The Liberation Trilogy, by Rick Atkinson

The Epic Story of the Liberation of Europe in World War II

To mark the upcoming 70th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, I've asked my fellow historian Joseph Balkoski, whose scholarship on Operation OVERLORD is unsurpassed, to write a series of short essays about preparations for the invasion. A new article will appear every two weeks between now and June 6.

— Rick Atkinson


Operation FORTITUDE Fools the Germans
by Joseph Balkoski
Posted March 17, 2014

By the third day of the Teheran summit, code-named EUREKA, that trinity of statesmen known in the Western press as “The Big Three”—Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin—finally began to relax. Just a few years in the past, one could hardly have envisioned FDR, a Hyde Park aristocrat, or Churchill, an old-school imperialist, bantering with Stalin, whom George Marshall described as “a rough son-of-a-bitch who made his way by murder and everything else.” But at four P.M. on November 30, 1943, near the close of their third plenary meeting, Churchill brought up the pressing need to deceive the Germans about the imminent D-Day invasion. According to the transcript, “The prime minister observed that truth deserves a bodyguard of lies.” Rejoined Stalin: “This is what we call ‘military cunning.’” An amused Churchill concluded that “he considered it, rather, ‘military diplomacy.’”

By the close of 1943, astute German intelligence officers could hardly miss the Allies’ military buildup in England; that Anglo-American troops would soon storm the Atlantic Wall was obvious. As the historian Michael Howard wrote, “For the past six months [the Allies] had been trying to persuade the Germans that they faced a major invasion threat from the United Kingdom, when in fact they did not. Now they had to persuade them that they did not face such a threat, whereas in fact they did.” Operation FORTITUDE, which Howard depicted as “perhaps the most complex and successful deception operation in the entire history of war,” strove to keep enemy generals guessing, both before and after the invasion, about the Allies’ intent.

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