to surprise the Iraqis. Military experts on CNN and other news channels were talking about the open flank of the Iraqi army on a regular basis. How could the Coalition entice the Iraqis to look southward and eastward while they unleashed their "blitzkrieg" from the west? CENTCOM decided that the best way to hoodwink the Iraqis was to prepare and disseminate an aerial propaganda leaflet that seemed to indicate an invasion from the sea. The leaflet was code-named "The Wave." It was produced in both color and black and white. It depicted a snarling United States  Marine in a tidal wave approaching the shore of Kuwait. The Marine holds a bloodstained "Kabar" fighting knife and three Iraqi soldiers are shown running away. In the background helicopters, aircraft and naval ships take part in the invasion. The back of the leaflet is all text:


To seek refuge safely, the bearer must strictly adhere to the following procedures.

1. Remove the magazine from your weapon.
2. Sling your weapon over your left shoulder, muzzle down.
3. Have both arms raised above your head.
4. Approach the Multi-National forces' positions slowly, 
with the lead soldier holding this document above his head.
5. If you do that, you will not die.

The full-color leaflet was requested by CENTCOM on 7 January to be delivered on 11 January 1991. On that date 12,000 of the leaflets were to be stuffed into empty plastic water bottles and placed where the waves and tides would carry them to the beaches of Kuwait.

88,000 of the black and white leaflets are believed to have been dropped by U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon all-purpose fighter-bombers on 15 January and another 120,000 leaflets on 6 February 1991. I recall removing a few of the black and white varieties from a roll in a demonstration leaflet bomb shortly afterwards.

The Iraqi plan was to clog up and mire the Coalition armored forces with their frontline divisions made up of recruits and draftees. The poorly trained and unmotivated regular conscripts would take a terrible mauling, but Saddam hoped they would slow the Coalition forces, break up their formations and make them vulnerable for his elite Republican Guard divisions which would then attack the Allies from deep within Kuwait with speed and force.

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CENTCOM leaflet – The Wave (Black & White)

In order to convince the Iraqi leadership that an attack was about to be launched from the sea, the US Navy maneuvered in the waters just off the Kuwait shoreline. Navy seals conducted beach and island reconnaissance missions. The Marines appeared and disappeared practicing their invasion techniques, all designed to keep the Iraqis nervous. Meanwhile, south of Kuwait, the 1st Cavalry Division aggressively raided into Kuwait from their positions in Saudi Arabia even before the start of the ground war. Coalition forces broadcast increasing radio traffic to indicate the presence of several divisions. All of these acts were part of a deception aimed at keeping the Iraqis from looking everywhere but to the west.

Dr. Stanley Sandler discusses the deception operation in "Cease Resistance: It’s Good for You": A History of U.S. Army Combat Psychological Operations, 2nd Edition, 1999. USASOC, US Army. He says:

Other leaflets added to the CENTCOM Commander's deception plan, reinforced by idle civilian speculation, that hinted broadly of the probability of a spearhead Marine Corps landing on the beaches of Kuwait. (Presumably in order to retain the Coalition's PSYOP reputation for telling the truth, this leaflet did not state that "The Marines are coming," but rather simply called upon the Iraqis to "Cease resistance - Be Safe.").

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General Norman H. Schwarzkopf

Speaking of the disinformation campaign, Commanding General Norman H. Schwarzkopf said on 27 February 1991:

We continued our heavy operation out in the sea because we wanted the Iraqi's to believe that we were going to conduct a massive amphibious operation in this area. And I think many of you recall the amphibious rehearsals we had, to include "Imminent Thunder" that was written about quite extensively for many reasons. But we continue to have those operations because we wanted him to concentrate his forces where he did.

Mark Price discussed the leaflet campaign in The Fayetteville Observe-Times, 21 July 1991. He said:

Before the air war, before the ground war and well before the January 15 deadline for Iraq's withdrawal from Kuwait, the Army made its first assault on Saddam Hussein in the most unexpected of ways. It came in bottles, 12,000 of them. All non-returnable.

