June 6, 2020 marks 76 years since D-Day, also known as Operation Neptune, also known as the Normandy landings. Probably the most famous of the major World War II events, D-Day was a massive and cooperative effort between several allied nations, all entering German-occupied France via five beaches located just north of Caen. Each beach area was given a codename and different countries were assigned to each.
- Sword Beach: British, Polish, Norwegian*
- Gold Beach: British, Dutch, Polish*
- Juno Beach: Canadian, British, Free French, Norwegian*
- Utah Beach: American, British, Dutch*
- Omaha Beach: American, British, Canadian, Free French
*and other allied nations
I recently watched Greatest Events of WWII in Colour on Netflix (fantastic, by the way) and I was fascinated by the tricks the allies played in order to either distract and misdirect the Germans on what would later be known as such a pivotal day during the whole war.
Easily my favorite of the D-Day deceptions, dolls or paradummies were dropped in large clusters further inland, complete with their own little parachutes, to make it look like paratroopers were being dropped in one area, drawing the Germans away from where the actual invasion was. The Germans would spot these figures from a distance and immediately head toward where they seemed to be landing. Then they would find heaps of these “Ruperts.” (The British called them “Ruperts” and the Americans called them “Oscars.”) Then, when the Nazis would see actual paratroopers coming down, they might not charge over right away or at all, assuming they were being duped by paradummies again.
Image from Greatest Events in WWII in Colour / Netflix
2. Inflatable Tanks and Guns
Another way the Allies caused confusion for the Germans was their inflated weaponry. From a distance, the Germans would see a huge number of tanks and guns and would naturally assume they were real. But once the Germans got up close and saw that they were inflatable dummy versions, they realized they had just wasted a bunch of precious time.
The difference in technical abilities between WWI and WWII is pretty staggering and it changed the look of the battlefield in an extreme measure. However, aircraft radar technology was still pretty primitive during the Second World War. In order to mess with the radar on enemy aircraft, a cloud of small pieces of aluminum was dropped into the area. The aircraft radar would simply bounce off the reflection of these foil pieces (called chaff) and the aircraft on the other side of the chaff would basically become invisible.
The “window” of chaff was used by both sides during WWII, neither side realizing that the other one had the capability.