Operation Fortitude
Operation Fortitude was the codename for a World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 military deception
Military deception
Military deception is an attempt to amplify, or create an artificial fog of war or to mislead the enemy using psychological operations, information warfare and other methods. As a form of strategic use of information , it overlaps with psychological warfare...

 employed by the Allied nations as part of an overall deception strategy (code named Bodyguard
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...

) during the build up to the 1944 Normandy Landings. Fortitude was divided into two sections, North and South, with the aim of misleading the German high command as to the location of the imminent invasion.

Both Fortitude plans involved the creation of fake field army
Field army
A Field Army, or Area Army, usually referred to simply as an Army, is a term used by many national military forces for a military formation superior to a corps and beneath an army group....

s (based in Edinburgh and the south of England) which threatened 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...

 (Fortitude North) and Pas de Calais (Fortitude South). The operation was intended to divert Axis attention away from Normandy and, after the invasion on June 6, 1944, to delay reinforcement by convincing the Germans that the landings were purely a diversionary attack.

The operation was one of the most successful military deceptions employed during the war and, arguably, the most important.


Fortitude was one of the major elements of Operation Bodyguard
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...

, the overall Allied deception stratagem for the Normandy landings. The plans principle objective was to ensure the Germans would not increase troop presence in Normandy by promoting the appearance that the Allied forces would attack in other locations. After the invasion (on June 6, 1944) the plan was to delay movement of German reserves to the Normandy beachhead and prevent a potentially disastrous counter-attack.

The planning of Operation Fortitude came under the auspices of the London Controlling Section
London Controlling Section
The London Controlling Section was established in June 1942 within the Joint Planning Staff at the offices of the War Cabinet, which was presided over by Winston Churchill as Prime Minister. The purpose of the LCS was to devise and coordinate strategic military deception and cover plans. The plans...

, a secret body set up to manage Allied deception strategy during the war. However, the execution of each plan fell to the various theatre
Theater (warfare)
In warfare, a theater, is defined as an area or place within which important military events occur or are progressing. The entirety of the air, land, and sea area that is or that may potentially become involved in war operations....

 commanders, in the case of Fortitude this was 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) under General Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army...

. A special section, Ops (B), was established a SHAEF to handle the operation (and all of the theatre's deception warfare). The LCS retained responsibility for what was called "Special Means"; the use of diplomatic channels and double-agents.

Fortitude was split into two parts, North and South, both with similar aims. Fortitude North was intended to convince the German high command that the Allies, staging out of Scotland, would attempt an invasion of occupied Norway. Fortitude South employed the same tactic, with the apparent objective being Pas de Calais.


It was initially envisioned that deception would occur through five main channels:
  1. Physical deception: to mislead the enemy with non-existent units through fake infrastructure and equipment, such as inflatable rubber tanks
    Dummy tank
    A dummy tank is a type of decoy intended to fool an enemy into believing a fake tank, usually inflatable or wooden, is real. Dummy tanks emerged soon after the introduction of real tanks in World War I, but were not widely used until World War II....

     and plywood artillery.
  2. Controlled leaks of information through diplomatic channels, which might be passed on via neutral countries to the Germans.
  3. Wireless traffic: To mislead the enemy, wireless traffic was created to simulate actual units
  4. Use of German agents controlled by the Allies through the Double Cross System
    Double Cross System
    The Double Cross System, or XX System, was a World War II anti-espionage and deception operation of the British military intelligence arm, MI5. Nazi agents in Britain - real and false - were captured, turned themselves in or simply announced themselves and were then used by the British to broadcast...

     to send false information to the German intelligence services
  5. Public presence of notable staff associated with phantom groups, such as FUSAG (First U.S. Army Group
    First U.S. Army Group
    First United States Army Group was a fictitious Allied Army Group in World War II prior to D-Day, part of Operation Quicksilver, created to deceive the Germans about where the Allies would land in France. To attract Axis attention, prominent US general George S. Patton was placed in command of the...

    ), most notably the well-known US general George S. Patton
    George S. Patton
    George Smith Patton, Jr. was a United States Army officer best known for his leadership while commanding corps and armies as a general during World War II. He was also well known for his eccentricity and controversial outspokenness.Patton was commissioned in the U.S. Army after his graduation from...


