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  • The south of England had become a vast military camp,

  • jam-packed with hundreds of thousands of soldiers,

  • all planning on a trip to the Normandy beaches in the early summer.

  • The job of the British Security Service, MI5,

  • was to make sure that, on D-Day, the Germans were looking the other way.

  • If they failed, tens of thousands of men would die.

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  • In August 1942, desperate to score a success

  • in the face of an unending string of military setbacks and defeats,

  • the Allies carried out a daring raid on the French port of Dieppe.

  • But the Germans were ready for them, fortified and prepared for the attack.

  • It was an unmitigated disaster,

  • leaving almost 4,000 Canadians dead on the beaches.

  • This catastrophe convinced everybody

  • that when the real invasion of France came,

  • the Germans must not be prepared for it, or D-Day would mean destruction.

  • This was, of course, going to be a little tricky.

  • By 90 days after D-Day, the US army alone

  • planned to have 1.2 million men with all of their equipment in France.

  • You can't just hide that under a bit of camouflage netting.

  • And so was born Operation Fortitude,

  • the most ambitious deception plan in military history.

  • The operation wouldn't pretend that there was to be no invasion,

  • that would be impossible. Instead, their goal would be

  • to fool the Germans about how many were coming, when they would land,

  • and where they would land.

  • Army groups were positioned around Britain to confuse the Germans.

  • The British 4th army was stationed in Scotland,

  • supposedly preparing to attack Norway.

  • General George Patton became the proud commander

  • of the 1st US Army Group

  • stationed on the English coast opposite the Pas de Calais,

  • the closest crossing to France.

  • The British 4th and the US 1st were somewhat unusual armies

  • in that there were no actual people in them.

  • They were completely fake, made up, non-existent.

  • The allies had no real soldiers to spare,

  • they were all needed in France for the ACTUAL invasion.

  • So to get the Germans to fall for this massive bluff,

  • the film industry was called in.

  • They created a brilliant illusion, an entire dummy army,

  • wooden aircraft, inflatable tanks, 250 fake landing craft.

  • Two fake corps headquarters were invented,

  • pouring out a constant stream of radio drivel.

  • At one point, King George VI even made an official inspection visit,

  • solemnly inspecting row after row of blow up tanks and real troops

  • who had bussed in for the day,

  • all while the daily news reel broadcast this inspection to the world.

  • George even managed to look thoroughly impressed.

  • And, because you might as well go big or go home,

  • this inflatable 1st US Army was presented not just as a threat, but as

  • the threat, the primary invasion force to be launched at the Pas de Calais.

  • The Germans already considered this

  • the most likely destination for the Allied attack;

  • now the Allies just had to make sure the Germans CONTINUED to believe that.

  • And so was born MI5's Twenty Committee,

  • so called for the XX Roman NumeralsDouble Cross.

  • Double Cross fed the Germans a constant stream of highly credible intel,

  • a combination of utter rubbish and brilliant information

  • delivered just too late to be useful.

  • Back in 1939, the British had turned a German agent into a double agent.

  • He was pretty useless, but he had told MI5 everything they needed to know

  • about how the German secret service communicated with their agents.

  • The Twenty Committee used this information to create

  • an entire network of double agents.

  • By D-Day, Germany's network of spies in Britain

  • was owned by the Twenty Committee.

  • One agent was a Catalan, code named GARBO.

  • Garbo created a completely fictitious network of 27 agents

  • who bombarded the German embassy in Madrid with messages,

  • presenting an utterly convincing, and utterly false, picture.

  • The REAL attack, they said, would come in the Pas de Calais;

  • any other perceived invasions such as, I don't know, Normandy, whatever,

  • those were feints. If you hear any guns or shouting,

  • just relax, it's just the neighbours again. Go back to bed.

  • Garbo was good at his job.

  • So good, in fact, that the Germans awarded him with the Iron Cross

  • for his invaluable services.

  • But the danger was that even if they fooled the Germans before the invasion,

  • once the Allies landed, the deception would be over.

  • All German military strength in France would be concentrated on Normandy;

  • and the Allies would then no doubt be driven back into the sea.

