Operation Cockade
Operation Cockade was a series of deception operations designed to alleviate German pressure on Allied operations in Sicily and on the Soviets on the eastern front by feint
Feint is a French term that entered English from the discipline of fencing. Feints are maneuvers designed to distract or mislead, done by giving the impression that a certain maneuver will take place, while in fact another, or even none, will...

ing various attacks into Western Europe. The Allies hoped to use Cockade to force the Luftwaffe
Luftwaffe is a generic German term for an air force. It is also the official name for two of the four historic German air forces, the Wehrmacht air arm founded in 1935 and disbanded in 1946; and the current Bundeswehr air arm founded in 1956....

 into a massive air battle with the Royal Air Force
Royal Air Force
The Royal Air Force is the aerial warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Formed on 1 April 1918, it is the oldest independent air force in the world...

 and US Eighth Air Force
Eighth Air Force
The Eighth Air Force is a numbered air force of the United States Air Force Global Strike Command . It is headquartered at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana....

 that would give the Allies air superiority over Western Europe. Cockade involved three deception operations: Operation Starkey, Operation Wadham, and Operation Tindall. Operation Starkey was set to occur in early September, followed by Operation Tindall in mid September, and lastly Operation Wadham in late September 1943.


The three plans were interwoven into one large deception story, called Operation Cockade. The Allies sent the Cockade story to the Germans by using many different methods, double agent
Double agent
A double agent, commonly abbreviated referral of double secret agent, is a counterintelligence term used to designate an employee of a secret service or organization, whose primary aim is to spy on the target organization, but who in fact is a member of that same target organization oneself. They...

s, decoy signals, fake troop concentrations, and increased reconnaissance and bombing missions into the areas of Boulogne, Brest
Brest, France
Brest is a city in the Finistère department in Brittany in northwestern France. Located in a sheltered position not far from the western tip of the Breton peninsula, and the western extremity of metropolitan France, Brest is an important harbour and the second French military port after Toulon...

, and Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...


The plan was developed and under the control of Sir Frederick Morgan, Chief of Staff
Chief of Staff
The title, chief of staff, identifies the leader of a complex organization, institution, or body of persons and it also may identify a Principal Staff Officer , who is the coordinator of the supporting staff or a primary aide to an important individual, such as a president.In general, a chief of...

 to the Supreme Allied Commander
Supreme Allied Commander
Supreme Allied Commander is the title held by the most senior commander within certain multinational military alliances. It originated as a term used by the Western Allies during World War II, and is currently used only within NATO. Dwight Eisenhower served as Supreme Commander Allied Expeditionary...

 (COSSAC); at the time the Supreme Allied Commander had not been appointed—Eisenhower would assume the position in December 1943.

Operation Starkey

Operation Starkey involved a sham British and Canadian amphibious invasion
Amphibious warfare
Amphibious warfare is the use of naval firepower, logistics and strategy to project military power ashore. In previous eras it stood as the primary method of delivering troops to non-contiguous enemy-held terrain...

 into the Boulogne area of northern France. For the United States, the original Starkey deception plan involved 2,300 heavy bomber
Heavy bomber
A heavy bomber is a bomber aircraft of the largest size and load carrying capacity, and usually the longest range.In New START, the term "heavy bomber" is used for two types of bombers:*one with a range greater than 8,000 kilometers...

, 3,700 fighter, and 400 medium bomber
Medium bomber
A medium bomber is a bomber aircraft designed to operate with medium bombloads over medium distances; the name serves to distinguish them from the larger heavy bombers and smaller light bombers...

 sorties to strike targets near Boulogne. This was done with the goal of convincing the Germans that the British and Canadian invasion preparations were authentic. The British were to provide another 3,000 heavy bomber sorties into the Boulogne area. Starkey was to culminate with a large feint involving sailing an amphibious force, consisting of 30 ships, off the Boulogne coast, hoping to lure in the Luftwaffe.

The Starkey plan encountered difficulties from the start. One of the opponents to the plan, Major General Ira C. Eaker, Eighth Air Force commander, criticized the Starkey plan by saying that it would force the Americans to abandon their strategic bombing offensive. In a letter to Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force
Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force
Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force , was the headquarters of the Commander of Allied forces in north west Europe, from late 1943 until the end of World War II. U.S. General Dwight D. Eisenhower was in command of SHAEF throughout its existence...

