When World War II began, electronic warfare had matured considerably since the end of World War I. In 1939, unlike in 1914, many nations had functioning cryptological departments, and virtually all nations during the war broke codes of the other side. Circumstances in 1939 varied widely, however. Great Britain, for example, had a solid organization, centered on the Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park. Such operations played key roles in counterintelligence on both sides.
Communications technology did not solve all counterintelligence issues, as the British discovered soon after the fall of France in 1940 when an influx of refugees from the Continent began arriving on their shores. Before long, an average of 700 aliens were entering the country per month, and the Travel Section of MI-5 (Security Service) knew that each person needed to be interrogated so that spies could be identified before they could do much harm. A pedestrian approach was required. Near the Clapham Junction Railway Station was the empty Royal Victoria Patriotic School (RVPS), built to educate the children of Crimean War veterans. The students of RVPS and the nearby Emanuel School, an old and excellent London public school, had been evacuated to the country for the duration of the war. The RVPS, later known as the London Reception Center (LRC), became MI-5's principal interrogating facility. Some 33,000 aliens were inspected at LRC during the war, but only three enemy agents were passed through undetected. The agent at large for the longest period, from November 1940 to April 1941, was Dutch parachutist Englebertus Fukken. He was found dead in a Cambridgeshire air-raid shelter, a suicide. In the early days, a proven German agent might be hanged at the RVPS, next to the faculty common room. Eventually, after 27 July 1940, those aliens held at the LRC were sent to Ham in west London for further study and interrogation. Under the command of Colonel R. W. G. "Tin Eye" Stephens, Camp 020 was the interrogation center of last resort. It should be remembered that 020 functioned in 1940 under fear of the planned German invasion of the British Isles, Operation sea lion.
As the war progressed, more and more German agents arrived, not via the refugee route but by parachute or coastal landing at night from German small craft or even U-boats. On capture—and MI-5 was good at that—these persons could not claim to be refugees. Some did not wait for apprehension but turned themselves in and volunteered to work for the Allies. Under the chairmanship of Sir John Masterman, an Oxford don who had the distinction of spending all of World War I interned in Germany, the XX (Doublecross) Committee came into being to develop a deception plan to utilize these possible double agents. Composed of representatives of MI-5, MI-6 (Secret Intelligence Service), the Special Operations Executive (SOE), and other organizations, the committee set up a phony radio situation that fed doctored information mixed with some real facts back to German controllers. The ruse became more successful than most members of the XX Committee ever thought it would or could be.
The Germans were also active in counterintelligence operations, one of which worked specifically against SOE. englandspiel was a German operation set up in the Netherlands by Major Herman Giske of the Abwehr and Colonel Josef Schreide of the Reichssicherheithauptamt (RSHA, the Reich Main Security Office) to break up British espionage rings in Holland. The Abwehr, the military secret service under Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, contained many anti-Nazi elements. The RSHA, which was anything but anti-Nazi, was under Schutzstaffel (SS) chief Heinrich Himmler. The two organizations did not greatly appreciate each other. englandspiel worked something like the XX Committee in reverse. The Germans "turned" several SOE parachutists who then asked SOE to send monetary, material, and human assistance to the espionage rings in Holland. That the British did. englandspiel lasted until two agents escaped from Haaren Prison and made their way to Switzerland; they then exposed the German operation. The operation had ended by the beginning of April 1944, but it had been quite successful. The British carried out 190 aircraft drops of people and equipment. Of 54 captured agents, 47 were executed. The Germans took 3,000 Sten guns, 5,000 revolvers, 2,000 hand grenades, 500,000 rounds of ammunition, 75 radio transmitters, and 500,000 Dutch guilders. englandspiel was probably the greatest Allied espionage defeat of World War II.
Mention must also be made of the Germans' deception plan for Operation barbarossa, their 22 June 1941 attack on the Soviet Union. For such a momentous military action, there was virtually no attempt at deception. The Abwehr and other organizations merely stated that the transfer of troops from west to east was (1) intended to aid Italy's faltering campaign against the Greeks, and (2) a deception for British consumption designed to signal that Operation sea lion had been abandoned. Soviet leader Josef Stalin received as many as 100 warnings and ignored all of them, dismissing them as deliberate Allied disinformation.
