8. “In Wartime Truth Is So Precious, That She Should Always Be Attended by a Bodyguard of Lies”
The above quote by Winston Churchill explains the motive and aim of Operation Bodyguard, history’s greatest psy-op and deception operation. A multifaceted and complex plan, Bodyguard sought to deceive the Germans about the time and location of the Western Allies’ intended invasion of Europe in 1944.
The plan had three goals. First, was to conceal the actual time and date of the invasion. Second, was to convince the Germans that the main invasion would land in the Pas de Calais. Third, was to convince the Germans after the Normandy landings to maintain a strong defense in the Pas de Calais for at least two weeks, rather than drain it of defenders to reinforce their troops in Normandy. To realize their goals, the Allies set in motion history’s greatest military deception plan.
A sub-plan of Bodyguard was Operation Fortitude, which created a fictitious “First US Army Group” in southeast England under the command of General George S. Patton. A variety of means were employed to sell the fake army’s existence to the Germans. Fake radio traffic was generated between fictitious FUSAG units, knowing that the Germans were listening in on Allied radio traffic. German reconnaissance airplanes were allowed to fly over and photograph concentrations of FUSAG tanks and transports, that in reality were inflatable dummies.
The Germans were also fed fake intelligence reports via double agents and turned spies, about FUSAG’s intentions to invade the Pas de Calais, so as 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 so as to tie down the Germans there.
6. Deceiving the Germans Into Defending an Unthreatened Area
After D-Day, Operation Bodyguard kept the Germans from committing fully to a counterattack by convincing them that the Normandy landings were not the main event, but the first in a series of landings. The German high command was thus led to keep units guarding other potential landing sites, mainly the Pas de Calais which was threatened by the fictitious FUSAG under Patton, instead of sending them to reinforce the defenders in Normandy.
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.
Perhaps no single person made a greater contribution to the success of Operation Bodyguard than Juan Pujol Garcia (1912 – 1988). An eccentric Spaniard, Pujol’s desire for adventure and excitement led him to hoax the Nazis with fictional spying during WWII. The hoax grew into the greatest deception operation of the conflict and played a significant role in ensuring Allied victory on D-Day and in the subsequent Normandy Campaign.
Pujol hated fascists, and when WWII began, he decided to help the Allies “for the good of humanity”. However, when he offered his services to British intelligence, he was rejected. Undeterred, he posed as a Nazi-sympathizing Spanish government officer and offered his services to the Germans. Their military intelligence, the Abwehr, accepted and ordered him to Britain, where he was to recruit a spy network.
4. An Adventurer’s Fake Spy Network Fools the Nazis
Juan Pujol Garcia had neither the means nor the intent to head to Britain and set up a spy network there, as instructed by the Germans. Instead, he went to Lisbon, and from there, made up reports about Britain with content culled from public sources, embellished and seasoned with his own active imagination. He then sent them to his Abwehr handlers as if he was writing from Britain. The Germans swallowed it and begged for more, so Pujol invented fictional sub-agents and used them as sources for additional fictional reports.
Intercepting and decoding secret German messages, the British realized that somebody was hoaxing the Germans. Upon discovering it was Pujol acting on his own, they belatedly accepted his offer of services. Giving him the codename GARBO, they whisked him to Britain, where they built upon his imaginary network, transforming it into an elaborate double-cross operation that carefully fed the Germans a massive amount of often true but useless information, mixed in with half-truths and falsities.
The flood of reports from Juan Pujol Garcia, and from his steadily growing network of fictional sub-agents, transformed him in German eyes into their most successful spy in Britain. The moment for cashing in on that trust came during the buildup to D-Day and the subsequent Normandy Campaign. The ultimate aim was to convince the Germans that the Normandy landings were but the first in a series of planned invasions, with an even bigger one planned against the Pas de Calais.
To cement Pujol’s credibility with the Germans, British intelligence had him send a message alerting the Germans to the invasion a few hours before its commencement. They figured that by the time it worked its way from German intelligence to commanders in the field, the invasion would have already taken place. Thus, the warning would do the Germans no good, but still serve to enhance Pujol’s reputation.
Having spent years building up Pujol’s credibility with the German Abwehr, the time finally came to cash in on the Nazis’ misplaced faith in the Spanish adventurer. Going in for the kill, Pujol informed the Germans that the Normandy landings were just a diversion, intended to juke the Germans by getting them to send reinforcements from, and thus weaken, the real Allied target: the Pas de Calais. That “real target” was to be invaded a few weeks after Normandy.
That, coupled with other measures, such as the fictitious First US Army Group, under the command of George Patton, was massed across the English Channel opposite the Pas de Calais, convinced the Germans. During the crucial weeks of June, 1944, they kept powerful formations in that region, rather than rush them to Normandy to help destroy the vulnerable Allied beachhead. By the time the Pas de Calais formations were finally released, the Allies had amassed sufficient forces in Normandy to not only defeat German counterattacks, but to then go on the offensive, and breaking out of the beachhead, sweep across and liberate France within a few months.
As to Juan Pujol Garcia, he gained the distinction of attaining an Iron Cross from Germany, plus a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) from Britain. After the war, fearing reprisals from the Nazis, he faked his death in Angola in 1949, then moved to Venezuela. There, he ran a gift shop and book store.
Pujol led an anonymous life until 1984, when he agreed to be interviewed for a book about agent GARBO. As a result of the ensuing publicity, he was received at Buckingham Palace, was lionized in Britain, and on the 40th anniversary of D-Day, traveled to Normandy to pay his respects to the dead. He died in Caracas four years later.
Where Did We Find This Stuff? Some Sources and Further Reading