Deception- The Missing Tool
AUTHOR Major Robert R. Parker Jr., USMC
SUBJECT AREA - Warfighting
TITLE: DECEPTION- THE MISSING TOOL
I. Theme: To outline the capabilities of military deception,
both tactical and strategic, through the examination of
historical case studies, and to identify Marine Corps stratagem
II. Thesis: Successful employment of deception is a product of
historical analysis, practical exercise, and realistic training.
III. Discussion: The United States military establishment in
the post Desert Storm era is facing budgetary and personnel
cutbacks. With increased financial restrictions, the military
will be looking for low cost force multipliers to enhance the
existing high technology weapon systems. Proper employment of
deception nearly doubles the chance of battlefield victory when
coupled with surprise. Moreover, it is relatively inexpensive.
Examined from the tactical and strategic perspective, attention
is given to the successful application of this force multiplier
in history. Focusing on the Marine Corps and Southwest Asia, the
use of deception is scrutinized.
IV. Summary: Deception is a viable force multiplier that could
greatly enhance the Marine Corps' warfighting capability.
Stratagem methodologies and employment need to be analyzed
historically as well as exercised regularly.
V. Conclusions: There are numerous reasons why the Marine Corps
needs to become proponents of deception. But until realistic
training and comprehensive education reforms are instituted,
deception's value will not be fully realized.
DECEPTION- THE MISSING TOOL
Deception is a product of historical analysis, training, and
I. Why Deception
A. Force multiplier
l. Enhanced opportunity for battlefield success when
used with surprise
2. Desert Storm
II. Military Deception
2. Operations Fortitude and Bluebird
2. Task Force Troy
III. Deception and the Marine Corps
A. Is it our concern?
B. Early days of Desert Shield
l. MCLLS Report
2. Historical need for formally trained personnel
C. Tactical deception
l. Are we really training
2. Need to exercise deception through the staff
3. Ability to enhance 0TH
D. Strategic deception
l. Necessity to participate in the joint arena
1. Command and Staff College
A. Compatibility with maneuver warfare
Desert Storm was a triumph of air power and high technology
weapon systems, both of which are extremely expensive. With the
expedition to Southwest Asia over and the peace dividend looming
ominously in the future, the military is facing both budgetary
and personnel cutbacks. The Reagan era of enriched military
budgets and the fear of the evil Soviet empire no longer loosens
purse strings on Capitol Hill. Consequently, the military needs
to look for alternative means to achieve success on the
battlefield. If we are to maintain a viable force in readiness
in a leaner economy, we must offset any advantage the enemy might
have by the prudent use of low cost force multipliers.
One such multiplier, deception, is as old as warfare itself.
Sun Tzu, that ardent military philosopher, some 2500 years ago
stressed cunning, stealth and guile as keys to successful
deception. Moreover, Sun Tzu contends that prudent application
of this force turns an enemy's strength into weakness while
simultaneously maximizing the originator's capabilities.
Similarly, FMFM l: Warfighting, acknowledges two additional
considerations that are significant as multipliers of combat
power: surprise and boldness.
Surprise, often a byproduct of deception, is a force
multiplier that exponentially enhances the potential for
1U.S. Marine Corps, FMFM 1: Warfighting, (Washington,
D.C.: U.S. Marine Corps, 1989), 33.
battlefield success. Studies show that linking deception and
secrecy to achieve surprise nearly doubles the opportunity for
victory.3 In short, "all warfare is based on deception.4 Both
an art and a technique, deception is virtually cost free. In
this age of dwindling resources, a renewed interest in the
utilization of deception is warranted.
The combination of the these factors--surprise, secrecy and
deception-- contributed greatly to the widespread success of
Operation Desert Storm. But the overwhelming dominance of
aviation and the publicity of the blitzkrieg ground offensive has
overshadowed their importance in shaping the battlefield. Still
the effective use of deception in the Kuwait Theater of
Operations warrants a closer examination.
