Some reflections on the approach for Operation Overlord:
On the one hand, the Allies devoted themselves to some major smoke screens. One of them was about wanting to mix the cards since the real assault area was Normandy and not Calais as they managed to trick the Germans would be the assault area. They did this in three ways.
1. First, a Spanish agent, whom Hitler himself trusted, was activated. The agent called “Garbo” tricked the Germans with recurring reports that the invasion was going to take place in Calais.
2. And partly, the Allies launched Operation Fortitude and Operation Bodyguard early on, which included, among other measures, laying a massive smoke screen with inflatable combat vehicles and more, which were placed in the area of Dover early on. This Maskirovka (which means the art of masking) would hopefully guarantee that the Germans would not understand that the real area of attack was Normandy.
3. The invasion of Normandy started simultaneously with Allied pretense bombings and the release of rubber soldier dolls and staniol tape felling over Calais, which delayed the German response for a few more hours.
Another thing is that the Allies were sufficiently well informed about the executive and dominant German General Erwin Rommel and his family. Operation Overlord was initiated on his wife’s birthday. The Allies expected Rommel to travel home to his family that day, which he did.
All four measures clicked to 100 percent.
The importance of strategic maskirovka should not be underestimated, but I personally see it as a second-rate protection measure. I’m not saying I’m ignoring it and never would agree to it, but I’m reluctant to introduce pure strategic maskirovka and prefer open cards. It is probably a national trait. It is perfectly possible to plan ahead and still play with open cards.
Maskirovka at a tactical and operational level is a completely different matter. For Swedish conditions it could be about camouflage, heat camouflage, heat dissipation, invisibility hoods by systems that can imitate the surrounding temperature, and for operational level the spreading of airbases and aircontrol centers and the like. I am entirely for that. But it is symptomatic that the only central and overall strategic plan where the Allies proved to be significantly superior in WWII was during the initial invasion of Normandy, and the planning preceding Normandy.
What preceded the invasion in the form of a major deception with two smokescreens called Operation Bodyguard and Operation Fortitude, however, was not a result of superiority in strategic thinking, but a sneaking and shuffling of the cards and pure luck for the Allies side during the planning, if you ask me.
It was because of the enormous magnitude of the deception, that it was pure luck that they succeeded. A single unfortunate observation by a German agent or by a traitor could have sunk part of the plan or the whole plan. It didn’t make it any less cunning. It were all about masking, dummies, deceptive traffic and fake signaling, with the intention of deceiving the Germans about where the Allied was going to land, Calais or Normandy. They knew that the Germans knew they were coming because of all the commotion when deploying the forces from America and Canada in England, which made it impossible to cover up that the invasion was imminent.
I also mention that deceptive bombings, staniol tape felling (also called Chaff or Window) to deceive radar systems and large scale air drops of rubber dolls were carried out during D-day from bases in the southeast of England to the Calais area in France. Masking, dummies, deceptive traffic and maybe fake signaling were just forms of regular strategic maskirovka. But the fake signaling costed little in energy, manpower and working hours and was therefore well worth it.
Fake signaling can be switched on to true signaling at a certain point in time or action, and you may be exposed at a later stage just before an invasion. The deceptive bombings, the staniol tape felling and the rubber dolls were operational maskirovka aimed to win the campaign and were all justified. The Allies took the Germans by surprise on D-day as they intended to do.
The Germans were themselves devoted to strategic maskirovka on Normandy’s beaches. This made the Allied strategic Maskirovka pointless in a sense. Sure enough, the Allies sometimes landed were they could not achieve their intended goal because the target wasn’t there, and in some cases they would airdrop at the wrong place or land in dangerous places like the beach strip dubbed Omaha.
The strategic level is about how to win a war. The operational level is about how to win a campaign. The tactical level is about how to win a battle.
Do you think it is meaningless to divide the meaning of Maskirovka into strategic, operational and tactical like I did here? If yes, please motivate your standpoint.
If you think it is meaningful, do you agree on that it was pointless for the Allies to pursue their strategic maskirovka? If no, please motivate your standpoint.
Roger M. Klang, defense political Spokesman for the Christian Values Party (Kristna Värdepartiet) in Sweden