"We had this problem. We wanted to get leaflets into Kuwait, but we had to do it in a non-offensive way because of the deadline. At that point, they were still trying to use diplomatic channels to prevent war," recalled Sergeant Rachel Welch of Fort Bragg.

"Anything that crossed the border would have been seen as aggressive. But I thought a bottle washing up on the shore doesn't seem aggressive."

So, three weeks prior to the January 15 deadline, the Army's most unusual unit, the 4th Psychological Operations Group (Airborne), set out on the Persian Gulf War's most unusual operation.

The Wave, as it was called, was an offbeat yet critical mission in which psychological warfare leaflets were stuffed into bottles and set adrift for the shores of Kuwait. The idea was simple: reinforce the Iraqi's fear of an amphibious invasion by sending them little pictures of Marines assaulting the beaches.

The Army had no intention of following through, but that wasn't the point. If Saddam Hussein focused his defense of the shores of Kuwait, there would be little to stop the true Allied attack from the south and west. Dumped offshore by a smuggler from the United Arab Emirates, the bottles caught a predesignated current and began washing up on the beaches of Kuwait on January 14, one day before the deadline.

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Map of Operation Desert Storm Hail Mary Play

General Tommy Franks says in his autobiography American Soldier, Harper-Collins Books, NY, 2004:

Every night, psychological operation units drove trucks fitted with gigantic loudspeakers slowly back and forth along the border, playing recordings of clanking tanks and Bradleys. And this ruse complimented another of our PSYOP efforts, which broadcast bogus radio transmissions mimicking several heavy divisions moving forward to their final pre-attack tactical assembly areas.

Fox News reported that the Army built a fake base to fool Saddam Hussein. The centerpiece of this deception effort was at Forward Operating Base Weasel, an effort unlike anything since Operation Fortitude during WWII, the misinformation campaign designed to cover the real location for the D-Day invasions. The Americans even taped “Egyptian” radio traffic messages about the supposed American presence to be intercepted by the Iraqis.

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Task Force Troy loudspeaker equipped M113A2

The deception campaign was known as Task Force Troy. A 460 man “ghost” unit was created made up of 5 tanks, several wheeled vehicles and elements from the US Marines, British Army and the 4th Psychological Operations Group. Task Force Troy was given responsibility for an area of the Kuwaiti front which would normally have been covered by a full division. In order to deceive the enemy the unit relied on the use of deceptive decoys, armored vehicles, artillery pieces and helicopters, as well as a series of loudspeakers and dummy emplacements to complete the illusion. The unit played various PSYOP tapes, ranging from the sounds of tanks and trucks to helicopters landing and taking off. Those members of the Iraqi listening posts foolish enough to investigate were promptly engaged by awaiting Apache gunships or by A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft that were on standby to support the deception. The Iraqis soon lost interest in investigating the sounds and believed that they were faced with a military force of at least division strength.

Other technical aspects of the deception were mentioned in Shadow Warriors, Tom Clancy and General Carl Stiner, Putnam & Sons, NY, 2002:

Special Forces SEALs played an important role in the deception. Lieutenant General Walter E. Boomer, the Marine Corps CENTCOM commander, asked Navy Special Warfare Task Group commander Captain Ray Smith to develop a plan to help divert Iraqi armor in the Kuwait area. Boomer wanted to draw the Iraqi tanks and guns away from his own units and tie them down near the coast. The general suggested a diversionary landing operation; the SEAL leader quickly accepted.

After the air war began, the SEALs began looking for a beach where they could stage their mock invasion. Fifteen reconnaissance missions were undertaken in the area between the Saudi border and Ra's al Qulay'ah on the Kuwaiti coast.

On the night of 23 February the SEALS attacked the beach at Mina Su'ud. A six-man demolition team set off explosive charges along the beach while Navy ships and planes bombarded the area. Clancy says that two Iraqi divisions rushed to guard the beaches just as the Marine and Arab Forces ground attack pushed north into Kuwait.

