Deception: A Neglected Force Multiplier
AUTHOR Major Michael B. Kessler, USMC
SUBJECT AREA - Warfighting
Title: DECEPTION: A NEGLECTED FORCE MULTIPLIER
I. Purpose: To acquaint tactical leaders with the need to give
tactical deception serious consideration in future operations.
II. Problem: We have lulled ourselves into the belief that either there
will be no more conflicts or that we are above using "dirty tricks" to
gain an advantage on the battlefield. We must recognize the value of
planning for and exercising deceptive tactics to support our operations.
III. Data: Since the time man has engaged hiself in conflict he has
endeavored to defeat his foe using all available means. It didn't take
long to discover that trickery resulted in surprise and, thus, a distinct
advantage. Volumes have been written on the art of deception, most
dealing with the deception operations of WW II. The British had separate
cells that planned those operations. But, after WW II those cells were
disbanded. Only the Soviets have elected to refine the art of deception
until it has become a major cornerstone for all operations and at all
levels to include strategic. Although, we have recognized deceptive
operations as an enhancement to the success of the larger game-plan, we
have failed to give it the attention it so richly deserves. It is time
our leaders begin paying attention to and planning for deception
IV. Conclusions: A thorough study in the art of deception operations
would convince most of the need to improve our position on such an issue.
Tactical deceptions are not difficult and should be given the same
attention as the fire support plan.
V. Recommendation: Revisions should be made to OH-7-13 and it should
become an "FM". During all exercises, units should be evaluated on their
scheme of maneuver, fire support plan and deception plan. But, the Marine
Corps should provide some training for the operators on various methods
available in generating deceptive tactics.
DECEPTION: A NEGLECTED FORCE MULTIPLIER
Thesis statement. It stands as a reasonable assumption that a decisive
advantage will be gained by those who understand and practice the art of
I. Definition of terms
II. Deceptions in WW II
B. Barbarossa and Sealion
C. Deception operations in support of Overlord
III. The basics of deception
A. The levels of deception
2. Centralized control
3. Thorough preparation
4. Availability of adequate resources
5. Coordination between plans
6. Creditable alternative to the real plan
1. The ability of the enemy to collect and analyze
D. Influence the senses
IV. Planning deception operations
A. Organize the staff
B. Assigning responsibilities
C. Use staff planning cycle
D. Determine the target
E. Answer the questions
1. Are the signatures which were expected being raised?
2. Are critical signatures associated with the main course of
action being suppressed?
3. Are deceptive measures fill the enemy's information gap?
4. What do we look like to the enemy?
5. How is the enemy reacting to all of this?
F. Lessons learned from WW II deceptions
V. Research and development efforts
A. Electronic emitters
B. Radar reflectors.
C. Multi-spectral decoys
D. Anti-RF/IR decoys
VI. Closing thesis statement: Military libraries are filled with
writings on deception yet we continue to provide only lip service to one
of the most creditable of all force multipliers.
The art of military deception continues to be regarded, as it has for
centuries, as a creditable means by which to gain a monumental advantage over
an adversary. The success of a well-planned operation that fails to employ
deceptions at all levels will depend a great deal on how well the plan is
understood and executed. The same plan with well conceived deceptions will
generate uncertainty, resulting in delayed responses by the enemy forces. It
stands as a reasonable assumption, therefore, that a decsisive advantage can be
gained by those who understand and practice the art of tactical deception.
JCS Pub 1 defines deception as "Those measures designed to mislead the
enemy forces by manipulation, distortion or falsification of evidence to induce
them to react in a manner prejudiced to their interests." Another definition
suggests that deception is the "deliberate misrepresentation of reality done to
gain a competitive advantage."1 In any event, the successful deception results
in luring the enemy commander's operation to fit the desires of the deceiver.
An oversimplified summary may suggest merely concealing the real and revealing
the false. Or, more appropriately, "manipulate the real, falsify as
A deception incorporates several sub-elements, none of which are more
important than another. We often speak of deception when we mean surprise and
surprise when we mean deceptions although the two are intimately related.
