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Operation Bodyguard

Operation Bodyguard
Part of Operation Overlord, World War II

Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill at the 1943 Tehran conference, where Operation Bodyguard was proposed
Operational scope Strategic
Planned 1943–44
Planned by London Controlling Section, Ops (B), R Force and others
Objective Strategic surprise for Operation Overlord
Executed by George S. Patton
Outcome Success in keeping the German 15 Army at Calais.

Operation Bodyguard was the code name for a World War II deception plan employed by the Allied states before the 1944 invasion of north-west Europe. The plan was intended to mislead the German high command as to the time and place of the invasion. The plan contained several operations, which culminated in the tactical surprise of the Germans during the Normandy landings on June 6, 1944 (also known as D-Day) and delayed German reinforcements to the region for some time afterwards.

German coastal defences were stretched thin in 1944, as the Nazis prepared to defend all of the coast of north-west Europe. The Allies had already employed deception operations against the Germans, aided by the capture of all of the German agents in the United Kingdom and the systematic decryption of German Enigma communications. Once Normandy had been chosen as the site of the invasion, it was decided to attempt to deceive the Germans into thinking it was a diversion and that the true invasion was to be elsewhere.

Planning for Bodyguard started in 1943 under the auspices of the London Controlling Section (LCS). A draft strategy, referred to as Plan Jael, was presented to Allied High Command at the Tehran Conference in late November and approved on December 6. The objective of this plan was to lead the Germans to believe that the invasion of north-west Europe would come later than was planned and to expect attacks elsewhere, including the Pas de Calais, the Balkans, southern France, Norway and Soviet attacks in Bulgaria and northern Norway.

Operation Bodyguard succeeded and the Normandy landings took the Germans by surprise. The subsequent deception suggesting that the Normandy landings were a diversion led Hitler to delay sending reinforcements from the Pas de Calais region for nearly seven weeks (the original plan had specified 14 days).


  • Background 1
    • Operation Cockade 1.1
  • Plan Jael 2
  • Early 1944: objectives and planning 3
  • Operation Fortitude 4
  • Operation Graffham 5
  • Operation Ironside 6
  • Operation Zeppelin 7
  • Operation Copperhead 8
  • Normandy landings 9
  • Deception methods 10
    • Special means 10.1
    • Visual deception 10.2
  • Aftermath 11
  • List of operations 12
  • References 13
    • Bibliography 13.1


German troop dispositions in France, June 1944
Map depicting the targets of all the subordinate plans of Bodyguard

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.[1][2]

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.[3][4]

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.[5]

Operation Cockade

In 1943, after it had been decided to defer the invasion, Operation Overlord, until the following year, 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").[6]

Plan Jael

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.[7][8]

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.[8]

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.[9] 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.[7]

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."[10][11]

Early 1944: objectives and planning

Memorandum on Bodyguard prepared for SHAEF in February 1944
Inflatable tanks were used during Operation Fortitude, one of the three major operations making up Bodyguard

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.[12]

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.[13]

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 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.[13]

Operation Fortitude

Insignia of the First United States Army Group, the key fictional formation of Operation Fortitude

Fortitude was intended to convince the Germans of a greater Allied military strength than existed, and that this would be deployed to invade both Norway and Pas de Calais. Fortitude employed similar techniques to the 1943 Cockade operation: fictional field armies, faked operations, and false "leaked" information about Allied plans.

Fortitude North centred 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 German divisions stationed there. The Allies created the illusion of the army via fake radio traffic (Operation Skye) and leaks through double agents.[14][15]

Political negotiations with neutral Sweden, under the name Operation Graffham, to obtain concessions that would be useful during an invasion of Norway were used to add credence to the masquerade. Sweden still maintained economic ties with Germany and it was hoped that political and economic pressure would filter through to Axis intelligence networks.[16]

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 (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.[17]

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.[17]

Operation Graffham

Graffham was a political deception against Sweden, intended as a companion to Fortitude North. The objective was to convince German intelligence that the Allies were actively building political ties with Sweden, in preparation for an upcoming invasion of Norway. It 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.[18][19]

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.[18] 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.[19]

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.[20][21]

Operation Ironside

Intercepted communications during January 1944 indicated German high command feared the possibility of landings near Bordeaux, in particular around the Bay of Biscay. 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.[22] 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.[23][24]

Ironside was implemented entirely via double agents, specifically Tate, Bronx and Garbo.[22] 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.[25] 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.[22]

Operation Zeppelin

Operation 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.[26]

Operation Copperhead

Black and white photograph of a middle aged man dressed in British Army uniform
M. E. Clifton James in the guise of Montgomery

Copperhead was a small decoy operation, just before D-Day, aimed at misleading German intelligence as to the whereabouts of Montgomery. 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.[27]

Normandy landings

A paradummy, of the sort dropped into Normandy during Operation Titanic

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.[28] Small ships and aircraft simulated invasion fleets lying off Pas de Calais, Cap d'Antifer and the western flank of the real invasion force.[29] At the same time Operation Titanic involved the RAF dropping fake paratroopers to the east and west of the Normandy landings.

