Operation Fortitude: The Greatest Hoax of the Second World War Paperback – 1 Mar 2012
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‘A vivid, moving story of the men who fought the Great War in the Air. Quite superb.’
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Chris Powling, Classic FM Guestlist
‘This is a superior example of the genre from a writer at the top of his game.’ Air Marshal Stuart Peach
From the Author
This is the first book that deals with the whole story of Operation Fortitude, bringing all surrounding facts and details together. Where did your research begin?
In the National Archives at Kew. I was able to piece the story together from a number of important sources, but the most important was the PRO. In particular, the double agent story could not have been told any other way. Myths have grown up over the years about who these men and women really were, and about what they did and didn’t do. Well, the answers lie in the MI5 files which have been made available at Kew. And the files don’t only contain information. They also contain the tools of the agents’ trade, such as false identity cards and disc codes. In one file, there is even a seventy year old Veronal sleeping pill given to a spy by the German Intelligence Service.
In your opinion, which deception tactic played the biggest role in the success of Operation Fortitude?
Without a doubt, Operation Fortitude owed its success to the British Double Cross system. This was a network of double agents run by MI5. The Nazis believed (or at least hoped) that these men and women were loyal German spies, but they were, in fact, ultimately working for the British. These were the individuals who put across the effective parts of the Fortitude deception. Other elements of Fortitude, such as dummy ships and tanks, and fake wireless messages, were less successful. Having said that, other tactics played their part. For example, a captured German general, Hans Cramer, on his release from a British prison camp, was driven through south-west England. But he was told that he was in the south-east. He then hurried to warn Rommel that Allied forces were crowded around Dover preparing to attack the Pas de Calais--which was precisely what the Allied deceivers had hoped he would do.
Had Popov been successful in warning the Americans about Pearl Harbor, do you think they would have been able to prevent it from taking place at all?
In mid-1941, Dusko Popov informed J Edgar Hoover, chief of the FBI, that the Japanese were planning an attack on Pearl Harbor. Hoover ignored him. But had Hoover passed the intelligence to the White House, as he should have done, or had MI5 passed it directly to the White House themselves, as they should have done, the Americans would have been prepared for it. Popov hadn’t been given the details of precisely when and how the attack would be mounted, so it is debatable whether that it could have been prevented outright. But had Hoover taken the warning seriously, it would certainly not have come as a shocking surprise.
What was Camp 020 and why was it important?
Camp 020 was Britain’s spy prison. Suspected German spies were brought there (it was round the corner from Richmond tube station) and interrogated by teams led by Colonel Robin ‘Tin Eye’ Stephens, a man who was said to rub his hands with glee when another captured spy was on his way. Stephens used a number of innovative interrogation methods, including what has become known as ‘Good Cop/Bad Cop’, where he would intimidate the prisoner, while another, far more amenable, officer would play the sympathetic questioner. Camp 020 was important because it was where captured spies were turned into double agents. They would be threatened and cajoled, and a large number agreed to begin working for Britain. Those who didn’t were tried, and almost invariably executed. It is worth noting that Stephens did not allow violence to be used on Camp 020 inmates.
Why were the British able to deceive the Germans so effectively?
A combination of factors are important here. First of all, the system of strategic deception came of age in 1943, when the British Chiefs of Staff began to realize that it could be a truly effective weapon. It also started to become clear, at the same time, that double cross was the best method of putting that deception across. So a very effective means of fooling the Germans was in place. The success of Fortitude itself can be put down in significant part to the arrogance and imagination of Lieutenant Colonel David Strangeways, an officer on Montgomery’s staff, who ripped up the original Fortitude plan, and rewrote it according to his own cocksure instincts. And the Germans’ own frailties should not be underestimated. Admiral Canaris, the chief of the German Intelligence Service until early 1944, told one of his officers, in January of that year, that he didn’t care whether every German agent in Britain was under enemy control, so long as he could tell German High Command that he had agents in Britain reporting regularly. This attitude, which pervaded the entire German Intelligence Service, a consequence of fear and disloyalty, meant that the Germans were predisposed to believe much of what they were led to believe. Also, the Allies understood the importance of playing on Hitler’s existing beliefs – of which they had knowledge thanks to the breaking of the Enigma code. All in all, there were a large number of factors which came together to ensure the success of Fortitude--all discussed in the book! -- Dieser Text bezieht sich auf eine vergriffene oder nicht verfügbare Ausgabe dieses Titels.
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Top Customer Reviews
The D-Day deception itself is not dealt with until about half way through the book. The opening chapters are concerned with the Double Cross system, i.e. the capture, 'turning' (and sometimes hanging) of German spies together with the recruitment of foreign volunteers who offer to become double agents. The most famous of these, of course, was the Spaniard Juan Pujol, code named Garbo who, at the end of the war, received medals from both the duped Germans and the grateful British (the Iron Cross from the Germans and the MBE from the British). It was years before the Germans found out how they had been conned.
Levine's book is an enjoyable and well-researched read for anyone interested in this fascinating subject. Highly recommended.
An OK read but not in the Max Hastings class!
The deception was complex and involved many agents planting misinformation over time, creating fake armies and air forces and a huge variety of other schemes over a period of a year or more. Bit-by-bit and day-by-day something new was added to the pile until Germany was totally convinced that Calais was to be used. Heavy bombing of strategic sites around Calais was undertaken but about as many similar locations around Normandy and elsewhere were planned and undertaken, sufficient to suggest a random targeting without necessarily disclosing the truth.
Even when the landings were taking place, Germany was so convinced that they were a ploy and fake that they did not react for several days, by which time Allied forces were many miles inland and advancing, and the beach-head was strong and reinforced daily. Germany's retreat had begun and the eventual outcome all but guaranteed at a very early date.
The story has been told many times, in many forms and by many authors. This book's author has had a number of careers including some time spent as a barrister and later as an actor. Also a TV historian, he has written other books on WW1 and WW2.
The book is very easy to read and not overly detailed. Some of the better-known Operations and ideas are included but some have been excluded, not because they were unimportant but probably for reasons of space. The book offers the reader an insight into events leading up to D-Day and just how much needed to be planned months or even years in advance.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Fabulous item, excellent value and very speedy delivery. Very many thanks. John BT.Published 8 months ago by John BT.
A very readable and engaging retelling of the story of the British run espionage network known as the Double-Cross system. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Graeme Shimmin
Some story, didnt know they went that far, this is a great readPublished 24 months ago by Michael Miller