The Pacific War Online Encyclopedia
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displaying dazzle camoflage.
Aircraft factory camoflaged as a suburban neighborhood.
U.S. Army. Via ibiblio.org
Deception is the art of planting false or misleading
information that is sufficiently convincing to fool the enemy's intelligence apparatus. It
can be used to mislead the enemy regarding either capabilities or
intentions. This in turn increases the likelihood of successfully
Since enemy intelligence is likely already flooded with
a mass of observations, from which they must somehow sift the few
observations of real value, one need not plant much false
information to make the enemy's task harder. However, there is
always the risk that the deception will be detected and give the
enemy genuine clues to one's own intentions. This risk can be
minimized by planting some true but out of date or otherwise
useless information in order to give the sources of false
information greater credibility. Sources of false information
during the Pacific War included simulated radio traffic to mislead
enemy traffic analysis;
deployment of dummy aircraft or tanks to attract the attention of
and use of double agents to return false or misleading human
troops headed for the Aleutians
were lecture on tropical diseases
and senior officers
allowed themselves to be seen studying charts of the Atlantic or
the Argentine coast in hopes of planting false rumors about their
The best deception schemes played to the enemy's prejudices, and if one's own intelligence service was reading enemy codes, it was possible to closely monitor the effect that deception schemes were having on the enemy's thinking and adjust accordingly.
Diversion is a form of deception in which a small force
is employed in a way intended to create the impression that a
larger force is present and poses a serious threat. Artillery diversions were
bombardments on enemy positions against which no infantry attack was planned,
for the purpose of tricking the enemy into committing his reserves where they were not
needed or to induce the enemy artillery to open fire and thus
reveal its positions for counterbattery fire. The Japanese used deceptive fire at Singapore, where fire from a
few widely dispersed guns was directed against Changi to deceive
the British into
believing that the bulk of the Japanese artillery was targeting
this area as the crossing point from the mainland. The actual
crossing point was some distance further west.
One of the first successful Allied deception operations was the seaplane raid by Tangier against Tulagi on 20 May 1942. This helped persuade the Japanese that the American carriers were still in the South Pacific rather than preparing to meet the Japanese at Midway.
Another was the raid by Boise on the Japanese
picket boat line east of the Japanese home islands. This took
place at about the same time as the Guadalcanal landings and
succeeded in diverting some of Japan's land-based naval aircraft
to protect against the possibility of a Doolittle-style carrier raid. This
may have slowed the Japanese reaction to Guadalcanal by a few
precious days. On the other hand, the concurrent diversionary raid on Makin was almost completely
Another successful Allied deception was Kenney's clever scheme
to quietly construct a fighter strip at Tsili Tsili while Japanese
attention was drawn to deliberately exaggerated construction work
at Bena Bena. This allowed the Alies to launch a surprise attack
against Wewak that neutralized
this major Japanese airfield complex.
During the New Guinea
campaign, the Allies deliberately floated a rubber raft ashore at Hansa Bay
containing a notebook with false information suggesting an
imminent landing. This was followed up with supply drops inland. The
Japanese responded by massing men and material at Hansa Bay, which the Allies
intended to bypass. One of the participants in this operation
later became the executive
officer of the Alamo
Feints became an almost stereotypical part of Allied landing
plans from 1944 on. Typically the reserve elements of an invasion force would
make a demonstration off a plausible landing beach some distance
from the real landing beach. This tactic was highly successful at
Tinian, but the Japanese
usually refused to be fooled (as at Saipan) or did not attempt to
defend any landing beach (as at Okinawa.)
Prior to the second Philippines campaign, the Allies attempted to deceive the Japanese on their next move by raiding Marcus Island (to suggest a climb up the Bonins ladder) and the Nicobar Islands (to suggest a move against Malaya or the Netherlands East Indies.) The Marcus operation was particularly elaborate, making use of smoke, dummy radar targets, flash lamp floats, and pyrotechnics to create the impression of a large invasion force. Neither deception effort had the least effect on the Japanese, to whom it was obvious that the Philippines were the next target.
Starting in 1943, U.S. ships began to be painted with camouflage patterns designed to break up the outline of the ship, making it more difficult for hostile observers to correctly identify the ship type, distance, course, and speed, as illustrated in the photograph at the top of this article.
Perhaps the largest deception operation in the war against Japan
was carried out by Slim
during the Burma campaign
of 1944. One of Slim's corps
engaged in highly visible preparations across the river from Mandalay and held the
attention of the Japanese while a second corps, operating under
radio silence, passed south through the rugged Myttha Valley
behind a screen of East African troops (28
East African Brigade). This screening force was chosen
because the Japanese already knew that 11
East African Division was operating in the area and the
presence of additional African troops might not be regarded as
significant. The corps was able to cross the Irrawady well south
of Mandalay and take the Japanese by surprise.
Another deception operation was the visit to England by a single B-29, which was inspected by Eisenhower and Doolittle and was permitted to be photographed on the ground by a German reconnaissance aircraft. This was to lead the Axis to believe the much-publicized B-29 was going to make its debut in the Normandy invasion rather than in the Far East.
One of the oddest deception experiments of the war was Project
Yehudi, which sought to make aircraft more difficult for
submarines to spot in daylight. It was based on the observation
that even a white-painted aircraft appeared as a dark silhouette
against the sky when it approached at low altitude. The proposed
solution was to install a strip of floodlights along the wings and
on the forward fuselage, with a bluish tint painted over the
lights to simulate the normal low-sky spectrum. This proved
astonishingly effective in trials in January 1944, making an Avenger normally detectable
at 12 miles (20 km) undetectable up to 3000 yards. However, the
Yehudi effect required careful calibration of the lights and the
filter tint and proved unreliable under changing weather conditions, and was not
put into operational use before the war ended.
Japanese deception operations at the start of the Pacific War
were often highly effective. For example, no real attempt was made
to conceal convoys headed to
Malaya just as war broke out.
This had the effect of drawing the attention of the Allies away
from Hawaii, which was being
quietly approached by the Pearl Harbor Attack Force.
The Japanese also made use of false radio traffic in an effort to deceive the Allies. This may have contributed to the success of early attacks, but it became increasingly counterproductive as Allied cryptanalysts made deeper inroads into Japanese codes.
In addition to broadcasting false military radio traffic, Nakano School agents of Tomi Kikan used the powerful transmitters at Saigon during the Netherlands East Indies campaign to broadcast faked Dutch news reports, being careful to duplicate the voices and mannerisms of authentic Dutch announcers as closely as possible. These succeeded at times at misleading the Allies, but also misled Tokyo monitors on at least one occasion.
Japanese naval plans typically included feints, with several task forces converging on targets from different directions in an elaborate dance meant to bedazzle and confuse the Allies. Allied code often uncovered the feints, to the great disadvantage of the Japanese, since the practice of dividing their force into task forces too distant to support each other invited defeat in detail, as at Midway.
As the Allies gained control of the air, the Japanese made
greater use of deception at their airfields. Aircraft were widely
dispersed and heavily camouflaged, and American pilots who struck Heito airfield on Formosa on 9 January 1945
reported that most of the aircraft there appeared to be dummy
aircraft. However, such deception put the aircraft so far from the
runways that it took considerable time to bring the aircraft from
their camoflaged revetments to the runways and prepare them for
Hess et al. (1998)
Inoguchi, Nakajima, and Pineau (1958)
Morison (1958, 1959)
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