Was the leaflet successful? The United States Army Community Relations office booklet Operation Desert Storm states, "As the ground campaign opened, Iraq had 43 divisions in the Kuwaiti Theater of War, comprising more than 500,000 personnel." They had just fought an eight-year war with Iran and were thought to be battle-hardened. Rumor has it that the United States sent 20,000 body bags to Saudi Arabia. What was the result of the ground war?

The booklet Special Report – The U.S. Army in Operation Desert Storm, Association of the United States Army, Arlington, VA, 1991 says in part:

In the meantime, as the air war deprived Saddam of the ability to see, a remarkable maneuver was taking place to position Coalition ground forces for the planned attack that would eventually result in the liberation of Kuwait. This part of the operation, involving the massive movement of two full corps (over 200,000 men and thousands of tons of equipment) to the west, started on January 17 under cover of air, sea and artillery bombardments.

Throughout this phase of the war, numerous feints, probes and mock attacks were conducted by various elements of the Coalition forces. On several occasions the Navy and Marines rehearsed invasions from the sea and throughout maintained a large presence in Gulf waters off the shores of Kuwait.

Jon Latimer tells us more of the Iraqi confusion in Deception in War, The Overlook Press, NY, 2001:

Even the defense of Kuwait City itself presumed that the main attack would come from the sea. Buildings facing the shore were evacuated and turned into fighting positions and the trench line extended throughout the city along the beach. In total, four armored divisions and seven infantry divisions were aligned to cover this threat from the sea.

Donald P. Wright wrote an article titled “Deception in the Desert - Deceiving Iraq in Operation Desert Storm” for ARMY UNIVERSITY PRESS. He said in part:

Because synchronization of the deception plan across the theater was so important, the Central Command deception plan directed several critical actions to occur simultaneously with the movement of the two corps into the attack positions.

CENTCOM allowed the media to cover the Marines as they rehearsed amphibious operations and broadcast stories about those preparations. General Schwarzkopf also made very public visits to Marine Amphibious units on 15 February, a move designed to keep Iraqi attention on the Persian Gulf. On 24 February, the first day of the ground offensive, the Marines and Navy mounted an amphibious feint that consisted of the battleship USS Missouri firing on an island just east of Kuwait City and SEAL teams landing on the Kuwaiti coast to detonate explosives simulating the first phase in Coalition amphibious landings.

The XVIII Airborne Corps nested its own deception plan under the CENTCOM deception framework. The corps fielded a twelve-person deception cell which had deployed to Saudi Arabia with camouflage decoys, communication emulators, and other equipment. Each of the four divisions in the corps had their own deception teams and equipment. On 13 February, 300 Soldiers, including the deception teams, PSYOPS teams, a signal company, an engineer platoon, a smoke platoon, and an infantry platoon, moved into what were called “deception tactical assembly areas” near the Kuwaiti border. These forces communicated and conducted operations that emulated major XVIII Airborne Corps units.

The corps reinforced the deception story by dropping half a million surrender leaflets on Iraqi units to the immediate north of the deception assembly areas and spreading messages in nearby Saudi communities about an impending attack due north.

By 18 February, the Iraqi Military Intelligence Directorate had figured out the deception plan and sent Saddam’s office a report that offered a generally accurate assessment of the Coalition Left Hook, including a warning that the enveloping force could easily strike deep into Iraq and cut off Iraqi forces in Kuwait. Thus, a week before the ground offensive was scheduled to begin, Saddam Hussein and his senior commanders had received a clear picture of the Coalition threat on the western flank and an accurate estimate of the intent of those forces. Yet the Iraqis did essentially nothing to counter this danger. As with the attacks at Pearl Harbor and on 9/11, sometimes accurate indicators can be drowned out in a cacophony of false noise.