In a recent interview in the Washington Post, Lieutenant
General Walter Boomer, USMC, commander of all Marine forces
ashore in Southwest Asia, described the Marine portion of the
Desert Storm campaign. Boomer stated, "We're taking on ll Iraqi
divisions with two Marine divisions. Our force ratios are
horrible. We don't want him to know that... because I've got so
2U.S. Marine Corps, FMFM 1-2: Campaigning, (Washington,
D.C.: U.S. Marine Corps, 1990) 75-77.
3Analytical deception data presented by Ronald G. Sherwin
and Barton Wharley in their article, shows the probability of
achieving victory given surprise is 93%, while the probability of
achieving, victory given no surprise, declines to 50%. [ Sherwin
and Wharley, "Understanding Strategic Deception: An Analysis of
93 Cases," in Strategic Military Deception, ed. Donald C. Daniel
and Katherine L. Herbig (New York: Pergamon Press,l982) 189.]
4Sun Tzu, The Art of War, trans. Samuel B. Griffin (Oxford,
England: Oxford University Press, 1963) 66.
few resources."5 Yet by deploying a Marine Expeditionary
Brigade to the Persian Gulf, the United States gave the Iraqi
commanders "a number of false impressions deliberately created by
the allied command, including the threat of an amphibious landing
on the Kuwait coast that in fact never existed."6 This action,
according to the U.S. News and World Report, "tied up at least
four Iraqi coastal divisions."7 Thus by causing Iraq to focus
simultaneously on the Kuwait coast and the western desert, the
United States caused Saddam Hussein to be a victim of Frederick
the Great's adage, "He who attempts to defend everywhere, defends
Deception is designed to mislead the enemy by manipulation,
distortion, or falsification of evidence to induce a reaction
that is prejudicial to its interests. Military deception is
designed to mislead foreign leaders, causing them to believe the
desired appreciations of military capabilities, intentions,
operations, or other activities which result in a foreign
response that is beneficial to the originator's objectives.
Current Joint Chiefs of Staff Publications acknowledge three
forms of military deception: strategic, tactical and
department/service. For the purpose of this essay only strategic
5Molly Moore, "Commander Waged War from Battlefield
Convoy," Washington Post, 3 March 1991, A32.
6Edward Cody, "Marine Say Iraqi Performance Fell Far Short
of Expectations," Washington Post, 3 March 1991, A33.
7Brian Duffy, "Victory in the Gulf: The 100-Hour War," U.S.
News & World Report, 11 March, 1991, 16.
and tactical military deception will be examined.8
Strategic deception is military deception planned and
executed to change the national policies and actions of a foreign
country to support our national objectives, policies and
strategic military plans.9 Three assumptions can be made about
military deception at the strategic level:
1) That they involve large numbers of individuals
and organizations as the perpetrators and victims
of deception, including the national command
authority on both sides of the deception
2) That they are relatively long term deceptions,
recurring over the course of weeks or months.
3) That the stakes are very high, in that they
affect the out comes of wars or large scale front
level campaigns as opposed to tactical
deceptions, which affect the outcome of battles
or local engagements.10
Perhaps the best and most familiar example of strategic
deception is Operation Fortitude, which involved deceiving the
Germans as to the actual site for the allied invasion of France.
8John LeHockey, author of FMFMRP 15-6 Strategic and
Operational Military Deception: U.S. Marines and the Next Twenty
Years, presents a strong argument for the need to include
operational deception as the bridge between strategic and
tactical military deception. Essentially LeHockey contends that
the objective of operational deception is "to influence the
decisions of the enemy commanders before battle occurs so the
tactical outcome of battles and engagements are favorable and
subsequentially exploitable operationally." [ FMFMRP 15-6
(Washington, D.C.: Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, 1989) 4];
hereinafter cited as FMFMRP 15-6.
9Instructional Publication 3-9: Deception in Amphibious
Operations, (Quantico, Virginia: Education Center, Marine Corps
Development and Education Center, December 1982), 2; hereinafter
cited as IP 3-9.
10Donald C. Daniel and Katherine L. Herbig, "Introduction,"
Strategic Military Deception, Daniel and Herbig ed., (New York:
Pergamon Press, 1982) , xi.
