D-Day:  Three unique perspectives.

What was General Patton doing on D-Day?

Operation Quicksilver

On June 6 1944, Patton was sitting on the shores of England at the head of a fake army. He was part of the largest and most successful deception operation of World War II. Operation Quicksilver was part of a larger deception plan called Operation Fortitude South/Operation Bodyguard. The plan was used to cloak the build up of the Allied Army and disguise the destination of the invasion.

LTG Patton address 5th ID Northern Ireland, 30th March 1944.
Credit: The General George Patton Museum

What were the Allies trying to hide from the Germans?

The largest invasion ever planned; the risky and dangerous invasion of Normandy, France.

The invasion at Normandy.
Credit: National Archives

How did this deception work?

General Patton was removed from command in Sicily and secretly brought to England. General Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of the Allied forces, had two jobs for Patton to do. Eisenhower had selected Patton to command the Third Army, which was still in the United States. He was to make the Third Army combat ready for deployment in France after the invasion. Patton’s command of the Third Army was kept secret. Eisenhower also wanted General Patton to be the commander of the First United States Army Group (FUSAG), a fictitious army built to fool the Germans.

Patch for FUSAG.

General Patton got this job for a number of reasons. Even though FUSAG was fake, the commander had to be real.

First, the Germans knew that only Eisenhower’s best commander would be in charge of the invasion into France. Eisenhower knew the German Army was very impressed with Patton as a leader. He counted on their respect for Patton as a commander to fool them into thinking that Patton was leading an invasion into Pas de Calais, France.

Second, Patton was very famous. Newspapers, magazines and radio shows always reported Patton’s actions, whether he was greeting American troops or British nobility. Patton was always in headlines so the German Army ‘knew’ what Patton was doing. This included the ‘Affair at Knutsford’.

Third, the Germans expected an attack in Pas de Calais. It was the shortest distance to England. It had a good port so tanks could be easily unloaded. It was also the location of the German V-1 and V-2 rocket program that was terrorizing the civilian population in England. To convince the Germans that the attack to Pas de Calais was real, the Allies heavily bombed the city before D-Day.

What did Patton’s fake army look like?

There were dummy tanks, artillery pieces, trucks, jeeps and planes and even dummy ships. In the meantime, Patton got the Third Army, a force of over 250,000 men ready for combat. When Patton finally landed in France, the army made sure to keep it secret so that Operation Quicksilver could continue to fool the Germans.

Dummy Sherman Tank with camouflage.
Credit: www.psywarrior.com

Men moving an inflatable tank.
Credit: www.psywarrior.com

Dummy troop truck.
Credit: www.psywarrior.com

How did Patton feel about being a decoy?

Diary January 26
Called on Ike at office and found I am to command Third Army. All are novices and in support of Bradley's First Army-not such a good job, but better than nothing.... Well, I have an Army and it is up to me. "God show the right." As far as I can remember, this is my twenty-seventh start from zero since entering the U.S. Army. Each time I have made a success of it, and this one must be the biggest.

February 20, 1944
Letter George Smith Patton to Beatrice Patton
Yesterday I went into Butch's room and ran into the whole press, so I just told them I was a ghost and they admitted every one in town had seen me, no one would admit it. I wish I could stop being incognito but really it makes no difference as I am a very apparent entity.

March 6, 1944
Letter George Smith Patton to Beatrice Patton
This damned secrecy thing is rather annoying particularly as I doubt if it fools any one. Every time I make a speech I have to say now remember you have not seen me- a voice crying in the wilderness.

Diary June 4, 1944
All of us went to church. I am awfully restless and wish I were leading the assault.

June 4, 1944
Letter George Smith Patton to Beatrice Patton
Don't get excited when the whistle blows. I am not in the opening kick off.

The Third Army

Patton was given command of the Third Army on January 26, 1944. At that time, most of the Third Army was in the United States and was preparing to move to England. The role of the Third Army was to punch a hole through the German lines after the invasion of Normandy was successful. Patton had less than six months to get the Third Army ready to invade France. Patton had a list of jobs to do. He had to establish the headquarters and supervise staff plans for training the Third Army in England so they would be ready to fight in France. He had to check that all his commanders were capable. He had to make sure that the supply and service systems were efficient so the Third Army could run smoothly. The Third Army included Infantry, Armor, Artillery, Airborne and Air Force.

In the meantime, he had make sure that everyone believed he was the commander of FUSAG and preparing for the invasion of Pas de Calais as part of Operation Fortitude South.

Patton was given a truck for his sleeping quarters prior to moving the Third Army to France. He used this vehicle while he was in combat for the rest of the war.


Military History: D-Day and Operation Fortitude

D-Day deception: "Fortitude South"

Fourteenth Army

Operation Fortitude

America in WWII: Patton's Ghost Army

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