 (SHAEF), Eaker said Starkey called for 2,300 heavy-bomber sorties over 14 days "when the command had only flown 5,356 combat sorties in the past 8 months." Although Eaker convinced SHAEF to lower the American commitment to three-hundred heavy-bomber sorties, he promised to provide as many bomber sorties as possible from newly organized bomber units undergoing training. By the time it was over, Eighth Air Force had flown a total of 1,841 bomber sorties. Other problems were encountered as well. Headquarters, VIII Air Support Command noted that Starkey planners had difficulty agreeing on the rules of engagement for striking targets in occupied France. The British and Americans unknowingly duplicated efforts on several occasions by flying the same missions within a few days of each other. The Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 did not fully endorse the deception plan either; Starkey planners had wanted to place two of the Navy's battleship
A battleship is a large armored warship with a main battery consisting of heavy caliber guns. Battleships were larger, better armed and armored than cruisers and destroyers. As the largest armed ships in a fleet, battleships were used to attain command of the sea and represented the apex of a...

s within the amphibious force to act as bait for the Luftwaffe, but they were unwilling to risk their battleships in such a manner. Because of this opposition, the Starkey planners had to make several amendments to the deception plan.

Operation Wadham

Planners for Operation Wadham wanted the Germans to believe that the Americans were going to invade in the area of Brest, a seaport on the Breton peninsula. This story, which was totally fictional and involved minimal "real" forces, had an amphibious group sailing directly from the United States and another force from Great Britain, 10 divisions in all, to conduct an invasion at Brest. The premise of this story was that the Americans were planning to invade Brest following the successful invasion at Boulogne. Although the air commitment for this plan was considerably less than Starkey’s, Eaker also criticized Wadham by saying that the combined bomber offensive would provide more effectiveness at destroying the Luftwaffe than the diverted bomber resources could provide in support of Wadham. Other than air assets, the Americans only had to provide 75 dummy landing craft to aid in the deception effort. The primary weakness in Wadham’s story was that the US forces were going to land outside of Allied tactical air support range. Prior to the operation, the Army Operations Branch called Wadham a "very weak plan," but "essential as a part of Cockade to reinforce Starkey."

Operation Tindall

Operation Tindall involved the story that the British and Americans were going to attack Norway, with the hypothetical goal of capturing Stavanger
Stavanger is a city and municipality in the county of Rogaland, Norway.Stavanger municipality has a population of 126,469. There are 197,852 people living in the Stavanger conurbation, making Stavanger the fourth largest city, but the third largest urban area, in Norway...

 and its airfield. Stavanger and its airfield were critical to the story, for once again the Allies were planning a deception operation outside of tactical air support range and needed a way to increase the plausibility of the plan. The five divisions that were to be used in the sham invasion were actual divisions camped in Scotland, and the Allies had adequate aircraft and naval assets in Scotland to make the deception plan plausible. The only shortfall the Allies had with Tindall was their lack of military glider
Military glider
Military gliders have been used by the military of various countries for carrying troops and heavy equipment to a combat zone, mainly during the Second World War. These engineless aircraft were towed into the air and most of the way to their target by military transport planes, e.g...

s. The Allies hoped Tindall would induce the Germans to maintain the 12 divisions they had assigned to Norway.


Operation Cockade failed to achieve its objectives, mostly because German leadership did not believe the Allies were going to invade western Europe in 1943, and Cockade did not trigger the air battle the Allies desired. The main exception to German High Command was Generalfeldmarschall
Field Marshal or Generalfeldmarschall in German, was a rank in the armies of several German states and the Holy Roman Empire; in the Austrian Empire, the rank Feldmarschall was used...

 (Field Marshal) Gerd von Rundstedt
Gerd von Rundstedt
Karl Rudolf Gerd von Rundstedt was a Generalfeldmarschall of the German Army during World War II. He held some of the highest field commands in all phases of the war....

, the commander in chief of Western Command, who believed the Allies were going to invade at Boulogne and was angry at the German High Command for removing 10 divisions from France. The invasion stories, particularly Starkey and Wadham, were not plausible and lacked credibility, and so were not believed. There were no significant German reactions to these deception operations. The most notable of these non-reactions is the lack of air reconnaissance and naval or Luftwaffe response to the Starkey amphibious feint. The fact that the Germans moved 10 divisions out of northern France to other theaters indicated that Starkey and Wadham were complete failures.

In Norway, the Germans did keep force levels at 12 divisions, indicating the Germans assessed a higher threat there. Besides being implausible, Cockade also failed because the Allies did not work hard enough to make the deception look real. The Royal Navy would not risk its battleships, and Eaker did not want to divert resources from the strategic bombing offensive. Cockade did have one success: the Germans believed the story that the Allies had 51 divisions in the British Isles, when in reality there were only 17 divisions. This became a factor for deception operations in 1944
Operation Bodyguard
Operation Bodyguard was the code name for a World War II military deception employed by the Allied nations during the build up to the 1944 invasion of north-western Europe. The aim of the operation was to mislead the German high command as to the exact date and location of the invasion...

. Overall, however, Cockade was best summarized by Sir Arthur "Bomber" Harris, commander of RAF Bomber Command
RAF Bomber Command
RAF Bomber Command controlled the RAF's bomber forces from 1936 to 1968. During World War II the command destroyed a significant proportion of Nazi Germany's industries and many German cities, and in the 1960s stood at the peak of its postwar military power with the V bombers and a supplemental...

, when he said the deception plan was "at best a piece of harmless play acting."
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