Janice Gross Stein writes "When deception succeeds, surprise results and,
generally, it is a defender who is surprised by a challenger's deception".3
Misrepresentation is a viable aspect of deception in that it provide's false or
misleading information to the enemy. "Disinformation" or misinformation is
construed by many to be the use of "dirty tricks". While Webster's
fails to recognize the word "disinformation", the Great Soviet Encyclopedia
defines it as "the dissemination of false information with the intention to
deceive public opinion". In actuality, the target is the decision making body of
the targeted government or military establishment. The false information will
come in the form of messages leaked into an adversary's communication network,
causing some sort of reaction by the decision makers. To the Soviets, the act of
generating varying forms of disinformation has become a polished art.
History is replete with examples of creative deception plans, some that
worked and some that did not. In August of 1944, a small Soviet intelligence
unit began Operation Scherhorn by transmitting a request to the German High
Command on behalf of Lt. Colonel Scherhorn. The deception story had the German
elite believing the Scherhorn was actually in Berisino with his 2500 man armored
battalion. The message indicated the battalion was in need of medical supplies,
small arms, food and money. The High Command had confirmed that Scherhorn was,
indeed, one of their battalion commanders. Attempts to verify the information
were difficult. What had been confirmed, though, seemed to substantiate the
Scherhorn story. Not only were the supplies provided by air drop to eagerly
awaiting Russians, but Scherhorn was considered a hero and promoted to Colonel
while a prisoner to the Soviet's.4
The well-publicized planned invasion of Russia by the Germans in World War II
was Operation Barbarossa. Translated, Barbarossa means Red Beard, the nickname
of Frederick I, and the idol of Hitler. Stalin was aware of the code name and
was convinced Hitler would never invade Russia under a plan called Barbarossa.
Hitler had briefed Stalin explaining to the Russian leader that Barbarossa was a
deception plan to support "Sealion", the planned invasion of England. German
troops were briefed on "Sealion" and preparing for an offensive operation against
Britain. The British were also aware of the plan and had tied up fifteen
divisions to defend against the crossing of the channel. While
Barbarossa was to conceal Sealion, Sealion, in fact, concealed Hitler's
true intent, an all-out offensive against Russia. The initial thrust
into Russia was a complete surprise. It's success rests on the fact
"...what Hitler had done was not to make
Stalin merely uncertain and therefore
indecisive (but rather) his cunning,
ultimatum stratagem served to eliminate
ambiguity, `making Stalin quite certain,
very decisive and very wrong. "5
"Bodyguard" was a joint/combined deception operation and was supported
by a series of other operations. Plans were conceived to confuse the
German High Command as to where the actual large-scale offense by the
allies would take place. Allied forces were tasked to portray operation
plans for several possible allied invasion sites. Operation Tindall
portrayed pressure on Norway. Other theater operations in Southern France
were planned under Operation Zeppelin. "Wadham" created the illusion of a
large allied buildup in England, possibly to support Operation Harlequin,
a full scale attack on Pas-de-Calais. Under "Royal Flush" diplomatic
deceptions had neutral countries supporting the allies. "Ironside
Vendetta" and "Ferdinand" portrayed operations in the Western
Mediterranean. Credibility was given to this plan with visits to
Gibralter by Montgomery's look-alike. Project "Moonshine" was the first
radio/radar deception that equipped seven fighters with the electronics to
replicate fifty bombers. The successful landing on Normandy was the
result of a series of will conceived deception plans. Each was designed
to create uncertainty and indecisiveness on the part of the German High
Command and thereby increase the liklihood of allied success.
These are but a few of the classical deceptions of World War II.
There have been several deceptions employed in conflicts around the world
since the end of WW II by countries who practice battlefield illusions on
a regular basis and at all levels. The country most adept at the art of
deception is the Soviet Union where the term "Maskirovka" is used to
define cover, concealment and deception. Unlike our own OH-7-13, the
Soviets recognize three levels of deception; strategic, operational and
tactical. The first is the "emphasis on the everyday, ongoing camouflage,
denial and deception, in keeping with board cursory definition of
camouflage as on the basic types of support activities for troops in
operation and combat."6 In addition, it may include those necessary
diplomatic deceptions that mislead world leaders as to the actual
intentions of the deceiving nation. Operational and tactical deceptions
are "actions, recordings and concentration, concealing troops and
informations and misinforming the enemy".7 The difference between the two
being a matter of scale.
