Here is the third episode of our history. Read the first one here, and the second one here.
Where will the Access be?
For the Allies it was of the utmost importance that the Germans didn’t knew where the invasion force would access the continent. If the Germans would knew where it was going to be they would concentrate all their available forces in that area. That would give the Germans a change to drive the Allies back into the sea. So secrecy was of the utmost importance. But the Allies also put a lot of effort into deception. Operation Fortitude had the aim of misleading the Germans as to the actual landing location of the Allied invasion force. Under sub operation Fortitude North the Allies set up a fake invasion force that had to pretend that they were preparing for an invasion in Norway. The fake army had his headquarters in the castle of Edinburgh where 363 men were pretending that they were a force of 100.000 men, the British Fourth army. Norway was very important for the supply of iron ore to Germany. This iron ore was essential for the war equipment production. As a result the Germans kept up a garrison of 147.000 soldiers in Norway. 1
Operation Fortitude South was even bigger. The intention was to let the Germans think that an invasion would take place at Pas de Calais. Here the English channel was at its smallest. The famous U.S.A. general Patton was commander of the fake First US Army Group. It consisted out of thousand men which had their base in Kent from where they pretended to be one million men. To make the deception even more believable wooden transport boats were built, huge tents camps stuffed with inflatable rubber tanks and trucks were erected and airfields were filled with transporter planes made from triplex. Former German spies who had been manipulated by MI5 sent credible reports on the ‘troop’ formations to Germany. On top of that the Allies increased radio traffic in the area. All these measures had effect. The Germans thought that the real invasion would take place at Pas de Calais so they had sent reinforcements to Calais and beefed up the local defences. 2
That this deception really worked is confirmed by Gefreite Heinz Herbst, aged 23, H Company, 613 Long-Range Reconnaissance Unit:
“We were based near Lille, away from the coast because we had very valuable listening equipment which we wanted to protect from air raids.(…)We thought the invasion would be around Calais, but the English deceived us. Again and again, we heard on the airwaves that they seemed to be giving orders to start extensive troop movements towards the environs of Dover. We heard both the English and the Americans orders to move. I have to admit it was very skilled, because it caused us to think that that was where the invasion would come from. This was very obvious as far as the military forces were concerned, because it meant only a two-hour crossing or so, instead of a journey lasting three times that, as it finally turned out.” 3
British engineers hold up one of hundreds of inflatable imitation Sherman tanks created for Operation Fortitude to feed false intelligence to the enemy. 4
‘Don’t discuss’, Creator wartime poster Leon Helguera, 1943. 5
1 Martin Landin, ‘Hitler loopt met open ogen in de val, D-Day, Operation Bodyguard’, Historia, wetenschap in beeld(1/2014)14-21.
2 Duncan Anderson, De val van het derde rijk, van D-Day tot de val van Berlijn 1944-1945(Oosterhout, 2003)34.
3 Russel Miller, Nothing less than victory, the oral history of D-Day (London, 1993)94-96.
5 https://images.northwestern.edu/multiresimages/inu:dil-b059cfac-9262-4dfc-95f1-06570084ece4 and http://household6diva.com/2010/04/blogging-operations-security-opsec/ from Northwestern University Library.