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Iraqi III Corps commander's sand table

The ground war took exactly 100 hours. We will never know for sure what part "The Wave" leaflet played in Saddam's defeat, but we do know that the Iraqi III Corps commander's 20' x 30' sand table found in Kuwait City depicted virtually every Coalition avenue of approach from the sea. To the very end, Iraqi troops nervously watched the Persian Gulf for any sign of the dreaded U. S. Marines. They waited in vain. (Note) The sand table data above was gathered by the U.S. Army during the war. After the war, in mid-March 1991, a civilian “Free Kuwait Committee” worker named Michael Lorrigan visited the house, photographed the sand table and stated that the house was used by Hasan Ali Majid (Chemical Ali) when he was put in charge of Kuwait. There may be no conflict in these two statements. It is possible that both individuals used the house as their headquarters.

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A Coalition Intelligence Map in the Sand

Although this image has nothing to do with PSYOP; since we showed the deceptive Iraqi sand map above, I thought it might be interesting to show a true intelligence sand map prepared by B/3-7 Infantry, 24th U.S. Army Infantry Division. It was used to brief the entire company on the route to their objective once the ground war started during Operation Desert Storm.

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Standard Safe Conduct Pass

There was a second smaller deception campaign that added to the confusion of the Iraqi high command. The Coalition had dropped a "standard" surrender leaflet early in the operation starting about 16 January. It was not particularly pleasing to the eye with just crude black ink cartoon characters drawn on plain white paper. About 2 1/2 million of these leaflets were printed, although less than half were actually dropped. The front top depicted a stunned Iraqi soldier thinking of the overwhelming might of Coalition tanks and attack helicopters. Below, the smiling soldier is seen surrendering while thinking of his wife and family back in Iraq. The text on the back in both Arabic and English is:


To seek refuge safely, the bearer must strictly adhere to the following procedures:

1. Remove the magazine from your weapon.

2. Sling your weapon over your left shoulder, muzzle down.

3. Have both arms raised above your head.

4. Approach the Multi-National forces' positions slowly, with the lead soldier holding this document above his head.

5. If you do this you will not die.

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XVIII Airborne Corps "Dragon" Deception Leaflet

As part of the campaign to fool the Iraqis into believing that they still faced the Coalition's major units, the standard safe conduct pass was overprinted with different military insignia. The insignia was placed on the back of the leaflet in light grey ink over the surrender instructions. The first insignia depicted was the XIII Airborne Corps. 900,000 leaflets were prepared.

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VII Corps "Star of David" Deception Leaflet

The second insignia depicted was that of the VII Corps. 270,000 leaflets with this symbol were printed. The VII Corps symbol is the Roman number "VII" inside of a 7-pointed star. The symbol looks very much like the Jewish "Star of David," a six-pointed star. This was apparently a symbol that the Coalition thought might be found offensive by the Arab partners. They felt a need to change it.

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VII Corps "Jayhawk" Deception Leaflet

As a result, the image on the back of the leaflet was changed to the VII Corps "Jayhawk" mascot logo. This "Jayhawk" term originates in the pre-Civil War days when anti-slavery raiders in the Kansas-Missouri wars used it. Once again, 270,000 leaflets were printed. It is not known what result this deception had on the Iraqi military, but certainly, when such a leaflet was turned in to their military intelligence, they must have believed that the enemy was directly in front of them calling for their surrender.

Some data on the Desert Storm leaflets can be found in the Non-Classified Print Products catalog.

The "Tidal Wave" leaflet was internally coded 60-01-1 and the mission number was 2U. 90,000 leaflets were ordered 7 January and due 11 January. 12,000 were disseminated by water bottle. There is a second report that 120,000 copies were sent to "NAV-1" to be placed in M129 leaflet bombs on 6 February 1991. We do not know if they were disseminated.