Joan Pujol Garcia, 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.

Deception methods

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.

Special means

Joan Pujol Garcia, "Garbo"

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.[30] The LCS was able to use double agents to send back misleading information about Allied invasion plans.[31]

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.[32][33]

Visual deception

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".[34]

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."[35]

List of operations

Whilst Bodyguard was the overall deception strategy for the Allied invasion, under Operation Overlord, the implementation took the form of many sub-operations.[36]

  • Operation Fortitude (North and South)
    Operation Quicksilver I – VI (South) and Operation Skye (North)
    Operation Ironside IRONSIDE was the threat to the Bordeaux area during NEPTUNE.
    Operation Titanic (I – IV)
    Naval Deceptions: Operations Taxable, Glimmer and Big Drum
    Operation Paradise (One – Five) PARADISE was the dummy lighting of ports, beaches, and bridging operations on the English east coast in tactical support of NEPTUNE.
  • Operation Zeppelin
  • Operation Royal Flush ROYAL FLUSH was a Diplomatic plan, to provide for taking advantage of expected changes in Neutral attitudes after Operation NEPTUNE, by pressure upon Sweden, Spain and possibly Turkey.
  • Operation Vendetta VENDETTA was a threat against Southern France from North Africa during NEPTUNE.
  • Operation Graffham GRAFFHAM was a diplomatic threat to reinforce FORTITUDE NORTH, with negotiations for Swedish airfields and transport facilities.


  1. ^ Latimer (2004), pg. 148–149
  2. ^ Cruickshank (2004)
  3. ^ Latimer (2001), pg. 207–208
  4. ^ Holt (2004)
  5. ^ Latimer 2001, pg 206
  6. ^ Holt 2004, pg. 478 – 480
  7. ^ a b Holt 2004, pg. 494 – 496
  8. ^ a b Crowdy 2008, pg. 226 – 228
  9. ^ Holt 2004, pg. 502 -503
  10. ^ Holt 2004, pg. 504 – 505
  11. ^ Cave Brown 1975, pg. 1–10
  12. ^ Hesketh 2000, pg. 12
  13. ^ a b Crowdy 2008, pg. 229 – 230
  14. ^ Holt 2004, pg. 486
  15. ^ Cave Brown 1975, pg. 464 – 466
  16. ^ Sexton 1983, pg. 112
  17. ^ a b Latimer 2001, pg. 218 – 232
  18. ^ a b Barbier (2007), p. 52
  19. ^ a b Levine (2011), pg. 219
  20. ^ Barbier (2007), p. 53
  21. ^ Barbier (2007), p. 185
  22. ^ a b c Holt (2005), pp. 560–561
  23. ^ Holt (2005), p. 559
  24. ^ Hesketh (1999), p. 103
  25. ^ Howard (1990), pg. 125
  26. ^ Latimer 2001, pg. 215
  27. ^ Niv by Graham Lord, Orion Books, 2003. P.123
  28. ^ Barbier (2007), pp. 70–71
  29. ^ Barbier (2007), pp. 108–109
  30. ^ Masterman 1972
  31. ^ Ambrose 1981, pg. 269
  32. ^ Cave Brown 1975
  33. ^ Lewin 2001, p. 292
  34. ^ Latimer 2001, pg. 238
  35. ^ Holt 2004, pg. 493
  36. ^ Holt (2004), p. 821


  • Barbier, Mary (2007). D-Day Deception: Operation Fortitude and the Normandy Invasion. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 268.  
  • Crowdy, Terry (23 September 2008). Deceiving Hitler: Double Cross and Deception in World War II. Osprey. p. 352.  
  • Hesketh, Roger (2000). Fortitude: The D-Day Deception Campaign.  
  • Holt, Thaddeus (2004). The Deceivers: Allied Military Deception in the Second World War. New York: Scribner.  
  • Howard, Michael (1990). British Intelligence in the Second World War: Strategic deception. New York: Cambridge University Press.  
  • Jablonsky, David (1991). Churchill, the Great Game and Total War. Frank Cass.  
  • Levine, Joshua (2011). Operation Fortitude: The True Story of the Key Spy Operation of WWII That Saved D-Day. London: HarperCollins UK.  
  • Mallmann-Showell, J. P. (2003). German Naval Code Breakers. Hersham, Surrey: Ian Allan Publishing.  
  • Sexton, Donal J. (1983). "Phantoms of the North: British Deceptions in Scandinavia, 1941–1944". Military Affairs (Society for Military History) 47 (3): 109–114.  
  • Cruickshank, Charles (2004). "Clarke, Dudley Wrangel (1899–1974)".  
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