During the course of Fortitude, the almost complete lack of German aerial reconnaissance, together with the absence of uncontrolled German agents in Britain, came to make physical deception almost irrelevant. The unreliability of the "diplomatic leaks" resulted in their discontinuance. The majority of deception was carried out by means of false wireless traffic and through German double agents. The latter proved to be by far the most significant.

In fact, Fortitude was so successful that Hitler regarded the Normandy invasion as a feint: he kept his Panzer
A Panzer is a German language word that, when used as a noun, means "tank". When it is used as an adjective, it means either tank or "armoured" .- Etymology :...

 units where he expected an attack, and away from Normandy, until the battle was decided—in Normandy.

Double agents

The Germans had about 50 agents in England at the time, but B1A (the Counter-Intelligence Division of MI5
The Security Service, commonly known as MI5 , is the United Kingdom's internal counter-intelligence and security agency and is part of its core intelligence machinery alongside the Secret Intelligence Service focused on foreign threats, Government Communications Headquarters and the Defence...

) had caught all but one of them (he died in unclear circumstances). Many were recruited as double agents under the Double Cross System
Double Cross System
The Double Cross System, or XX System, was a World War II anti-espionage and deception operation of the British military intelligence arm, MI5. Nazi agents in Britain - real and false - were captured, turned themselves in or simply announced themselves and were then used by the British to broadcast...

. They were used throughout the war to feed German Intelligence a misleading picture, and particularly in the pre-invasion period misleading information about invasion preparations. Reports sent by these agents were carefully composed and coordinated to support the view of forces in the UK the Allied deception planners wished to present.

The three most important double agents during the Fortitude operation were:
  • Juan Pujol (Garbo), a Spaniard who managed to get recruited by German intelligence, and sent them abundant but convincing (mis)information from Lisbon, until the allies accepted his offer and he was employed by the British. He created a huge network of imaginary sub-agents by the time of Fortitude, and the Germans unwittingly paid the British Exchequer large amounts of money regularly, thinking they were funding a network loyal to themselves. He was awarded both the Iron Cross
    Iron Cross
    The Iron Cross is a cross symbol typically in black with a white or silver outline that originated after 1219 when the Kingdom of Jerusalem granted the Teutonic Order the right to combine the Teutonic Black Cross placed above a silver Cross of Jerusalem....

     by the Germans and an MBE
    MBE can stand for:* Mail Boxes Etc.* Management by exception* Master of Bioethics* Master of Bioscience Enterprise* Master of Business Engineering* Master of Business Economics* Mean Biased Error...

     by the British after D-Day
    D-Day is a term often used in military parlance to denote the day on which a combat attack or operation is to be initiated. "D-Day" often represents a variable, designating the day upon which some significant event will occur or has occurred; see Military designation of days and hours for similar...

  • Roman Czerniawski
    Roman Czerniawski
    Roman Garby-Czerniawski was a Polish Air Force Captain and Allied double agent during World War II, using the codename Brutus.-Life:...

     (Brutus), a Polish officer. Captured by the Germans, he was offered a chance to work for them as a spy. On his arrival in Britain, he immediately turned himself in to British intelligence.
  • Dusan Popov
    Dušan Popov
    Dušan "Duško" Popov OBE was a double agent working for MI6 during World War II under the cryptonym Tricycle.-Origins of Tricycle:...

     (Tricycle), a Yugoslav lawyer.

Fortitude North

Fortitude North was designed to mislead the Germans into expecting an invasion of Scandanavia. By threatening any weakened Norwegian defence the Allies hoped to prevent or delay reinforcement of France following the Normandy invasion. The plan involved simulating a build up of forces in northern England and political contact with Sweden.

During a similar operation in 1943, Operation Cockade
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 feinting various attacks into Western Europe...

, a fictional field army (British Fourth Army) had been created, head-quartered in Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle is a fortress which dominates the skyline of the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, from its position atop the volcanic Castle Rock. Human habitation of the site is dated back as far as the 9th century BC, although the nature of early settlement is unclear...

. It was decided to continue to use the same force during Fortitude. Unlike its Southern counter-part the deception relied primarily on "Special Means" and fake radio traffic, since it was judged unlikely that German reconnaissance planes could infiltrate Scotland without being stopped. False information about the arrival of troops in the area were reported by double agents "Mutt" and "Jeff", who had surrendered following their 1941 landing in the Moray Firth
Moray Firth
The Moray Firth is a roughly triangular inlet of the North Sea, north and east of Inverness, which is in the Highland council area of north of Scotland...