The Safe Conduct Pass was coded 13A-26 for mission's 1Y and 2W. They were ordered on 10 January and due 14 January. The first printing was for 10,000 to the 9th PSYOP Battalion and 1,500,000 for the Psychological Operations Task Force; the second was for 1 million copies. They were also prepared for use in leaflet artillery rounds. 150,000 were sent to the 9th PSYOP Battalion and 100,000 to the 6th PSYOP Battalion for that purpose.

The XVIII Corps deception leaflet was coded 18-D for mission 3D. They were ordered on 19 January but the delivery date is unknown. 900,000 leaflets were printed.

The VII Corps deception leaflet was coded 7-0 for mission 2Y. They are sub-coded 01 for the unit patch and 02 for the jayhawk. They were ordered on 19 January but the delivery date is unknown. 270,000 of each were printed for a total of 540,000 leaflets.

The C130 dissemination record shows that 500,000 of the standard Safe Conduct Leaflets 13A-26 were dropped on 16 January.

On 23 January 300,000 XVIII Corps deception leaflets and 300,000 VII Corps deception leaflets were dropped.

On 25 January 300,000 XVIII Corps deception leaflets and 120,000 VII Corps deception leaflets were dropped.

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BQM-74 Navy target drone

A final deception operation was classified for years after the end of Desert Storm. The Coalition knew that it would knock out most of Iraq’s radar and communications network on the first night. However, there would still be numerous stand-alone radar sites around Baghdad protecting the city. During Operation Desert Shield the Air Force would feign a high speed attack on Iraq just to get those radar sites turned on and mapped. The Iraqis soon got wise to that trick. Schwarzkopf needed those radar sites knocked out. Eventually, the Coalition turned to the Northrup Company’s BQM-74 Navy target drones. With the aid of Lockheed and some USAF Special Operations groups, the drones were refitted with reflectors to simulate large numbers of aircraft. Directly behind the first wave of aircraft, 40 of the drones were aimed at Baghdad. All the Iraqi radar sites turned on and between 50 and 150 High-speed Anti-Radiation (HARM) missiles destroyed them all.


There were some interesting deception campaigns used in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Some of these efforts are mentioned in a monograph by Major Joseph L. Cox entitled Information Operations in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom – What Went Wrong? Cox says that Special Forces troops posing as Taliban fighters called enemy elements under attack and requested feedback on where Coalition bombs were falling. Once the operators knew in what direction and how far away the bombs were exploding, it was a simple thing to redirect the fighters to the enemy location.

There were three different deception efforts by the Coalition on the advance toward Baghdad. The first was an attempt to convince Iraq that the attack would come from Jordan. Special Forces attacked Iraqi listening and observation posts along the Jordanian border hoped to convince Saddam that the main attack would come from the Western Desert of Iraq.

The second operation was meant to force Saddam to keep his troops in the north. The Coalition let slip evidence that the Turkish refusal to allow U.S. troops to move through their country was a sham, and the U.S. 4th Division would attack from Turkey. The plan, if believed, would keep the Nebuchadnezzar Republican Guard Division positioned between Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan and unable to move south to help in the defense of Baghdad.

The final deception involved the advance of V Corps through the Karbala Gap. Every effort was made to confuse the Adnam Republican Guard Division about exactly where V Corps would attack.

Bacteriological Warfare

There are no proven cases of bacteriological warfare being used against an enemy in modern times. However, that has not stopped combatants from claiming, totally without proof, that an enemy has used various biological weapons against innocent women and children in propaganda and deception campaigns. In particular, we find this is a favorite exercise of despotic states whenever they find themselves embroiled in battle.

Stalin had used such tactics in the 1930s when he accused the owners of successful private farms (Kulaks) of using anthrax to kill their own cattle so as to avoid collectivization. Because of communism, the Russians could not feed themselves. Rather than accept blame, Stalin claimed that it was the selfishness of the Kulaks that caused the lack of food for industrial workers. He demanded the end of private farming and the founding of collective farms where small farmers joined forces to form large-scale units. The farmers resisted and Stalin ordered that local communist officials confiscate the Kulaks’ property. Thousands of kulaks were executed and five million were deported to Siberia or Central Asia. Of these, approximately twenty-five per cent perished by the time they reached their destination.