Well disciplined, extensive and creative deception plans are
integrated into all Soviet operations and, in fact have become the central
theme for Soviet Military Doctrine. The Soviets have recognized that
originality and creativity provide a solid basis for all deception
efforts. They have also stressed some basic principles that require
strict adherence. The first is that the deception plan must be plausible
in that it supports the operational scheme and must focus on a specific
target, i.e., the enemy commander and his staff. The second suggests that
control remains at the highest possible level to prevent lower-level
deception schemes from compromising the overall plan. Next, preparation
and execution must be thorough and with sufficient resources provided to
ensure credibility. It calls for the necessity for absolute coordination
between the actual plan and the deception effort. The plan must be a
creditable alternative to the real plan and unfold in a logical and
realistic fashion. On the larger scale it is necessary to feed as ¨any of
the enemy's intelligence collection sources as possible. This is
important as the enemy will attempt to verify information received through
as many sources as he feels necessary. The principle of flexibility is as
important in deception as it is in any operation. The plan may require
alterations if, for instance, the enemy misses some signals, misinterprets
some, or fails to accept others. Finally, security plays a major part in
a successful deception plan.8 It is for this reason that some
practitioners of deception conceal the truth from their own commanders and
troops or feed them misinformation. While recognizing that these basic
principles are outlined in some of our own publications, we rarely take
the time to practice them on a routine basis.
When outgunned and outnumbered (never the case in training exercises)
deception planning is not longer a luxury but rather a vital necessity.
While some basic principles have been provided, the recognition of certain
fundamentals are critical to the success or failure of the intended
illusion. In the analysis of enemy capabilities, it is important to
examine his ability to collect and analyze the various types of signatures
portrayed. The signatures must be capable of being physically collected
and analyzed by the enemy's intelligence network if they are to influence
his decision making process. It is unlikely far example, that a
third-world country in a low-intensity conflict could collect and analyze
electronic deceptions. Based on what the enemy knows of our own tactical
doctrine and capability, a believable deception story is fed to the
enemy. To generate a deception plan that is not executable would be
futile and not achieve the intended surprise. Further, it is recognized
that to carry out a plausible deception will require the use of combat
troops and equipment. Troop activity, to include embarkation and
deployment, as well as equipment staging and preparation enhance the
authenticity of the deception plan. Currently, up to 3O% of the Soviet
forces are expected to be actively engaged in maskirovka.9
The techniques and methods employed are becoming more technical due
primarily to the advanced methods for collection, detection, and
analyzing. However, the senses that must be influenced remain the same.
Concealing the real from visual observation requires extensive and
continual use of camouflage techniques. Conversely, efforts to reveal the
false can be done through the use of two dimensional decoys. In 1987 the
Army Development and Employment Agency conducted a test on the JANUS(T)
wargaming system to determine the affect of decoys on the battlefield.
The result showed a favorable increase in system survivability and
effectiveness in the employment of decoys.1O Stationary decoys sustained
six to seven hits before identified as decoys. To further influence the
visual means of collection, heat and light signatures on decoys are
detectable through infrared or thermal imagery devices. The sense of
sound can is provided through the simulation of troop activity and/or
vehicle movement. Olfactory deception through the intended use of
recognizable odors can be simulated to portray the presence of troops and
equipment. Finally, the use of electronic deception could be the decisive
factor in a successful deception plan. Electronic methods could include
the use of bogus messages, "accidental" breeches of OPSEC over the
phonelines. The replication of critical nodes, fleet movement, and the
use of radar reflectors create the illusion of several systems where there
may be only one.
Principles, fundamentals and techniques are the essentials to keep in mind
when planning for a deception. Commanders have four options to choose from
when organizing his staff in planning the deception: the normal staff, the
commander only, close hold and ad hoc. The first, while benefiting from the
experiences of everyone involved, sacrifices security. The ad-hoc method
implies a select group working only on the deception plan and is removed from
the everyday functioning and planning carried out by the rest of the staff.
