During World War II, and prior to Bodyguard, the Allies made extensive use of deception – developing many new techniques and theories. The main protagonists at this time were 'A' Force, set up in 1940 under Dudley Clarke, and the London Controlling Section, chartered in 1942 under the control of John Bevan.
At this stage of the war, Allied and German intelligence operations were heavily mismatched. Through the signals work at Bletchley Park, much of the German lines of communication were compromised – intercepts, code named Ultra, gave the Allies insights into how effectively their deceptions were operating. In Europe, the Allies had good intelligence from resistance movements and aerial reconnaissance. By comparison, most of the German spies sent into Britain had been caught (or handed themselves in) and turned into double agents (under the XX System). Some of the compromised agents were so trusted that, by 1944, German intelligence had stopped sending new infiltrators. Within the German command structure internal politics, suspicion and mismanagement meant intelligence gathering had only limited effectiveness.
By 1943 Hitler was defending the entire European western coast, with no clear knowledge of where an Allied invasion might land. His tactic was to defend the entire length and rely on reinforcements to quickly respond to any landings. In France the Germans deployed two Army Groups. One of these, Army Group B, was deployed to protect the coastline; the Fifteenth Army covering the Pas de Calais region and the Seventh Army in Normandy. Following a decision to defer the invasion, Operation Overlord, until 1944, the Allies conducted a series of deceptions intended to threaten invasion in Norway and France. Operation Cockade was intended to confuse the German high command as to Allied intentions, and to draw them into air battles across the Channel. In this respect Cockade was not a success, with German forces barely responding even as a fake invasion force crossed the channel (turning back some distance from their "target").
Planning for Bodyguard began even before Operation Cockade was fully under way, following the decision that Normandy would be the site of the coming invasion. The departments responsible for deception, 'A' Force, COSSAC's Ops (B) and the London Controlling Section, began to address the problem of achieving tactical surprise for Overlord. They produced a paper, entitled "First Thoughts", on July 14, 1943 outlining many of the concepts that would later form the Bodyguard plan. However, as Cockade concluded with limited success, most of the Allied high command were sceptical that any new deception would work.
In August, Colonel John Henry Bevan, head of the London Controlling Section, presented a draft plan. Code named Jael (a reference to the Old Testament heroine who killed an enemy commander by deception), it would have attempted to deceive the Germans into thinking that the Allies had delayed the invasion for a further year, instead concentrating on the Balkan theatre and air bombardment of Germany through 1944. The plan had a mixed reception in the Allied High command and in October a decision on the draft was deferred until after the Tehran conference, a month later.
Meanwhile, COSSAC had been working on its own deception strategy: "Appendix Y" of Operation Overlord plan. The plan, also known as Torrent, had originated in early September at COSSAC – it started life as a feint invasion of the Calais region shortly before D-Day and eventually (after the failure of a similar scheme during Cockade) transformed into a plan to divert attention from troop build up in the south-west of England. These early ideas, which later became Operation Bodyguard, recognised that the Germans would expect an invasion. Instead the core of the plan suggested misleading the enemy as to the exact time and location of the invasion and to keep them on the back foot once it had landed.
During November and December 1943, the Allied leaders met twice, first in Cairo (23 – 27 November) and then in Tehran (28 November – 1 December), to decide on strategy for the following year. Bevan attended the conference and received his final orders on December 6. Furnished with the final details of Overlord, Bevan returned to London to complete the draft. The deception strategy, now named Bodyguard, was approved on Christmas Day 1943. The new name had been chosen based on a comment by Winston Churchill to Joseph Stalin at the Tehran conference: "In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies."
The objectives of Operation Bodyguard were to deceive the enemy as to the timing, weight and direction of the Allied invasion in France. It had three main goals: to make the Pas de Calais appear to be the main invasion target, to mask the actual date and time of the assault and to keep German reinforcements in Pas de Calais (and other parts of Europe) for at least 14 days after landing. Bodyguard set out a detailed scenario that the deceivers would attempt to "sell" to the Germans. This included Allied belief in air bombardment as an effective way of winning the war – with the 1944 focus on building bomber fleets. It then specified invasions across the entire European coastline – in Norway, France and the Mediterranean. In January, planners began to fill in the details of Bodyguard, producing the various sub-operations to cover each of the invasions and misdirection.
The task fell to two main departments. 'A' Force under Dudley Clarke, which had been successful early on, were once again given the Mediterranean region. In Europe, however, responsibility shifted away from the LCS (who took on a coordination role). Prior to Eisenhower's appointment as Supreme Commander, all planning for Overlord fell to the Chief of Staff to the Supreme Commander Allied Forces (COSSAC), Frederick E. Morgan. Under his regime the deception department, Ops (B), had received limited resources, leaving most of the planning so far at the feet of the London Controlling section. With Eisenhower's arrival Ops (B) was expanded and Dudley Clarke's deputy from 'A' Force, Noel Wild, was placed in control. With these new resources the department was able to put together the largest single segment of Bodyguard: Operation Fortitude.