, whilst the British media cooperated by broadcasting fake information, such as football scores or wedding announcements, to nonexistent troops.

In the early spring of 1944 British commandos attacked targets in Norway to simulate the pre-cursor to invasion. They destroyed industrial targets, such as shipping and power infrastructure, as well as military outposts. This coincided with an increase in Naval activity in the northern seas and political pressure on neutral Sweden.

Operation Skye

Operation Skye was the code name for the radio deception component of Fortitude North, involving simulated radio traffic between fictional army units. The programme began on 22 March 1944, overseen by Colonel R. M. McLeod, and became fully operational by 6 April). The operation was split into four sections, relating to different divisions of the Fourth Army:
  • Skye I; Fourth Army headquarters
  • Skye II; British II Corps
  • Skye III; American XV Corps (a genuine division, but with fictional units added to its order of battle)
  • Skye IV; British VII Corps.

In his 2000 book, Fortitude: The D-Day Deception Campaign, Roger Hesketh concluded that "No evidence has so far been found to show that wireless deception or visual misdirection made any contribution to Fortitude North".It is thought that the Germans were not in fact monitoring the radio traffic being simulated.

Operation Graffham

To lend further weight to the deception political and economic pressure was levelled at neutral Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

. British diplomats began negotiations to obtain concessions useful in the event of any invasion of Norway, such as the right to fly reconnaissance missions over Sweden or to refuel planes that made emergency landings. Economic pressure, such as threats of black listing Swedish business, was also placed on the country. The Allies intended that news of the pressure would be passed to the Germans, with whom the Swedes maintained economic links.

However, Operation Graffham had the additional purpose of trying to stop German ties to Sweden, especially the supply of ball bearings to the German war effort. Ball bearing production in Germany, vital to war production, was very low and the military relied on imports from Scandinavia. Stanton Griffis, an executive at Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures
Paramount Pictures Corporation is an American film production and distribution company, located at 5555 Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. Founded in 1912 and currently owned by media conglomerate Viacom, it is America's oldest existing film studio; it is also the last major film studio still...

 and later an American Ambassador, was sent to the country. Posing as a talent scout he approached ball bearing manufacturers and attempted to purchase their supply. The combination of political and economic pressure eventually lead Swedish government to restrict German military traffic through the country and halt the supply of bearings.

Fortitude South

Fortitude South was conducted with the intention of convincing the Germans that an invasion would come to the Pas de Calais—a logical strategic choice for an invasion since it was the closest part of France to England and its beaches were not easily defended. While it was hoped that this would reduce the number of troops in the Normandy area at the time of the invasion, even more important was to dissuade the Germans from reinforcing the Normandy battleground in the days immediately after the invasion. To this end the Allies hoped to convince the Germans that the Normandy invasion, when it occurred, was a diversion, and that the main invasion was still to come near Calais.

Operation Quicksilver

The key element of Fortitude South was Operation Quicksilver. It entailed the creation of the belief in German minds that the Allied force consisted of two army groups, 21st Army Group under Montgomery (the genuine Normandy invasion force), and 1st U.S. Army Group (FUSAG) (a fictitious force under General George Patton), positioned in southeastern England for a crossing at the Pas de Calais.

At no point were the Germans fed false documents describing the invasion plans. Instead they were allowed to construct a misleading order of battle
Order of battle
In modern use, the order of battle is the identification, command structure, strength, and disposition of personnel, equipment, and units of an armed force participating in field operations. Various abbreviations are in use, including OOB, O/B, or OB, while ORBAT remains the most common in the...

 for the Allied forces. To mount a massive invasion of Europe from England, military planners had little choice but to stage units around the country with those that would land first nearest to the embarkation point. As a result of FUSAG's having been placed in the south-east, German intelligence would (and did) deduce that the center of the invasion force was opposite Calais, the point on the French coast closest to England and therefore a likely landing point.

To facilitate this deception, additional buildings were constructed; dummy vehicles and landing craft were placed around possible embarkation points. Furthermore, Patton was often photographed visiting these locations. It was originally intended to make many such fakes, but the extremely low level of German aerial reconnaissance and the belief that most German spies were under British control meant that such effort were reduced to a minimum. A huge amount of false radio traffic was transmitted, commensurate with a force of that size.

