January 16, 1991. Operation Desert Storm's coalition forces are arrayed along the Saudi border with Kuwait, on the other side of which lurks the bulk of Saddam Hussein’s army.
While the battle for air supremacy is being waged in the skies, the coalition forces pull off a stunning, and ultimately decisive, deception. Later dubbed the “Hail Mary Pass,” it consists of the abrupt relocation of the coalition ground forces hundreds of miles to the West. Meanwhile, as inflatable decoys, deceptive radio transmissions, and psyops leaflets all lead them to believe, the Iraqis are expecting an amphibious assault from the Persian Gulf, hundreds of miles from where it is actually occurring. The world’s fourth largest army is preparing to engage a horde of phantoms. The coalition forces are able to march deep into Iraq with little opposition. Within one hundred days, Kuwait City is liberated and a decisive victory by the coalition forces is won. Deception on the battlefield is surely as old as warfare itself. The examples stretch from the very beginnings of recorded military history—Pharaoh Ramses II's campaign against the Hittites in 1294 B.C.—to modern times, when technology has placed a stunning array of devices into the arsenals of military commanders. Military historians often underestimate the importance of deception in warfare. This book is the first to fully describe its value. Jon Latimer shows how simple some tricks have been, but also how technology has increased the range and subtlety of what is possible—bogus radio traffic, virtual images, even false smells. He draws examples from land, sea, and air to show how great commanders have always had, as Winston Churchill put it, that indispensable “element of legerdemain, an original and sinister touch, which leaves the enemy puzzled as well as beaten.”