During WWII the Germans accused Great Britain of using biological weapons and causing a plague of Colorado beetles on their potato crops. Dr. Joseph Goebbels, German Minister of Propaganda, also accused the British of attempting to introduce yellow fever into India by transporting infected mosquitoes from West Africa. In fact, the British were experimenting with at least one biological agent. British trials with Bacillus anthracis were held on Gruinard Island off the coast of Scotland. The small bomb experiments resulted in heavy contamination and persistent anthrax spores contaminated parts of the island for many years. So, we have at least one case of experimental germ warfare, but in this case the British infected one of their own islands. It is interesting to note that the threat of bacteriological warfare was taken seriously by the British in WWII. Whenever Germany dropped leaflets on Britain, the British government sent sample leaflets to laboratories to be tested for biological and bacteriological contamination.

There may have been something to the British fears. Newly-released British secret service documents reveal that Hitler considered a bacteriological attack on the extreme north of Scotland. The Nazi dictator wanted to introduce lethal bacteria to Shetland, from where they would spread death and panic across the British Isles. The plan came to light in January 1943 when the British discovered a Nazi spy hiding among fleeing Norwegians coming ashore after a 46-hour journey across the North Sea from Nazi-occupied Norway. The British discovered that if the agent had been successful, additional spies would be sent equipped with the necessary material for spreading bacteria in Great Britain. The bacteriological cultures would allegedly be hidden inside pens and pencils.

The Egyptians blamed the Zionists for an outbreak of cholera in Egypt in 1947. The Soviets claimed that the United States had tested biological weapons against Eskimos in Canada, leading to an epidemic of plague in 1949.

During the Cold War the Soviet Union continued to attack the United States for taking part in biological warfare. In 1950 it accused the United States of dropping potato bugs on East Germany in order to destroy its agricultural crop. In 1951, it was the larvae of the Spanish fly that the dastardly Americans were dropping from the air.

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Propaganda photo of soldiers of the Korean People's Army dressed
to investigate germ warfare/bacteriological attacks during the 1950-53 Korean War.

In 1951 the Communists claimed that the Americans had authorized a germ warfare facility in Japan to be run by General Ishii Shiro, the commander of Unit 731, a secret 3000-man Japanese Army unit that took part in bacteriological warfare experiments in China during WWII. For instance, In October 1940, a Japanese plane supposedly scattered contaminated rice and fleas over the city of Chuhsien in Chekiang province. This event was soon followed by an outbreak of bubonic plague, a disease never recorded previously in Chuhsien. This was but one of many such experiments. By the end of the war, Unit 731 had killed tens of thousands of Chinese with their experiments. General Shiro’s research on weapons grade biologicals was considered so valuable that the United States granted him immunity to gain access to his results. Of course, this was the start of the Cold War and just like Werner von Braun and his rocket experimentation, the fear was that this knowledge would fall into the hands of the Soviet Union.

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Propaganda photos of contaminated bugs from "germ bomb" being collected

During the Korean War, the Chinese “brainwashed” a number of American personnel through sleep and sensory deprivation to state that they had dropped bacteriological weapons. On one occasion the Chinese claimed that the Americans had dropped contaminated flies, on another they blamed the United States for an outbreak of smallpox in North Korea. Naturally, the Communists also warned their troops not to pick up U.N. propaganda leaflets that were surely contaminated. By 1952, Radio Moscow was claiming that American spies and saboteurs were poisoning North Korean wells and spreading smallpox and typhus bacteria. The population was warned to watch out for ticks, mosquitoes, poisonous worms, and bedbugs, all agents of the perfidious Americans. Even worse, the Americans were somehow sneaking lepers into North Korea to infect the population with leprosy.