Another lesser known, but highly successful strategic deception
of World War II, was Operation Bluebird.
Operation Bluebird dealt with the invasion of Okinawa in
1945. To minimize casualties during the assault of the island,
the Japanese were led to believe that following the seizure of
Iwo Jima in February 1945, the next American objectives would be
Formosa and South China. "Through conferences, planned leakage,
increased reconnaissance, shifts in radio traffic, double agents,
coastal surveys and carrier air strikes, the focus was shifted
[away from 0kinawa] to Formosa and South China."11 The net
result of these efforts included transferring a first line
Japanese Division from Okinawa to Formosa and replacing them with
an equal number of second rate units. Of more strategic
significance, Operation Bluebird ensured the Japanese did not
Most successful strategic military deceptions rely on two
complementary actions occurring. Hiding the truth and
establishing a lie. In the examples cited, the enemy's belief of
a certain fact was exploited. In the Fortitude scenario, the
Germans believed that the invasion of Europe would occur at the
Pas de Calais. Since allied intelligence confirmed this belief,
the Germans were fed false information to reinforce their
misconception.12 Similarly, Bluebird capitalized on the
11IP 3-9, 3.
12For a detailed account of Operation Fortitude see Anthony
Cave Brown, Bodyguard of Lies, (New York: Harper and Row, 1975);
for a general overall of deception in World War II see Charles
Japanese belief that MacArthur's southwestern route to Japan,
which included the capture of Formosa, was the most logical
scheme of maneuver for american forces in the Pacific to follow.
Tactical deception is "military deception planned and
executed by and in support of operational commanders against the
pertinent threat, to result in the opposing operations actions
favorable to the originator's plan and operations."13 A strong
imagination coupled with camouflage, dummy positions, and
tactical deception devices is essential if tactical deception is
to be achieved. Additionally, if true success is to be achieved,
tactical stratagem considerations must be incorporated as part of
the overall campaign plan. Task Force Troy accentuated this
For two weeks before allied forces stormed into
Kuwait and Iraq, a phantom Marine division
stalked the border with loudspeakers blaring tank
noises. It filled sand berms [sic] with dummy
tanks and artillery guns. Helicopters landed
daily, never delivering or picking up a
Military creators dubbed the team Task Force
Troy- a subtler alternative to the original
designation of Task Force Trojan Horse- 460
troops trying to imitate the activity of 16,000
Marines who, in a major last minute change of
allied war plans were actually racing more than
100 miles to the west for a new assault position.
"We wanted to avoid the appearance of the
truth- that there was nobody home," said Brigade
Cruickshank, Deception in World War II, (Oxford, England: Oxford
University Press, 1979) and John Gooch and Amos Perlmutter, ed.,
Military Deception and Strategic Surprise, (London: Frank Cass
and Co., 1982) and Barton Whaley, Stratagem: Deception and
Surprise in War, (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT's Center for
International Studies, 1969).
13IP 3-9, 2.
General Tom Draude, who commanded the operation.
"We wanted to create the illusion of force where
there was none."14
Having defined military deception, in both the tactical and
strategic sense, let's apply it to the Marine Corps. Some may
argue that the Marines clearly know how to properly employ
tactical military deception. After all, Task Force Troy
demonstrated this. As to strategic military deception, others
will insist that is beyond the Marines' scope or concern. To
both arguments, I contend the Marine Corps is inadequately
prepared and woefully understaffed.
Despite the obvious battlefield success and effective use of
tactical deception during the ground war in Southwest Asia, the
Marine Corps was initially caught napping. Lessons learned from
the early days of Operation Desert Shield report:
l) Marine personnel from the MEF G-2, G-3 and G-6
were not trained in the use or application of
2) Maritime Pre-positioning Ship containers are
all painted olive drab, regardless whether they
are intended for Norway or the desert(11/01/9O).
3) Chemical protective overgarment are available
only in woodland camouflage(11/O1/9O).