The Western Allies also had a great success in Operation mincemeat, their unique deception campaign preceding the Sicily landings in July 1943. This operation was developed to convince the Germans that the Greek islands and Sardinia were the next Allied targets after North Africa, instead of the more logical Sicily. Lieutenant Commander Ewen Montagu (1901–1985), British navy liaison to the XX Committee, proposed disguising a dead body as a British officer and floating it ashore in Spain, with appropriate evidence on the body. The corpse selected was that of a man (as yet unidentified) who had died of pneumonia, which produced symptoms similar to a death by drowning. The plan worked to perfection, causing the Germans to shift their assets to Greece and Sardinia. In 1953, Montagu revealed the whole saga in his book The Man Who Never Was, a best-seller later made into a successful motion picture.
The most significant Allied deception of the entire war was Operation fortitude, which had two aspects. fortitude north was designed to convince Adolf Hitler that the Allies were planning to invade Norway from Scotland. fortitude south was to convince Hitler that the main Allied invasion of France would come through the Pas de Calais area. By October 1943, the Germans had seriously begun to strengthen their West Wall defenses, and the Pas de Calais was the shortest route across the English Channel. The Allies wanted as many German divisions as possible around the Pas de Calais and in Norway, to be kept there as long as possible so that they themselves might consolidate their lodgment in Normandy. The Allies therefore created a fictitious army and "stationed" it in southeastern England. Identified as the 1st Army Group (FUSAG), it was equipped with every material object Shepperton Movie Studios could devise, including inflatable rubber tanks, trucks, artillery, and landing craft, all suitably camouflaged. Movie-type sets abounded, and an oil storage facility and large dock were built near Dover. As the crowning touch, U.S. Lieutenant General George S. Patton, whom the Germans expected to command any Allied invasion of the Continent, was placed in command.
Although the primary emphasis on the bogus performances was the Pas de Calais, Norway got its share of the focus as well. The British Fourth Army, commanded by General Sir Andrew Thorne, was a force of 350,000 fictitious soldiers "assembled" in Scotland. It, too, had the false rubber and cardboard creations that characterized the operation in the south. The British increased aerial reconnaissance of the Norwegian coast, released portions of the Grand Fleet from Scapa Flow for a cruise along the Norwegian coast, and made electric plaintext and coded inquiries about bridges and snow levels in Norway. fortitude north ultimately tied down some 400,000 German troops.
German controllers contacted their spies in Britain, not realizing that all were under XX Committee control. The Germans naturally wanted their agents to ferret out any information available about the expected invasion of the Continent. Their two best people—Dusko Popov, code-named tricycle, and Juan Pujol, code-named garbo—had been under XX Committee control for some time, and they simply substantiated, if not enhanced, the deception. garbo's material was directly accessed by Hitler's personal intelligence staff, and the agent actually received medals from both sides during the war.
Meanwhile, the SOE and its U.S. counterpart, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), as well as French partisans scheduled various tasks for D day: a bridge blowing, railway cuttings, pylon and wire destruction, and more. The deception plan worked out better than expected. Hitler held German units in place along the Pas de Calais. Indeed, some were still there a month after the Normandy landings.
Ernest M. Teagarden
Howard, Michael. Strategic Deception in the Second World War. New York: W. W. Norton, 1995.; Kahn, David. The Codebreakers. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1967.; Montagu, Ewen. The Man Who Never Was. London: Evans Brothers, 1953.; Prados, John. Combined Fleet Decoded. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1995.; Richelson, Jeffrey T. A Century of Spies. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.; Smith, Michael. The Emperor's Codes. New York: Arcade, 2001.; Waller, John H. The Unseen War in Europe. New York: Random House, 1996.; Yardley, Herbert O. The American Black Chamber. New York: Ballantine Books, 1981.