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Fortitude: The D-Day Deception Campaign

Hesketh, Roger

Published by Overlook Press, Bergenfield, New Jersey, U.S.A., 2000
ISBN 10: 1585670758 / ISBN 13: 9781585670758
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Bibliographic Details

Title: Fortitude: The D-Day Deception Campaign

Publisher: Overlook Press, Bergenfield, New Jersey, U.S.A.

Publication Date: 2000

Binding: Hard Cover

Book Condition: Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Fine

Edition: 1st Printing


513pp, Appdx, Order Of Battle, Illust, b/w plates, Maps, Charts, Official History from recently declassified classified reports of Operation Fortitude, Allied deception plans for the Normandy Invasion. Gift inscription inside front cover. Otherwise clean Size: 8vo - over 7¾" - 9¾" tall. Bookseller Inventory # 011283

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Synopsis: Behind the astonishing success of D-Day was the most sophisticated deception scheme ever devised. The objective was to persuade the enemy that the long-awaited landings would take place in the Pas-de-Calais, and that any attack in Normandy would be nothing more than a diversionary feint that could be safely ignored. Hundreds of bogus agent reports were manufactured, an entire US Army Group was invented, false radio signals transmitted, and inflatable tanks, dummy bombers built of balsa wood and canvas landing craft were positioned where they could be photographed by the Luftwaffe. Each itemed an imminent amphibious assault from Dover, across the shortest stretch of the English Channel. Operation Fortitude was an extraordinary success. In this volume, the classified official history of the entire operation, written by Roger Hesketh as head of the team of D-Day deception specialists, has been declassified and released.

Review: History's lasting paradox is that hindsight bestows a legacy of inevitability on events. So it is now accepted folklore that the origins of the Second World War lie in the ending of the First World War and no doubt soon it will be a matter of public record that Nato had to invade Kosovo. Like many sweeping statements these big ideas do have a germ of truth, but they ignore all those niggling "if only" questions. History owes every bit as much to missed opportunities and plain luck as it does to careful planning and inevitability as Fortitude, Roger Hesketh's account of the D-Day deception plan makes clear. The Normandy landings in 1944 were one of the key moments of the war--the moment when the Allies reinvaded France, four years after Dunkirk, and began to sweep the Germans back towards Berlin. Most history books pay tribute to the bravery of the British and American soldiers but only lip service to just how touch and go the operation was. But without detailed planning and a large amount of good fortune, European history could have taken a very different course.

Hesketh was the amateur architect who in 1943 was charged with running the Allies D-Day deception campaign, code-named Fortitude. Establishing a beachhead on French soil was a massively risky operation, and Hesketh's task was to persuade the Germans that the main landings would be in the Pas de Calais and that the Normandy operation was merely a feint. Over the course of the year, Hesketh successfully fooled the Germans with a wealth of bogus information. His team manufactured agent reports, invented an entire US army group, sent false radio signals and positioned tanks, bombers and landing craft made out of balsa wood in locations where they could be photographed by the Luftwaffe's aerial reconnaissance. The picture the Germans built up was precisely the one that Hesketh had in mind. Indeed he was so successful that many German divisions were not still moved to Normandy after D-Day because the Nazis still believed the main invasion would take place in Calais.

Hesketh's book was originally written in 1947 and its style reflects the formality of that period. Predictably, too, he is more interested in talking about his successes than about the deception plans that went wrong or were so nearly compromised. But running just beneath the surface of the text--like one of Hesketh's secret cyphers--is the message of how very different the outcome could easily have been. --John Crace

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