Operation Bodyguard, deception for Overlord

Target of the operation


During the Teheran Conference in November 1943 the "Big Three", Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin, approved of a plan of deception.Germany was to be deceived as to the place, time and means for the future landing in Normandy, codenamed Overlord. Misleading an enemy is always part and parcel of any military plan, but never in history was this conducted on such a vast scale and with such success as in the deception plans for Normandy. This gigantic plan of deception was originally named Jael after a person in the Old Testament. This however was soon rechristened to operation Bodyguard. This name was chosen because of a remark by Winston Churchill: "In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies."

Aim of the deception

The entire Atlantikwall stretched from Norway to the south of France.German troops were housed in reinforced structures at the coast in order to be able to defeat an allied landing on the beach. The main targets of Bodyguard were to tie down German troops far away from the actual landing sites and to convince them that the landing in Normandy was a distraction for the real invasion that was to take place 45 days later. These main targets resulted in the following strategic aims, the Germans were to be convinced that the following allied actions were planned:

  • Invasion operations were to be started in the spring of 1944 with a combined attack on Norway by British, American and Soviet troops.
  • The allies would continue their operations in Italy where they already were active, and expand these operations to the Balkan and Greece.
  • If there would be an invasion in France this would occur near the Pas de Calais and certainly not before July,1944.
  • If landings on the French shore would take place, they would be a distraction for the real invasion near the Pas de Calais.

Germany's expectations

The personal vision of Adolf Hitler was an important part in the plans of deception. One of his solid convictions was that Imperial Germany had lost the Great War among others because her navy did not have access to harbours outside Germany, with the exception of minor harbours on the Belgian coast.Next to the access to Swedish iron ore via Narvik the ice free harbours and fjords of Norway were important considerations for the German attack in April, 1940. The Germans beat the allied convoys that were already on their way to conquer Norway. Up until the very end of the war a sizeable force of some 200,000 Germans and during the first years even an understrenghth armoured division were stationed in Norway for the protection of her harbours.

Hitler was convinced that the allies would possibly attack Greece because of the weaker allies he had on the Balkan, like Hungary, Croatia and Romania. Furthermore Hitler was convinced that the landing on the west coast of Europe would take place at the Pas de Calais.The distance to be covered by the ships was at its smallest there and this would also give the best possible protection on sea and in the air. The supply routes would be shortest here.

Operation Bodyguard was divided into several smaller operations. Fortitude and Zeppelin were the most important of them.These two were indeed crucial for the deception concerning the landing in Normandy. They were also the biggest in terms of scale and resources.

Zeppelin was the misleading campaign to make the Germans believe that an invasion would take place in Greece and the Balkan.

The even more important operation Fortitude was divided in three areas:

  • Fortitude North was the threat of an allied invasion in Norway and consequently an advance through Denmark into Germany.
  • Fortitude South I was a fake invasion directed at the coast of the Pas de Calais or Strait of Dover:
  • Fortitude South II was the deception by radio traffic after the troops had landed in Normandy to make the Germans believe that the real attack would take place at the Pas de Calais.


Military unit, usually consisting of one upto four regiments and usually making up a corps. In theory a division consists of 10,000 to 20,000 men.
Armed incursion.

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Translated by:
Peter ter Haar
Article by:
Frank van der Drift
Published on:
Last edit on:
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