The Chinese claimed that the Americans had taken part in 226 “germ bomb” raids by 31 March 1952, 410 raids by 24 April 1952, and raised the number the very next day to 810 raids. Pravda said that the agents included rats, chicken feathers and shell-fish.

In a 1952 memorandum entitled Communist Bacteriological Warfare Propaganda all of the various disease vectors named by the Communists are listed:

Common insects such as flies, fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, spiders, grasshoppers, lice, bedbugs, ants crickets, midges, larvae of butterfly, snow fleas, locusts, “flower flies” and caterpillars. Rats, birds, dead fish, bees, snails, earthworms, maggots, frogs, foxes and snakes. Infected cotton, corn leaves, oak leaves; chicken, duck and goose feathers; infected dust, biscuits, pork, leaflets, meats, straw, cigarettes, balls of cotton, soap, paper, envelopes. Medical goods, grain, confectionery, toilet goods, glass, hairpins, and toy snakes.

These smear campaigns all made use of the Hitler-Goebbels concept that a big lie, if told often enough, will be believed by a percentage of the people. The first bit of truthfulness occurred in 1972, when O. A. Reutov, member of the Soviet Academy of Science and Professor of Chemistry at the Moscow State University, joined with American and other counterparts in declaring that:

There is no clear evidence that biological warfare agents have ever been used as modern military weapons and that there is no military experience of the use of bacteriological agents as weapons of war.

With the fall of the Communist leadership of the USSR, the new Russian government released documents in 1998 stating that the Korean War bacteriological accusations were false and just another in a long line of psychological operations.

There were accusations by the Eastern European press that Britain used biological agents in Oman in 1957. The Chinese accused the United States of causing a cholera epidemic in Hong Kong in 1961. In 1969 the Egyptians claimed that the “imperialist aggressors” had used the biological warfare agent cholera in Iraq in 1966. In 1971, Cuba was awash with rumors that the United States was the cause of African swine fever, a blue mold that devastated its tobacco crop and a disease called “cane smut” that attacked the sugar crop. That old bugaboo, the Central Intelligence Agency was the alleged culprit this time.

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Yellow Rain on snow

After the Vietnam War, the United States accused the Soviet Union of supplying the Communist Vietnamese with Trichothecene Mycotoxins, which was dropped over the Hmong people in the highlands and northern Laos. Refugees described an oily yellow liquid that made a sound like rain when it struck leaves or roofs, causing the Hmong to call it “Yellow Rain.” Exposure caused heavy bleeding from the nose and gums, blindness, tremors, seizures and death. Similar incidents were reported in Cambodia in 1978, after the Vietnamese Army invaded that country to topple the dictator Pol Pot and his murderous Khmer Rouge regime. A group of academic scientists led by Harvard molecular biologist Matthew Meselson questioned the validity of the evidence and argued that trichothecene mycotoxins occur naturally in Southeast Asia and that the alleged victims had confused chemical attacks with harmless showers of yellow feces released by swarms of giant Asian honeybees. They are still arguing about this alleged case of germ warfare. I remember at the time that people were skeptical about how there could be alleged mass deaths caused by bee poop. It soon became a late-night topic of humor.

The conclusion seems to be that when a nation has some kind of a natural disaster, epidemic, or crop failure, it is far easier to blame the human actions of some enemy than it is to accept responsibility for poor health or agricultural practices. Any statement about bacteriological warfare must be taken with a grain of salt. There are no proven cases of this weapon ever being used in warfare at this time.

This is just a brief look at deception campaigns. There were dozens more to choose from, but we wanted to just show a few interesting ones that used radio and leaflets as part of the plan to deceive. I think that these three give a good example of the kind of deception and disinformation that takes place during wartime.