Bodyguard focused on obfuscating the impending Normandy landings, planned for spring/summer 1944, and so the main effort was focused around the Western front. The planners created Fortitude, building on elements of the earlier Cockade, which encapsulated an entire fictional Allied invasion plan against targets in France and Norway. Its main undertaking was, through the various deception techniques, to overstate the size of the Allied forces in Britain through early 1944, enabling them to threaten multiple targets at once.
Under the Fortitude "story", the Allies intended to invade both Norway and Pas de Calais. Using similar techniques to the 1943 Cockade operation (fictional field armies, faked operations, and false "leaked" information) the intention was to increase the apparent size of the Allied forces to make such a large scale attack seem possible. To allow the plan to stay manageable it was divided into two main sections, each with numerous sub-plans; Fortitude North and South.
Fortitude North was aimed at German forces in Scandinavia and based around the fictional British Fourth Army, based in Edinburgh. The Fourth Army had first been activated the previous year, as part of Cockade to threaten Norway and tie down the enemy divisions stationed there. The Allies created the illusion of the army via fake radio traffic (Operation Skye) and leaks through double agents.
Fortitude South employed similar deception in the south of England, threatening an invasion at Pas de Calais by the fictional 1st U.S. Army Group (FUSAG) led by U.S. General George Patton. France was the crux of the Bodyguard plan: as the most logical choice for an invasion, the Allied high command had to mislead the German defences in a very small geographical area. The Pas de Calais offered advantages over the chosen invasion site, such as the shortest crossing of the English Channel and the quickest route into Germany. Having a high regard for Patton, German command, particularly Rommel, took steps to heavily fortify that area of coastline. It was decided, by the Allies, to amplify this belief of a Calais landing.
Montgomery, commanding the Allied landing forces, knew that the crucial aspect of any invasion was the ability to grow a beachhead into a full front. He also had only limited divisions at his command, 37 compared to around 60 German formations. Fortitude South's main aims were to give the impression of a much larger invasion force (the FUSAG) in the South-East of England, to achieve tactical surprise in the Normandy landings and, once the invasion had occurred, to mislead the Germans into thinking it a diversionary tactic with Calais the real objective.
Whilst Fortitude represented the major thrust of Bodyguard in support of the Normandy landings, several smaller plans added to the overall picture of confusion. On the Western front the largest of these was Operation Ironside. Intercepted communications during January 1944 indicated German high command feared the possibility of landings along the Bay of Biscay, in particular near Bordeaux. The following month they ordered anti-invasion exercises to be carried out in the region. To play on these fears the Allies instigated Operation Ironside. The plot for Ironside was that two divisions sailing from the UK would land on the Garonne estuary ten days after D-Day. After a beachhead had been established, a further six divisions would arrive direct from the United States. The force would then capture Bordeaux before linking up with the supposed Operation Vendetta (another deception operation) forces in the south of France.
Ironside was implemented entirely via double agents, specifically Tate, Bronx and Garbo. The Twenty Committee, in charge of anti-espionage and deception operations of British military intelligence, were cautious about the plausibility of the story and so did not promote it too heavily through their agents. Messages sent to their German handlers included elements of uncertainty. This, combined with the fact that Bordeaux was an implausible target (the landing site was far outside the range of fighter cover from the UK), meant that the Germans took very little notice of the rumours and even went as far as to identify it as a probable deception. Despite this, the Abwehr continued to send their agents questions related to the landings until early June, and following D-Day the Germans maintained a state of readiness in the region.
One recurring theme for Bodyguard was the use of political deception. Bevan had concerns over the impact that physical and wireless deception could have. In early 1944 he proposed the wholly political ploy Operation Graffham as a way to bolster elements of the Bodyguard plan. Ronald Wingate extended these ideas to create the larger Operation Royal Flush a few months later. Despite not gaining much traction with the targeted governments, Graffham did influence the thinking of German commanders and push them towards accepting other aspects of the Bodyguard plan. However, Royal Flush was less successful, with a report by the Abwehr identifying the targeted countries as "outspoken deception centres". It became the last political overture attempted as part of Bodyguard.
Graffham's political target was Sweden, and its main aim was to support the goals of Fortitude North. It was intended to imply that the Allies were building political ties with Sweden, in preparation for an upcoming invasion of Norway. The operation involved meetings between several British and Swedish officials, as well as the purchase of Norwegian securities and the use of double agents to spread rumours. During the war, Sweden maintained a neutral stance and it was hoped that if the government were convinced of an imminent Allied invasion of Norway this would filter through to German intelligence.
Planning for the operation began in February 1944. Bevan was concerned that Fortitude North was not sufficient in creating a threat against Norway, and so he proposed Graffham as an additional measure. In contrast to the other aspects of Bodyguard, the operation was planned and executed by the British, with no American involvement. Graffham was envisioned as an extension of existing pressure the Allies were placing on Sweden to end their neutral stance, one example being the requests to end the export of ball bearings (an important component in military hardware) to Germany. By increasing this pressure with additional false requests, Bevan hoped to further convince the Germans that Sweden was preparing to join the Allies.