  • So a series of new operations were concocted to convince the Germans

  • that other invasions would follow the first all along the coast of France.

  • Secrecy was critical.

  • To help the invading forces,

  • a complete photographic map of all of the beaches was needed.

  • The RAF and USAAF ran hundreds of photographic missions,

  • but they needed more.

  • So the public were asked to send in all of their holiday beach photos.

  • Then the toy maker Chad Valley was commissioned to take this intel

  • and make a vast map of the operational area

  • in jigsaw puzzle form for easy mobility.

  • The jigsaw map was delivered by two men in two pieces,

  • neither of them knew which was the real one,

  • and, once the delivery was complete,

  • neither was allowed to leave headquarters until D-Day was over.

  • The British armed forces were obsessive about security.

  • They arranged for 30 members of the women's Auxiliary Air Force

  • to dress in civilian clothes

  • and visit pubs close to where the British commandos were staying.

  • Their job: to flirt with the men and try to get them to spill

  • information about their mission.

  • To everybody's amazement and delight, the commandos kept quiet.

  • MI5 still worried that the news was out, though,

  • and that the Germans would be ready and waiting.

  • Back in 1942,

  • the crossword in the Daily Telegraph newspaper had included a clue

  • answered by the word "Dieppe",

  • just one day before the Dieppe raid had taken place.

  • Worrisome. And now, on May 2nd,

  • in the same crossword section came the clue "One of the U.S.",

  • and the answer was Utah,

  • the code name for one of the beaches the Americans were to land on.

  • Then on the 22nd of May, came the answer "Omaha",

  • another beach, and then later "Mulberry", "Overlord" and "Neptune".

  • All code words for various D-Day operations.

  • Finally, MI5 descended in a fury upon Leonard Dawe,

  • the school master who wrote these crosswords.

  • Turns out that it was all just an extraordinary series of coincidences.

  • But the big question remained: had all of this deception and secrecy worked?

  • And how would the Allies know if it had?

  • They needed to be able to read German communications to be sure.

  • The Germans used an extraordinarily complex encoding system: Enigma.

  • The codes were changed daily,

  • and there were 159 million million million possible permutations.

  • German messages should have been impossible to read.

  • But the British thought they could crack the code.

  • They assembled a team of brilliant mathematicians like Alan Turing

  • at Bletchley Park to do it.

  • Then the allies had a lucky break.

  • In May 1941, a British ship forced a German U-boat to the surface.

  • The Germans abandoned their sinking craft, but in the final moment,

  • the British sailors managed to board

  • and capture the most unimaginable treasure:

  • a completely intact code machine and codebooks.

  • Soon, and for much of the rest of the war,

  • the British were routinely reading German messages.

  • One estimate has suggested that the intelligence gained from this find

  • may have shortened the war by more than 2 years.

  • It was through that intelligence the Allies learned

  • that the Twenty Committee had been stunningly successful.

  • When the balloon finally went up, every key German commander

  • greeted the news of operations in Normandy as an invasion,

  • but not the invasion. Critical German focus, men and material

  • remained on the Pas de Calais even after D-Day,

  • confusing, slowing and weakening the German response.

  • It was little short of a miracle.

  • And so D-Day began for the British and Canadian forces.

  • The British beaches were called Gold and Sword,

  • and the Canadian beach, Juno.

  • Churchill had insisted on proper names rather than silly code names,

  • saying that no mother wanted to hear that her son had given his life

  • at the "Bunnyhug" landings.

  • The British parachute drop, despite massive confusion,

  • achieved most objectives in the face of incredible odds.

  • 700 men and a complete glider train of artillery

  • were supposed to be sent to capture a critical German battery.

  • But when all of the equipment and most of the men were lost in the landing,

  • the 150 remaining soldiers,

  • armed only with rifles and Sten guns, took the battery none the less.

  • It's 7:25am at Sword beach. Mine clearing tanks thrash the sand,

  • sappers run beside them to disable mines and obstacles,

  • frequently falling to enemy fire along the way.

  • Then come tanks and flamethrowers

  • throwing themselves at the German defences on the dunes.

  • And only then come the landing craft to release their cargos of men.