|Part of Operation Bodyguard|
Map of the Operation Titanic area Seine-Maritime in the east, Manche in the west and Caen in the centre
|Operational scope||Tactical Deception|
|Planned by||London Controlling Section, Ops (B), Allied Expeditionary Air Force|
|Date||5–6 June 1944|
|Executed by||No. 138 Squadron RAF
No. 161 Squadron RAF
No. 90 Squadron RAF
No. 149 Squadron RAF
Special Air Service
|Casualties||2 Short Stirling of No. 149 Squadron and their crews
8 Men Special Air Service killed or executed
Operation Titanic was a series of military deceptions carried out by the Allied Nations during the Second World War. The operation formed part of Operation Bodyguard, the cover plan for the Normandy landings in 1944. Titanic was carried out on 5–6 June 1944 by the Royal Air Force and the Special Air Service. The objective of the operation was to drop 500 dummy parachutists in places other than the real Normandy drop zones, to deceive the German defenders into believing that a large force had landed, drawing their troops away from the beachheads. The episode was depicted in the 1962 film The Longest Day.
Titanic was one of several deception operations involving the Royal Air Force on D-Day; others were Operations Glimmer and Taxable, executed by No. 218 Squadron and No. 617 Squadron, and radar deceptions by No. 101 and No. 214 squadrons.
Operation Titanic was conducted as part of Operation Bodyguard, a broad strategic military deception intended to confuse the Axis high command as to Allied intentions during the lead-up to the Normandy landings.
The Allies had a number of deception plans in connection with the planned invasion of Europe. Operation Fortitude was the deception operation for the Normandy landings or Operation Overlord. It was divided into Fortitude North, a threat to invade Norway, and Fortitude South, designed to induce the Germans to believe that the main invasion of France would occur in the Pas de Calais rather than Normandy.
The Royal Air Force as part of Fortitude had their own deception missions. Starting on 5 June there were four operations. Two of them entailed the dropping of Window–strips of aluminum designed to give false radar readings–over the English Channel to simulate the approach of a large fleet. These were Glimmer by No. 218 Squadron and Taxable by No. 617 Squadron. The third was intended to jam the German radar, Airborne Cigar by No. 101 and No. 214 squadrons. The final operation was Titanic.
Operation Titanic was carried out by the Royal Air Force and the Special Air Service (SAS). The Royal Air Force provided four squadrons from No. 3 Group RAF. The special duties squadrons No. 138 and No. 161 flying Handley Page Halifaxs and Lockheed Hudsons. They were joined by two other squadrons No. 90 and No. 149 flying Short Stirlings. The SAS provided 12 men commanded by Captain Frederick James Fowles(Chick) and Lieutenant Norman Harry Poole. After landing the SAS were to locate and open fire on the German forces, but to ensure the success of the operation allow some of them to escape, in the hope they would report the parachute drop in the region.
The mission was in four parts, numbered Titanic I-IV. It entailed dropping dummy parachutists which contained rifle fire simulators, Window and an explosive charge. The explosives were designed to destroy the dummy and the only evidence left would suggest that the parachutist had burnt his parachute.
Titanic I was the simulated drop of an airborne division north of the Seine river. The drop zones were near Yvetot, Yerville, Doudeville in the Seine-Maritime region and Fauville in the Eure region. On these four drop zones 200 dummies and two SAS teams were parachuted in.
Titanic IV was the dropping of 200 dummies near Marigny in the Manche and like Titanic I was supposed to simulate the dropping of an airborne division. Two SAS teams were also dropped near Saint-Lô. This group commanded by Captain Fowles and Lieutenant Poole landed at 00:20 on 6 June 1944, 10 minutes ahead of schedule. To deceive the Germans into thinking there was a large parachute landing in progress, the SAS teams played 30 minute pre-recorded sounds of men shouting and weapons fire including mortars.
The mission went according to plan. The only aircraft lost were two Short Stirlings and their crews from No. 149 Squadron taking part in Titanic III. Eight men from the SAS failed to return; they were all either killed in action or executed by the Germans in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.
At 02:00 on 6 June 1944, the Germans reported the landing of parachutists east of Caen and in the Coutances, Valognes and Saint-Lô areas and hearing ships engines out at sea. In response the Germans ordered the 7th Army to increase the level of their preparedness and to expect an invasion, but General Hans Speidel decreased the level of alert when it was reported only dummy parachutists had been found. However, Generalfeldmarshall Gerd von Rundstedt ordered the 12th SS Panzerdivision Hitlerjugend to deal with a supposed parachute landing on the coast near Lisieux which was found to consist solely of dummies from Titanic III. The dummies and SAS teams of Titanic IV diverted a Kampfgruppe from the 915th Grenadier Regiment, the 352nd Infantry Division reserve away from the Omaha and Gold beaches and the 101st Airborne Divisions drop zones. The regiment, believing an airborne division had landed, were employed searching woods instead of heading to the invasion beaches. Enigma intercepts from the area of Titanic I revealed that the German commander was reporting a major landing up the coast from Le Havre (well to the north of the landing beaches) and that he had been cut off by them.
- Latimer 2001, pg. 218–232
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