While tight security is maintained, the ad-hoc group is working in a vacuum
which could be detrimental to the plan. Higher headquarters generates the
"Commander Only" method. It is a favored method because security is tight in
that only the commander knows that his operation is the deception. The staff
works the plan as though it is the selected course of action rather than a
deception. The "close hold" structure allows for a degree of security while
still employing the wide range of experience throughout the staff. Although
the "commander only" method provides for the greatest amount of security, the
"close hold" system maximizes the experience of the principle staff members
while allowing for tight security. The staff organization must be identified
early and exercised often as to create a confident and cohesive working
The planning of deception must be an integral part of the staff planning
process and support the concept of operations. Some have suggested it should
be a function of the S-2 while others contend it should be the responsibility
of the operations officer. Where the Soviets rely on the intelligence branch
to generate and control deceptions, the British suggest it should be a
requirement levied on the operations branch. In fact, it should be a joint
effort with the S-3 working closely with the S-2 and S-4. The plan begins
with the enunciation of the mission, its analysis and the commanders
guidance. The commander must have a clear grasp of his mission based on the
intent of higher headquarters. He must not only concern himself with what he
wants to do but also what he wants the enemy to do or fail to do. The
commander should identify the target to be deceived and, if possible, the
portrayal of a story that will result in a successful deception. The more
choices the adversary must have to evaluate, the better the chances are for a
successful deception plan. While the enemy commander is the ultimate target,
it is important to recognize that he is highly influenced by an extensive
information chain. In short, three goals must be realized and achieved for the
plan to succeed: condition the targets' belief, influence the targets' actions
and benefit from the actions of the target. In essence, the following
questions must be answered: "Are the signatures which were expected being
raised?" "Are critical signatures associated with the main course of action
being suppressed?" "Are deceptive measures filling the enemy's information
gaps?" "What do we look like to the enemy?" "How is the enemy reacting to all
Regarding the planning that went into the deceptions of World War II, those
that retained certain goals and completeness were the successful operations
The commander's guidance for "Overlord" was broad in scope but expressed the
desired goals. The goals to be accomplished included: l) convey the
impression that the attack would come in the east instead of the west, 2)
convey the impression that the date for the attack would actually occur much
later and 3) attempt to convince the Germans that the actual attack would
merely be a feint.12 This specific operation was a success in part due to the
guidance provided but also due to the other supporting deception plans.
Conversely, Operation Tindall failed to deceive the German High Command because
the deception was incomplete. The Germans knew that an advanced air base would
have to be established to support an operation in Norway. The likely location
for such an airbase would be in Iceland, and since no such installation existed
there was little credibility given to the plan. Additionally, there was no
logical development of radio deceptions as they were compressed and lacked
volume. Finally, the landing did not appear plausible as the British failed to
portray adequate numbers of real or false aircraft.
The major powers of the post war era were quick to describe the lessons
learned regarding such operations. Information on Japanese deceptions were
never recorded if, indeed, they took place. Many have speculated that the
surprise attack on Pearl Harbor was more a factor of sound OPSEC rather than
deception. The Russians were reluctant to record "lessons learned" as they
imply failures. However, their current doctrine is based on the experiences of
the war. They regarded the extensive use of radio and electronic means of
deception as highly significant. Further, camouflage and cover must be
exploited to the fullest extent possible. The position of the British is that
"Deception cannot be an end into itself. .it must be tied to actual operation,
as events cause the real plan to be modified, so must the deception plan. "13
The Research and Development communities of all services have achieved some
success in the development of equipment that will aid in the creation of
deceptions. Electronic emitters can portray the electronic signal of a command
post, observation post or recon teams. Even entire fleets have been replicated
through electronic deceptions. Visual deceptive images in the form of
multi-spectral decoys paint images of vehicles in terms of sight, sound and
heat. Another target is the enemy radar system. Developments include a
synthetic helicopter simulator and other radar target simulators that replicate
moving convoys. Inflatable/ejectable or spinning decoys are available to
portray an increase in the numbers of aircraft signatures appearing on radar
scopes. Decoys against anti-ship missiles create false-fleets or false infrared
or RF images at safe distances from the targeted vessel. Recent conversations
have even suggested the employment of tele-operated vehicles fitted with skirts
to look like tactical vehicles. Regardless of the quality or quantity of systems
created, the emphasis must continue to focus on how and when to use deceptions
and how to achieve the desired story and objective.
Military libraries are filled with writings on deception yet we continue to
provide only lip service to one of the most creditable of all force multipliers.