4) Marine tanks and artillery units do not
possess tactical deception devices (Tactical
deception devices are low cost items that assume
the characteristics of a major end item, such as
an artillery piece or a tank. Some sophisticated
tactical deception devices even give the same
infrared signature as the real major end
5) Marine forces did not have enough desert
camouflage netting for the defensive(11/0l/9O).
6) Smoke generator units did not have the
14Molly Moore, "Allies Used a Variation of Trojan Horse
Ploy," Washington Post, 17 March 1991, A23.
capability to rub on different grades of
From this list of selected lessons learned, several
observations need to be made. First, II MEF reported in November
1988, that a critical problem existed regarding the lack of
formally trained deception personnel. In the report, II MEF
identified an important deficiency-that effective deception
operations require a nucleus of personnel who not only receive
formal training, but who practice their training. To validate
this concern, II MEF requested that this section of the command
post be exercised during Solid Shield-89.
The importance of proper training regarding tactical
military deception is obvious. Improper, or poorly employed
deception may cause the enemy to react in a manner that is
unfavorable to the originator's plan. Deception is not a panacea
that replaces other miliary action, rather it is a tool to
augment the overall campaign plan. Therefore, it must be
exercised just as often as fire support planning. Britain's most
experienced deception planner in World War II, Brigadier General
Dudley Clarke, brings home this point well:
In the first Deception Plan I ever tackled I
learned a lesson of inestimable value. The scene
was Abyssinia.. General [Sir Archibald] Wavell
wanted the Italians to think he was about to
attack from the south in order to draw off forces
from those opposing him on the northern flank.
The deception went well enough- but the result
was just the opposite of what Wavell wanted. The
Italians drew off in the South, and sent what
15"Tactical Deception," Marine Corps Lesson Learned System[a
computer service], 25 January 1991, 1-45.
they could spare from there to the North, which
was of course the true British objective. After
that it became a creed in `A' Force to ask a
General `What do you want the enemy to do,'and
never, `What do you want him to think?'16
Other points of concern from the MCLLS REPORT is the lack of
tactical deception devices and inadequate quantities of
camouflage netting. If we are really going to use deception
tactically on the battlefield, we must train to that standard.
Tactical deception devices should be used by tanks and artillery
personnel each and every time they go to the field, not just
because they went to Saudi Arabia. Yet, from MCLLS, the need did
not become apparent until the Marines in Southwest Asia saw the
capabilities of British and U.S. Army equipment. Moreover, the
shortage of desert camouflage netting should not have been a
constant dilemma for the commander in the field. Rather,
planners in conjugation with logisticians should have adjusted
Tables of Equipment to reflect requirements for desert netting
based on the experiences of Twenty Nine Palms. Instead, they
apparently did not consider it.
True, the deployment of forces to Saudi Arabia was on short
notice, but the notion that the Marines might be engaged in
desert warfare is not. Otherwise, why does the Marine Corps
conduct live fire exercises in the desert at Twenty Nine Palms?
Imagination is an important part of tactical deception, but so is
16John LeHockey, "Are We Deceiving Anyone?",U.S. Naval
Institute Proceedings, (September 1989) , 54; citing Barton
Whaley, Stratagem: Deception and Surprise in War, (Cambridge,
Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute for Technology's Center
for International Studies, 1969) , 135.
basic equipment. If we are really going to effectively utilize
tactical military deception as a force multiplier, we must
understand the basic requirements- equipment, school trained
personnel, and realistic training. Since it is unlikely that the
Marines will be afforded six months of preparation time for the
next conflict, it is imperative that the lessons learned early in
Desert Shield be scrutinized.
One excellent training method to familiarize Marines with
deception is to utilize nonselected courses of action. During
the staff estimate process, normally more than one course of
action is prepared. With relative ease, one of the rejected
staff options can be developed in tandem with the principal
option as the deception plan. Thus the commander is provided an
available tool for exploitation should the opportunity or
Lastly, in an age of joint operations, Marines need to be
intimately familiar with the employment and methodology of
deception. Otherwise, when it comes time to execute a deception,
the Marines will be left high and dry on the beach. Moreover, as
the Over-The-Horizon (0TH) concept becomes a reality, the use of
deception will augment that capability by pitting our strength
against an enemy's weakness. As FMFMRP 15-6 states,
"Unfortunately, improvements in radar technology and the recent
explosion of surveillance capabilities of all nations, including
17This concept and the methodology of employing tactical
deception are discussed at length in Bernard E. Trainor,
"Deception," Marine Corps Gazette, (October 1986), 57-61.
those of the Third World, have made the conduct of amphibious
operations increasingly vulnerable."18 Accordingly, personnel
that are well versed in the use and employment of tactical
deception becomes paramount.
