The History of InfoAge Science & History Museums

World War II & Radar - Camp Evans deception helped turn tide of war

Camp Evans deception helped turn tide of war

Published in the Asbury Park Press on December 30, 2002

A LOOK BACK:
A HISTORICAL VIGNETTE

by Fred Carl – Guest Writer

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, the German general charged with defending the Nazis’ conquests in France, planned to use those deadly tanks of World War II, the German Panzers, to destroy the inevitable – the Allied invasion on the beaches.
Allied planners needed a way to confuse the Germans with false information. If they could dupe Rommel into sending the Panzer divisions to the wrong beach or delay committing them on D-Day, the Allies would have a better chance of establishing a beachhead. Rommel’s problem was he did not know which beach.

Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Allied invasion planners had created a fake invasion force in northern England to fool the Nazis into thinking that the target was northern France instead of the Normandy coast They had planted false information using spies. But there was still a big problem. The Nazis had excellent radar. They had set up radar sites all along the French coast. Each searched day and night for the expected invasion fleet. How could the Allies get several thousand ships filled with troops and supplies past the unblinking eye of radar?

The reality was they could not. Even if they could find all the hidden radar sites, how could they possibly destroy them all? Some radar would see the invasion fleet off Normandy. The radar information would convince Rommel to commit his Panzer divisions to Normandy. A plan was developed to deceive the Nazis with radar information, too.

Engineers at the Army’s Camp Evans research and development facility in Wall, working with the British, the U.S. Navy, Harvard, and MIT, developed the equipment the Allies needed to pull off the fake. First, they built equipment to find the radar sites and pinpoint them for the bombing. Second, to prevent the radar that survived from detecting the real invasion fleet, equipment was developed to jam the German radar. Finally, equipment was developed that would make the enemy radar operators in northern France think they were detecting the invasion fleet of thousands of ships and planes when in reality, there were none.

On D-Day, the ghost invasion fleet appeared on radar screens far away from Normandy and was reported to Rommel’s commanders. Bombings, commandos cutting communications lines, and the conflicting radar reports sowed confusion among the Germans, who delayed sending the Panzer divisions to Normandy.   A beachhead was established to hold off the Panzer counterattacks.

Also landing on D-Day were other Camp Evans designed radar sets to protect the troops on the beaches from Luftwaffe fighter attacks. Teams of radar technicians landed with the radar to keep the units operating.
Radar trickery  – then called radar countermeasures, now called electronic warfare – played a key role in the invasion of France. The old Marconi Hotel at Camp Evans was the home of the secret radar countermeasures group that fought this battle of science and engineering against excellent German scientists – the so-called “wizard’s war.”

Fred Carl of Wall is director of InfoAge Inc., a nonprofit group working to establish an information age learning center using historic buildings at Camp Evans.

page created February 1, 2003

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