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Deception in War

Deception has been an integral part of warfare since Troy accepted a wooden horse from the Acheans, but it has generally been looked on as the ruses de guerre of cunning individuals rather than as an integral part of the command skills necessary for success. Even today, though military commanders are expected to include deception in their operational planning, they are not taught its principles and methods.

Military historians likewise often underestimate its importance. Yet the Peninsula Campaign during the American Civil War was a failure because Major-General George B. McClellan was fooled into thinking the way to Richmond was blocked, when it was not. The success of the Normandy invasion in 1944 was in large part due to the greatest ever act of military deception — and a colossal achievement — Operation Bodyguard.

This book is the first to describe fully the place of deception in warfare and to explain the principles that make deception successful. Jon Latimer shows how simple some tricks have been, but also how technology has increased the range and subtlety of what is possible, using for instance bogus radio traffic, virtual images, even smell. He draws examples from land, sea and air, and these are invariably entertaining. There is something delicious about not only beating an opponent, but doing so through guile.


'Skilful and sober... Latimer describes not only the steps taken to deceive... but also the conditions of mind that allowed for the trickery to work.'

The Washington Post

‘Let us hope that this fine book is given the attention it deserves by the professionals, for it will surely entertain and inform the rest of us.'

Osprey Military Journal

‘Engagingly written, punchy and well researched.’

Birmingham Evening Mail

‘Episodes from very distant eras jostle illuminatingly against each other... The first modern full length (and public) study of deception in warfare. It is completely authoritative.’

The Guardian

Buy Jon Latimer