The second major area that needs to be addressed is
strategic military deception. As defined previously, strategic
military deception involves not only a large amount of personnel
but also detailed and meticulous planning. If the Marine Corps
is going to truly participate in a joint arena, then it must also
understand the value of strategic deception. The following
satire describes its potential:
Art Buchwald, no mean strategist he explored
the implications of total masking representing
the Stealth---since no one can see it. It could
be presented (inventing) as a false reality to
the Soviets, who will waste vast sums countering
the threat. When they find they have been
cheated, we announce an invisible submarine;
finally, when the Soviets, cunning chaps, no
longer respond to the threat of invisible weapons
systems, the United States will be truly ready.
The Americans will leak that they have
decided to build an invisible aircraft carrier.
The Soviets will think this is more
"disinformation" being put out by our side and
will do nothing about it. But this time we'll go
ahead with the plans, and the Soviets will wake
up one morning and see hundreds of invisible
aircraft carriers off their shores.
If they are invisible how will they see them?
Because we will deny they are there.19
18FMFMRP 15-6,6; citing Martin Kamhi, "Shipboard EW: A
Growing Awareness," International Defense Review, (Special
Supplement No. 2, "Electronic Warfare," 1985), 40.
19FMFMRP 15-6, 217; citing Steven E. Daskel, "A True
Strategic Asset," Armed Forces Journal, (December 1988), 10.
Strategic deceptions affect the enemy's total ability to
conduct war. Not only does it influence their warfighting
concepts, but it also affects their doctrine, training, force
structure, and material procurement. Consequently, not being
part of strategic deception may adversely affect the Marine Corps
warfighting capability. For example, if a strategic deception
was designed to influence the enemy's naval capabilities, it
might result in the enemy shifting its focus from the sea to
coastal and beach defense. Therefore, it is in our best interest
that we have personnel that represent the Marine perspective at
the strategic level. Moreover, these people must be well versed
in Marine doctrine, equipment and capabilities.
Lastly, since deception nearly always works and is
inexpensive, why have the Marines failed to spend more time
studying it.20 We pride ourselves on being innovative yet
thrifty. Deception seems to gives us both. Perhaps it the
natural reluctance on the practitioner's part to reveal their
modus operandi. Still, Marines must be exposed to the methodology
of deception if it is to be effectively utilized.
Marine Corps Command and Staff College gives only a
cursory glimpse on the subject through its analysis of Operation
Fortitude and ensuing theoretical discussions. Though this
equates to one morning of study, the college neglects to discuss
20Each tactical deception device for a M1Al main battle tank
cost approximately $3,300. For the cost of less than one M1A1
the Marine Corps could equip its entire fleet of tanks. Robert
K. Ackerman, "The Art of Deception," SIGNAL, (September 1988),
the use of tactical deception devices or on going Marine
deception initiatives. Moreover, when developing an exercise
concept of operations, students rarely discuss deception in
detail. Perhaps this explains the Marines' initial dilemma in
As proponents of maneuver warfare, it is time that we
wholeheartedly embrace the use of strategic and tactical military
deception. This process must begin at the educational level with
detailed analysis of successful and unsuccessful strategic and
tactical military deception. Not only must we study and examine
it, we must practice it through the use of formal deception plans
and concepts. Further, we must incorporate tactical deception
into our regular training. Adequate camouflage is just not
enough. Marines must familiarize themselves with the use of
tactical deception devices, dummy positions, feints, ruses,
demonstrations, signal intelligence, and electronic warfare.