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Deception cartoon from

When we look at deception campaigns we find them used right up until the present time. The United States practiced deception in Iraq and Afghanistan in an attempt to fool the insurgents about their intentions. Declassified documents showed that the British had studied deception in 1969 and decided to use the example of the Israelis rather than that of their American allies. They believed that the Americans were too open and friendly and almost unable to keep a secret. The article in the Jerusalem Post, 23 February 2010 says in part:

The British found, for example, that the Israelis confused their adversaries by deploying fake soldiers - actual mannequins in battle dress were used - near one border crossing to make their enemies think an attack was coming, forcing them to deploy troops to defend the area. The documents describe how Israel, just prior to the Six-Day War in 1967, implemented a sophisticated, pre-planned deception strategy that included statements made by its political leaders and top diplomats. This included the well-known decision to send many IDF soldiers on their regular weekend home leave to convince the enemy to lower its guard just before hostilities began.

An April 10, 1972, document credits the Israelis with using a variety of strategies to confuse and demoralize their enemies, including: Maintaining strict secrecy about modern bombs in their arsenal, leading Arab nations to believe Israel had only World War II type bombs, and misleading the enemy about new systems that would allow Israel to service its bombers in just 7.5 minutes so they could resume attacks; The use of Israeli intelligence agents who spoke Arabic well to take part in Egyptian military radio communications, giving them vital information about Egypt's military plans; The ability to delay information about the capture of key Arab towns, thus luring Arab patrols into devastating ambushes; The use of Israelis who spoke Arabic with an Egyptian accent to man the control tower at a captured airfield so that Egyptian military pilots would land their planes and be captured.

A “Top Secret UK Eyes Only” document from June 1, 1972, states that radical differences in the national character make it unlikely that American officers will be able to use deception to their strategic advantage

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The “Honey Pot” Deception

Of course, sometimes you eat the bear and sometime the bear eats you. The Israelis were sometimes fooled too. In 2020 there were many articles about the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) being told to leave their phones behind when they go on a mission. Not much was known about exactly why that order was given into about February of that year when the story finally made the news. It turned out that on three occasions the terrorist group Hamas had used what was deemed a “Honey Pot” operation against the Israelis.

The Jerusalem Post of 16 February mentioned an “Operation Rebound,” that had foiled a third Hamas network using attractive young women on social networks that lures in IDF soldiers in order to access as much information and intelligence on the army as it can. The phones of hundreds of soldiers, including combat soldiers, were compromised in the third such Hamas honeypot operation foiled by the Israeli military and the Shin Bet (Israel Security Service) since 2017.

Hamas used Internet platforms like Telegram, Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp. It used hashtags, slang, and voice messages in an attempt to make the enemy account sound more believable. They also used new applications including: GrixyApp, ZatuApp and Catch&See. These applications were not accessible through app stores, but could only be downloaded from links sent to soldiers by the Hamas operatives. They used six main characters, many of whom presented themselves as new immigrants to Israel with hearing or vision problems to explain for their less-than fluent Hebrew. The characters were: Sara Orlova, Maria Jacobova, Eden Ben Ezra, Noa Danon, Yael Azoulay and Rebecca Abuksis. Hamas also edited the pictures of the characters, making it more difficult to find the original source of the picture.

Immediately after downloading the application, it appeared as an icon, but once clicked on it would open with an error message that the device doesn’t support the version of the application and would then seem to delete itself from the user’s phone. But while the application seemed to have disappeared from the phone, the virus remained and gave direct access to Hamas, which would be able to take control of the device. Once on the phone, the virus would give Hamas operatives control over all aspects of the phone, including pictures, the soldier’s location, text messages and the soldier’s contact list. The virus would also have access to the phone’s camera and microphone, taking pictures and recording conversations remotely without the soldier knowing. Hamas was also able to download and transfer files and have access to the phone’s GPS, allowing them to know the infected device’s location. At that point, the Hamas operatives would stop communicating with the soldiers.

The author wishes to thank Dr. Klaus Kirchner and Kurt Ringel  for their help in locating and providing the images of the Nachrichten für die Truppen newspapers. Interested readers who have personal experiences or questions concerning the use of deception in war are encouraged to write to the author at