As far back as the Trojan Horse, deception has been an essential technique used during wartime. This technique has turned the tide of battle, held off enemy forces until reinforcements could arrive, and saved (or cost) countless lives time and time again.
Let's take a look at a few of the most effective deceptions ever used by the American military. Some of these techniques are so effective they continue to be used in modern warfare.
During the Revolutionary War, it was common to paint logs black and prop them in a way that resembled artillery. These "Quaker guns" take their name from the pacifist religious sect of the same name.
In 1780, Quaker guns truly turned the tide of a battle by causing a large force of Torie soldiers to surrender to a vastly smaller force. This sneaky technique proved so effective it was used for over 80 years on land and sea alike, and in at least two wars.
Destroying the Indianola
Ironclads were a fearsome addition to naval forces during the Civil War. When Confederate forces captured Indianola, it was essential to reclaim or destroy.
Union Naval Commander David Porter cleverly disguised an old coal barge as a dummy ironclad, complete with Quaker guns and barrels that mimicked funnels. Hearing another ironclad was coming, the Confederate soldiers detonated the Indianola's magazine, destroying the ship and depriving them of their advantage.
Smoke and Mirrors
What do you do when you're severely outnumbered? If you're Confederate General John B. Magruder, you artificially inflate your numbers and win the day!
Outnumbered 4-to-1, Magruder opted to have his soldiers march in a back-and-forth pattern that created the illusion of a much larger force. Previously set on leading an assault on Yorktown, the Union held their position. This gave General Magruder time to reinforce his troops' position and end the conflict in a stalemate.
You Can't Have It Either
On October 31st, 1803, the USS Philadelphia was overtaken and run aground by pirates from Tripolitania. When the vessel's captain determined they weren't going to be able to get her off the uncharted reef, he holed the bottom and destroyed the vessel's guns and gunpowder.
Lieutenant Stephen Decatur was charged with recovering or destroying it. They used a captured ship disguised as a British ship in distress to get close enough to board and overwhelm the guards on the Philadelphia. They then set fire to it, depriving the pirates of their prize.
No Deception Overblown
Dummy tanks and aircraft were common during the Second World War. American forces created inflatable rubber tanks that were easy to mistake from the real thing at a distance.
This deception was essential in driving the success of D-Day by pulling German forces away from the landing point. Indeed, the decoy inflatable tanks played a vital role in the Allies' victory.
Old El Paso
In 1966 during the Vietnam War, the 1st Infantry Division ‘accidentally’ exposed information to the Viet Cong revealing that there would be a convoy carrying resupply and engineering equipment to An Lộc.
These convoys were usually lightly armed, but not this time. Instead, the convoy had armored cavalry and infantry. The losses for the Viet Cong were over 50% when they launched their supposed ambush. Such are the benefits of a good deception.
No Book By Its Cover
What do you do when your enemy knows your capabilities and your mission? You use that information against them with a clever ruse.
In Vietnam, Republic US F-105 Fighter-Bombers were no match for Vietnamese MiG-21's, so after multiple intercepted bombing runs, something had to be done. The solution? Put QRC-160 jamming pods on the faster, more maneuverable F-4's, making them look like F-105's...then send them out on a 'bombing run.'
This wily technique had such devastating results that the Viet Cong left their MiGs grounded rather than risk encountering disguised F-105s.
By Land Or Sea?
A ground assault in Kuwait during the Gulf War was inevitable and everyone knew it. However, it was important to pull as many Iraqi combatants as possible from the actual combat site.
The US accomplished this by making Saddam Hussein believe a contingent of Marines would make an amphibious assault. The USS Missouri and USS Wisconsin bombed two beaches in a supposed 'Softening Attack' that was so destructive the Iraqis surrendered to a drone (the first surrender to a drone in military history...and it wasn't even a 'real' attack).