A deception of such a size required input from many organisations, including MI5, MI6, SHAEF via Ops B, and the armed services. Information from the various deception agencies was organized by and channeled through the London Controlling Section under the direction of Lieutenant-Colonel John Bevan.


The Allies were able to judge how well Fortitude was working thanks to Ultra, signals intelligence obtained by breaking German codes and ciphers. On June 1 a decrypted transmission by Hiroshi Ōshima
Hiroshi Ōshima
Baron was a general in the Imperial Japanese Army, Japanese ambassador to Nazi Germany before and during World War II — and unknowingly a major source of communications intelligence for the Allies. His role was perhaps best summed up by General George C...

 (the Japanese ambassador) to his government recounting a recent conversation with Hitler confirmed the effectiveness of Fortitude. When asked for his thoughts on the Allied battle plan Hitler had said; "I think that diversionary actions will take place in a number of places - against Norway, Denmark, the southern part of western France, and the French Mediterranean coast". Adding that he expected the Allies to subsequently attack in force across the Straits of Dover.

They maintained the pretense of FUSAG and other forces threatening Pas de Calais for some considerable time after D-Day, possibly even as late as September 1944. This was vital to the success of the Allied plan, since it forced the Germans to keep most of their reserves bottled up waiting for an attack on Calais which never came, thereby allowing the Allies to maintain and build upon their marginal foothold in Normandy.

Reasons for success

Some of the key reasons why this operation was so successful:
  • The long term view taken by British Intelligence to cultivate these agents as channels of disinformation
    Disinformation is intentionally false or inaccurate information that is spread deliberately. For this reason, it is synonymous with and sometimes called black propaganda. It is an act of deception and false statements to convince someone of untruth...

     to the enemy.
  • The use of Ultra decrypts to read Enigma
    Enigma machine
    An Enigma machine is any of a family of related electro-mechanical rotor cipher machines used for the encryption and decryption of secret messages. Enigma was invented by German engineer Arthur Scherbius at the end of World War I...

    -coded messages between Abwehr and the German High Command, which quickly told them the effectiveness of the deception tactics. This is one of the early uses of a closed-loop deception system.
  • R V Jones
    Reginald Victor Jones
    Reginald Victor Jones, CH CB CBE FRS, was a British physicist and scientific military intelligence expert who played an important role in the defence of Britain in -Education:...

    , the Assistant Director Intelligence (Science) at the British Air Ministry
    Air Ministry
    The Air Ministry was a department of the British Government with the responsibility of managing the affairs of the Royal Air Force, that existed from 1918 to 1964...

     insisted for reasons of tactical deception that for every radar station attacked within the real invasion area, two were to be attacked outside it.
  • The extensive nature of the German Intelligence machinery, and the rivalry amongst the various elements.

In fiction

Eye of the Needle
Eye of the Needle
Eye of the Needle is a spy thriller novel written by British author Ken Follett. It was originally published in 1978 by the Penguin Group titled Storm Island. This novel was Follett's first successful, bestselling effort as a novelist, and it earned him the 1979 Edgar Award for Best Novel from the...

is a novel (and subsequent movie) about a Nazi spy figuring out the Allied deception and racing to let the German leadership know. Another book, The Unlikely Spy
The Unlikely Spy
The Unlikely Spy is a spy novel written by Daniel Silva, set during World War II, and published in 1996. While some of the exact characters and events may be fictional, the book is based on very real events- the attempt by the Allies to use British intelligence to cover up the true plans for D-Day...

, is a novel that focuses on Allied attempts to carry out Fortitude, as well as a German agent's race to discover the true plans.
Blackout (novel)
Blackout and All Clear are the two volumes that comprise a 2010 science fiction novel by American author Connie Willis. Blackout was published February 2, 2010 by Spectra. The second part, the conclusion All Clear, was released as a separate book on October 19, 2010...

, as well as its sequel All Clear, is a novel about time-travelling historians who are studying the events of the Battle of Britain
Battle of Britain
The Battle of Britain is the name given to the World War II air campaign waged by the German Air Force against the United Kingdom during the summer and autumn of 1940...

. One of the historians, posing as a contemporary British soldier, has been assigned to assist with Operation Fortitude.

External links

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