Deceptions at all levels are invaluable force multipliers and should receive
more attention. In fact, battlefield deception should receive the same emphasis
as that of the scheme of maneuver and fire support plan. In reality, deceptions
seem to occur only in response to a crisis. Deception is a form of warfare that
is designed to benefit the deceiver. This is accomplished by influencing the
thought process of the adversary through a well conceived program of
disinformation. While most recognized Sun Tzu as one of the first master of
deception, Lt. General Bernard E. Trainor, USMC(Ret) recognized the significance
of deception when he wrote, "Deception has principles and characteristics, but it
has no rules. It is the playground of the creative mind. As a force multiplier
it is without match and may be employed at every level of warfare. Like any
techniques, it must be practiced to be perfected. "14 If we abide by the axiom
that we fight as we train than we must focus more attention in training our
commanders and operations planners on the significance of creating deception
l Donald Daniel and Katherine Herbig, ed., Strategic Military
Deception, Pergamon Policy Studies on Security Affairs,p.3.
2 Arbeeny, John, Major US Army, Concept Paper, "Tactical
3 Stein, Janice Gross, Military Deception. Strategic Surprise and
Conventional Deterrence: A political Analysis of Egypt and Israel
4 Sevin, Dieter, "Operation Scherhorn", Military Review. (March
5 Whaley, Barton, Codeword Barbarossa (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT
6 Beaumont, Roger, "MASKIROVKA: Soviet Camouflage, Concealment and
Deception", Strategic Studies, SS82-1,p.5.
7 Soviet Military Encylopedia, Vol.4,p.175.
8 Dick, C.J., "Catching NATO Unawares: Soviet Army Surprise and
Deception Techniques", International Defense Review (January
9 The Army Field Manual, Vol. V, Part 5, "Deception In War", Army
Code 71359 (part 5), 1985,p.vi
10 Battlefiled Deception JANUS(T) Wargaming, U.S. Army Development
and Employment Agency, Ft. Lewis, Washington, (July 1988)
12 Boyce, Earl J., Major USAF, "Cover and Deception in World War
II, It's Lessons and Doctrine Implications", as quoted in C.J.
Masterman, The Double-Cross System in the War of 1939-1945. (New Haven:
Yale University, Press, 1972) ,p.109-112.
14 Trainor, Bernard E., Lt. General, USMC (Ret), "Deception",
Marine Corps Gazette, (Oct. l986),p.61.
Arbeeny, John., Major, USA. "Tactical Deception." November 1983.
Beaumont, Roger. "MASKIROVKA: Soviet Camouflage, Concealment and
Deception." Strategic Studies, SS82-1, Novemember 1982.
Bittman, Ladislav. The KGB and Soviet Disinformation. Pergamon-Brassey's
International Defense Publishers, 1985.
Boyce, Earl J., Major, USAF. "Cover and Deception in World War II - It's
Lessons and Doctrine Implications." Air Command and Staff College, Air
University, Maxwell AFB, AL., March 1982.
Daniel, Donald and Katherine Herbig, ed. Strategic Military Deception
Pergamon Policy Studies On Security Affairs, 1982.
Dick, C.J. "Catching NATO Unawares: Soviet Army Surprise and Deception
Techiques." International Defense Review, January 1986.
Gooch, John and Amos Perlmutter. ed. Military Deception and Strategic
Surprise, Frank Cass and Co., Ltd., 1982.
Painter, N.J., Major, British Army. "Decoys and Deception." Camberley,
Sevin, Dieter. "Operation Scherhorn." Military Review. March l966.
Thibault, George Edward. ed. The Art and Practice of Military Strategy.
National Defense University, Washington, D.C., 1984.
Trainor, Bernard E., Lt. General, USMC (Ret). "Deception." Marine Corps
Gazette, October 1986.
U.S. Army Development and Employment Agency, "Battlefield Deception JANUS
(T) Wargaming." February 1988.
U.S. Army Intelligence Center and School Directorate of Combat
Developments, "Interim Operational Concept for Battlefield Deception."
U.S. Department of State, Contemporary Soviet Propaganda and
Disinformation, June 1985.
Ziyemin'sh, M.A., Soviet Red Army. "Deception in Warfare." Krasnaya Zrezda
(Red Star). The Soviet Strategic View, Fall 1979.
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list