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Posted on Nov 29, 2010 in Tactics101, War College

Tactics 101 055 – Military Deception

By Rick Baillergeon and John Sutherland


World War II was filled with deception efforts by all sides at all levels. Some were highly successful and others failed miserably. One of the most well-known was conducted by the Allies prior to D-Day. In an operation dubbed ‘QUICKSILVER’, the Allies through various means misled the Germans as to the exact size of the force and potential location of the invasion. With QUICKSILVER, the Germans were led to believe that there was a large force (First United States Army Group) commanded by General George Patton preparing to invade France at Pas-de-Calais. QUICKSILVER had various impacts on the Germans. First, the Germans focused forces on Pas-de-Calais which obviously could have been utilized elsewhere. Second, the Germans respect for Patton caused them to spend mental energy and time on him at the expense of other things. Finally, despite the landing at Normandy, the Germans still prepared for this force’s landing. This tied up significant resources which could have been used at Normandy.



Of course, many of us remember the old Hail Mary thrown successfully at Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War. There were many things thrown at Hussein and in coordination it worked. Two key events were the portrayal of a Marine amphibious landing on the eastern coast of Kuwait and feints along the Kuwait/ Iraq border to portray that this was the main effort of the future attack. This resulted in the Iraqi forces being tied up on the coast preparing for the amphibious landing and Hussein focused the preponderance of his combat power and all his attention on the Kuwait/Iraq border. The deception set the conditions for the successful envelopment from west to east.


What is military deception? Let’s start with the following definition: the actions you undertake to deliberately mislead your enemy as to your capabilities, intentions, or operations. This in turn causes your opponent to take a specific action or just as importantly, inaction that contributes to the accomplishment of your mission. **Remember, the decision to not make a decision is still a decision. This is critical to understand in military deception.

There are is one critical aspect of this definition we would like to elaborate on. Many times, it is just as valuable for deception to cause the enemy to not do anything versus executing actions they had originally planned. This inactivity on the battlefield decreases the options of your enemy and increases your options. In tactics, that is a good thing!

A cavalry commander should also devise tricks of his own, suitable for his situation. The basic point is that deceit is your most valuable asset in war…. If you think about it, you will find that the majority of military successes have come about as a result of trickery. It follows, then, that if you are to take on the office of commander, you should ask the gods to allow you to count the ability to deceive among your qualifications, and should also work on it yourself.”


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