The impact of Graffham was minimal. The Swedish government agreed to few of the concessions requested during the meetings, and few high level officials were convinced that the Allies would invade Norway. Overall, the influence of Graffham and Fortitude North on German strategy in Scandinavia is disputed.
Royal Flush was proposed and planned by the LCS' Ronald Wingate in April 1944. Building on the approach of Graffham he hoped to support other Bodyguard deceptions in the Western and Mediterranean theatres by making political overtures to Sweden, Spain and Turkey. The operation continued Graffham's work in Sweden by having ambassadors from the UK, US and Russia demand that the Germans be denied access to the country following an Allied invasion of Norway.
Whilst overall control of Bodyguard came out of London, local implementation of the Mediterranean portions were left to 'A' Force. By this time Clarke had split the group into several sections, between Egypt and Italy, with responsibility for strategic or tactical deception. From the outset, Bodyguard focused on the Fortitude threat being developed on the Western front. Deceptions planned in the Mediterranean were intended to tie down forces by creating threats to that appeared just realistic enough. In late 1943 the Allies had opened a front in Italy, and following the 1944 Normandy landings focus returned to the Mediterranean as a second front was debated. Eventually deceptions had to be re-aligned to the Allies new invasion plans, having at first threatened the very place that the earlier operations had suggested as a target.
Zeppelin was the Mediterranean equivalent of Fortitude, intended to tie down German forces in the area by threatening landings in the Balkans, particularly Crete or Romania. 'A' Force employed similar tactics as before, simulating the existence of the Ninth, Tenth and Twelfth armies in Egypt via exercises and radio traffic. Although German high command believed these forces to be real, only three under-strength divisions were actually in the area.
Copperhead was a small decoy operation within the scope of Bodyguard, suggested by Clarke and planned by 'A' Force. The deception, undertaken just prior to D-Day, was intended to mislead German intelligence as to the whereabouts of Montgomery. It was theorised that, as a well known battle commander, Montgomery's presence outside of England would signal to the German's that an invasion was not imminent. The actor M.E. Clifton James, who bore a strong resemblance to the general, made public appearances in Gibraltar and north Africa. The Allies hoped it would indicate a forthcoming invasion via the Mediterranean. The operation is not known to have made a significant impact. According to captured enemy generals, German intelligence believed that it was Montgomery, though they still guessed that it was a feint.
Elements of the Bodyguard plan were in operation on June 6, 1944 in support of Operation Neptune (the amphibious assault of Normandy). Elaborate naval deceptions (Operations Glimmer, Taxable and Big Drum) were undertaken in the English Channel. Small ships and aircraft simulated invasion fleets lying off Pas de Calais, Cap d'Antifer and the western flank of the real invasion force. At the same time Operation Titanic involved the RAF dropping fake paratroopers to the east and west of the Normandy landings.
Juan Pujol García, a Spanish double agent working for British intelligence (code named "Garbo") in high standing with the Germans, transmitted information about the Allied invasion plan with a further warning that the Normandy invasion was not a diversion. This information was transmitted at the behest of the British High Command in order to increase his credibility to the Germans and was done at a time when it was too late to fortify Normandy.
Following the landings, some small tactical deceptions were used to add further confusion. Operation Paradise (I - V) established a number of decoy exits and staging areas around the Normandy beaches to draw German attacks.
The Bodyguard deceptions were implemented in several ways, including double agents, radio traffic and visual deception. Once planning for each stage had been completed, various operational units were tasked with carrying out the deceptions. In some cases this could be specialist formations, such as R Force, but in other cases it fell to regular units.
A large part of the various Bodyguard operations involved the use of double agents. The British "Double Cross" anti-espionage operation had proven very successful from the outset of the war. The LCS was able to use double agents to send back misleading information about Allied invasion plans.
By contrast, Allied intelligence was very good. Ultra, signals intelligence from decrypted German radio transmission, confirmed to planners that the German high command believed in the Bodyguard deceptions and gave them the enemy's order of battle.
The practice of using mock tanks and other military hardware had been developed during the North Africa campaign, especially in Operation Bertram for the attack at El Alamein. For Bodyguard the Allies put less reliance in these forms of deception, due to a belief that the German ability to directly reconnoitre England was limited. However, some mock hardware was created, in particular dummy landing craft that were stockpiled in the supposed FUSAG staging area.
Operation Bodyguard is regarded as a tactical success, delaying the Fifteenth Army in the Pas de Calais for seven weeks thus allowing the Allies to build a beachhead and ultimately win the Battle of Normandy. In his memoirs, General Omar Bradley called Bodyguard the "single biggest hoax of the war".
In his 2004 book, The Deceivers, Thaddeus Holt attributes the success of Fortitude to the trial run of Cockade in 1943: "FORTITUDE in 1944 could not have run as smoothly as it did if the London Controlling Section and its fellows had not gone through the exercise of COCKADE in the year before."