Bodyguard of Lies by Anthony Cave Brown. Book review by Russell J. Bowen

Allied efforts to deceive Germans in World War II,
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have subsequently claimed that the role of the Schwarze Kapelle in Anglo-American deception activities has been greatly exaggerated.5
A most interesting and significant example of the effects of deception (and of selfdeception) presented by the author concerns Col. von Roenne, the able head of Fremde Heere West (FHW), the Wehrmacht intelligence agency responsible for appreciations of Allied threats to the German forces in western Europe. This officer who, incidentally, was also a member of the Schwarze Kapelle, was the western front counterpart to General Gehlen in the East. Since he was responsible for military estimates relative to the anticipated invasion of France, his office became one of the main targets of Bodyguard's deception operations. The Allies were able to deceive him into overestimating their forces in England through a variety of stratagems involving leaks and double-agent disinformation actions, supported by Ultra intercepts that permitted monitoring and estimation of the effects of their efforts.
Thus, after the Sicherheitsdienst (the SD or secret intelligence service of the SS) had become dominant over German military intelligence early in 1944, Col. von Roenne learned that they were halving his estimates of Allied forces in England before passing them on to higher headquarters. On the advice of his assistant, who the author suggests may actually have been a British agent, Col. von Roenne was supposedly persuaded with reluctance to double his estimates of these forces. When the SD subsequently ceased their editing of his figures, the overestimation of Allied strength became very greatly magnified, thereby providing support to the London Controlling Section's mythical scenarios of large forces being held in readiness in northern and southeastern England. If true, this must have contributed in no small measure to the successful deception of Hitler which resulted in retention of the 15th Army in the Pas de Calais area long after the attack on Normandy.'
The general cover and deception plan for Overlord' was originally called Plan Jael and, subsequently, simply Bodyguard. Bodyguard would attempt to persuade the German leadership to believe the following six strategic considerations: (1) The Allies had so much faith in the decisive character of the combined bombing and would give it such high priority that the buildup of ground forces would be too slow to permit an invasion until July of 1944, if one were intended at all that year; (2) German forces had to be held where they were in western Europe because there were troops ready in
5H.R.Trevor- Roper, the distinguished Oxford historian and a WW II member of MI-6, in a quite biased and highly unfavorable review of this book (See New York Review of Books, 19 February 1976), asserts that Stewart Menzies, WW II head of MI-6, from whom Cave Brown obtained important aspects of the Schwarze Kapelle and MI-6 portions of the book, was by the time of the interview senile and eager for selfaggrandizement. Trevor-Roper's own objectivity is open to question when he claims that Cave Brown has made MI-6 the controlling element of British deception efforts in which the role of the Schwarze Kapelle has been grossly inflated. This is an exaggerated interpretation of admittedly erroneous tendencies on the part of the author, through which Trevor-Roper attempts to show that the book contains fundamental misperceptions, but Trevor-Roper's credentials as a participant in some of the events under consideration cannot be ignored when it comes to matters of factual detail. He points out many such errors, strengthening this reviewer's impression that this is the book's basic failing, arising out of the authors limited access to primary source material, his lack of background in the area of intelligence, and his journalistic compulsion to present a readable story, however fragmentary the available data.
6There is evidence that this fascinating story may have been considerably exaggerated. Gert Buchheit, in Spionage in Zwei Weltkriegen (verlag Politisches Archiv, Landshut, Bundesrepublik, 1975,) criticizes the much less explicit treatment of von Roenne by Ladislas Farago (Game of the Foxes, David McKay Co., Inc., New York, 1971.) Specifically, Buchheit disputes the central role of Col. von Roenne in intelligence estimating, noting that he was located in OKH (Army HQ,) while the estimates of enemy capabilities which carried weight with German policy makers were being provided by OKW (Armed Forces HQ.)
7The overall Allied plan for the invasion of western Europe.


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Posted: May 08, 2007 08:46 AM
Last Updated: Aug 10, 2011 02:33 PM