Deception has the capability to enhance aviation and ground
components alike and should be used accordingly.
With the Corps facing a certain personnel cut, it behooves
us to utilize all the tools available to enhance our warfighting
capability. Deception is one instrument that should not be left
out of the toolbox.
Cave Brown, Anthony. Bodyguard of Lies. New York: Harper and
Chesney, Charles H.R. and John Huddlestone. The Art of
Camouflage. London: Robert Hale Limited, 1941.
Clausewitz, Carl von. On War. Edited and translated by Michael
Howard and Peter Paret. 8th ed. Princeton, New Jersey:
Princeton University Press, 1976.
Cruickshank, Charles. Deception in World War II. Oxford,
England: Oxford University Press, 1979.
Daniel, Donald C. and Katherine L. Herbig, ed. Strategic
Military Deception. New York: Pergamon Press, 1982.
Gooch, John and Amos Perlmutter, ed. Military Deception and
Strategic Surprise. London: Frank Cass and Company, 1982.
Hart, B.H. Liddell. Strategy. New York: The American Library
Hart, Gary and William Lind. Can America Win: The Case for
Military Reform. Bethesda, Maryland: Adler and Adler, 1986.
Hartcup, Guy. Camouflage: A History of Deception and Concealment
in War. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1980.
Howard, Michael. Clausewitz. Oxford, England: Oxford University
Press, 1983. Reprint with corrections 1986.
Lind, William S. Maneuver Warfare Handbook. Boulder, Colorado:
Westview Press, 1985.
Paret, Peter, ed. Makers of Modern Strategy from Machiavelli t9
the Nuclear Age. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton
University Press, 1986.
Sun Tzu. The Art of War. Translated by Samuel B. Griffin.
Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1963.
Whaley, Barton. Stratagem: Deception and Surprise in War.
Cambridge, Massachusetts: Massachusetts Institute of
Technology's Center for International Studies, 1969.
GOVERNMENT MANUALS AND REPORTS
U.S. Army. Field Manual 90-2: Tactical Deception. Headquarters,
U.S. Army. Washington D.C., 1978.
U.S. Marine Corps. Fleet Marine Force Manual 1: Warfighting.
Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps. Washington D.C., 1987.
________________. Fleet Marine Force Manual 1-2: Campaigning.
Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps. Washington D.C., 1990.
________________. Fleet Marine Force Reference Publication
15-6: Strategic and Operational Military Deception- U.S.
Marine Corps and the Next Twenty Years. Headquarters, U.S.
Marine Corps. Washington D.C., 1989.
________________. Instructional Publication 3-9: Deception
in Amphibious Operations. Education Center, Marine Corps
Development and Education Command. Quantico, Virginia,
________________. Long Report on Deception: Marine Corps
Lessons Learned System. (A computer service) Warfighting
Center, Marine Corps Combat Development Command. Quantico,
________________. Operational Handbook 7-13: Military
Deception. Marine Corps Development and Education Command.
Quantico, Virginia, 1986.
MAGAZINE AND NEWSPAPERS ARTICLES
Ackerman, Robert K. "The Art of Deception." SIGNAL,
Cody, Edward. "Marines say Iraqi Performance Fell Far Short of
Expectations." Washington Post, 3 March 1991, 1, A32-33.
Duffy, Brian. "Victory in the Gulf: The 100-Hour War."
U.S. News and World Report, (3 March 1991).
Lehockey, John D. "Are We Deceiving Anyone?" U.S. Naval
Institute Proceedings, (September 1989).
_______________. "Silence: Golden for Us- Deadly for
Them." U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, (November 1989).
Moore, Molly. "Commander Waged War from Battlefield Convoy."
Washington Post, 3 March 1991, 1, A32-3.
____________. "Allies Used Variation of Trojan Horse Ploy."
Washington Post, 17 March 1991, A22.
Reed, George L. "Voices in the Sand: Deception Operations at the
NTC." ARMOR, (September- October 1988).
Scheffler, Randall M. "Battlefield Deception." ARMOR,
Trainor, Bernard E. "Deception." Marine Corps Gazette,
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list