D-Day's Black Barrage Balloon Operators and Other Lesser Known WWII Facts
D-Day’s Black Barrage Balloon Operators and Other Lesser Known WWII Facts

D-Day’s Black Barrage Balloon Operators and Other Lesser Known WWII Facts

Khalid Elhassan - November 11, 2019

D-Day’s Black Barrage Balloon Operators and Other Lesser Known WWII Facts
Beach defenses in France. Pintrest

2. The Massive Allied Deception Campaign to Wrong-Foot the Germans

The amphibious invasion of France in WWII in the teeth of German resistance was going to be a risky affair – one that could easily end in disaster for the Allies. Landing troops in Normandy would just be the start of it. Ultimate success would depend on whether the Allies would be able to pour enough troops into their Normandy beachhead to make it invulnerable to counterattack, or whether the Germans would be able to nip the beachhead in the bud. The Germans had many troops in France, and powerful panzer divisions near Normandy that could be concentrated against the Allied beachhead before it was secure. It was going to be iffy, so before giving the go ahead for D-Day, the Allies’ supreme commander in Europe, General Dwight D. Eisenhower, prepared a statement accepting all responsibility in case of failure.

Time for an Allied buildup in Normandy was going to be a precious commodity. To buy that time, Allied intelligence came up with Operation Bodyguard, a multifaceted and complex plan to deceive Hitler about the time and location of the invasion of Europe in 1944. The plan had three goals. First, conceal the actual time and date of the invasion. Second, convince the Germans that the main invasion would land in the Pas de Calais. Third, convince the Germans after the Normandy landings to maintain a strong defense in the Pas de Calais for at least two weeks, rather than send its defenders to Normandy.

D-Day’s Black Barrage Balloon Operators and Other Lesser Known WWII Facts
Selling FUSAG to the Germans. Pintrest

1. The Fake American Army Group

Operation Bodyguard had a sub-plan, Operation Fortitude, that created a fictitious “First US Army Group” (FUSAG) in southeast England under the command of General George S. Patton. Various means were used to sell Hitler and his generals on FUSAG’s existence. Fake radio traffic was used between fictitious FUSAG units. German reconnaissance planes were allowed to fly over and photograph concentrations of FUSAG tanks and transports that were actually just inflatable dummies. German intelligence was fed fake reports via double agents and turned spies about FUSAG’s intentions to invade the Pas de Calais, in order to tie down the German defenders there. A subsidiary, Fortitude North, created a fictitious British Fourth Army in Scotland, and convinced the Germans that it planned to invade Norway in order to tie down German defenders there.

After D-Day, Bodyguard succeeded in convincing the Germans that the Normandy landings were not the main event, but the first in a series of landings. Hitler was thus led to keep units guarding other potential landing sites. Especially in the Pas de Calais, which was threatened by the fictitious FUSAG under Patton. Bodyguard had hoped to convince the Germans to stay put in the Pas de Calais for two weeks after D-Day, instead of immediately sending the units there to reinforce Normandy. The plan worked so well that the Germans stayed put in the Pas de Calais for seven weeks instead of the hoped-for two. That allowed the Allies time to build a beachhead in Normandy, before breaking out to liberate France and Western Europe. As Winston Churchill put it in his memoirs: “In wartime truth is so precious, that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies“.


Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading

Aviation History Online Museum – De Havilland Mosquito

Brown, Anthony Cave – Bodyguard of Lies (1975)

Daily Beast – D-Day’s Forgotten African American Heroes

Daily Beast – These Black Soldier Fought For America. It Didn’t Protect Them From Jim Crow

Daily Beast – The Black Heroes Who Protected US Troops on D-Day

Hervieux, Linda – Forgotten: The Untold Story of D-Day’s Black Heroes, At Home and At War (2015)

Imperial War Museum – The Incredible Story of the Dambusters Raid

Mountbatten, Louis – Combined Operations: The Official History of the Commandos (2007)

New Scientist, November 3rd, 2014 – Myths and Reality of the Nazi Space Rocket

Vintage News – Eiffel Tower’s Cables Were Cut So That Hitler Would Have to Climb the Steps to the Top

Warfare History Network – Operation Jericho: Mosquito Raid on Amiens Prison

Wikipedia – Mitsubishi G4M

Wikipedia – Raid on Bardia