The V-1 Flying Bomb and the Crossbow Deception,
During World War II British spycraft and deception had the German’s equivalent intelligence agencies beat a hundred times over. Due to ingenious subterfuge British secret services used misdirection to convince the Germans that an invasion of North Africa would occur in Norway, that the Allied landing in Sicily would happen in Greece, and that the D-Day invasion would occur at the Port of Calais instead of Normandy. The Brits even fooled the Germans into carpet bombing empty ocean off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt. Once reason for British success was their ability to root out enemy spies and turn them into double agents. Throughout the war the Germans had infiltrated the British government and military with scores of spies, almost all of whom were captured by British intelligence. Rather than executing or jailing captured spies, the British convinced them to switch sides, becoming double agents who fed the Germans with a steady diet of bogus information.
In 1944 Germany began it’s terror attacks with V-1 flying bombs. The V-1 flying bomb was a jet powered cruise missile, a true wonder weapon for its day. The missile would be launched from France and Germany, would cruise to its target, and at a preset distance drop like a bomb onto its intended target. The missile was guided by a gyrocompass which operated as an autopilot. In reaction to the attacks, the Allies set into motion Operation Crossbow, which created defensive measures to intercept and shoot down the bombs and destroy known V-1 launch and storage sites.
While the V-1 flying bomb was a marvel of technology for its time, in practicality it wasn’t very effective and had many kinks to be worked out. Out of every 7 launched only 1 would strike its intended target. British intelligence noticed that V-1 missiles which missed tended to land 2-3 miles away from its target. It was obvious that German’s aim was short and technicians needed to re-calibrate the guidance systems of the missiles. The British, however, never wanted the Germans to find out about the V-1’s ineffectiveness.
Drawing on its network of double agents, British spy agencies sent a stream of bogus reports to German intelligence regarding the effectiveness of the V-1 bombs. Double agents sent the Germans reports of factories destroyed, bombs landing in Trafalgar Square, and massive casualties around London. The British even concocted reports of massive damage to Southampton. Even though Southampton was not a target, the Germans targeted the town, firing a volley of V-1’s most of which dropped harmlessly into the sea off the Southampton coast. Using similar methods of deception, British intelligence was even able to direct the most deadliest attacks away from London.
In late 1944 the German’s introduced the V-2 rocket, a much deadlier weapon which acted as a ballistic missile. Like the V-1, many V-2’s fell short of their target. The British campaign of deception was modified to include the V-2, and like the V-1, most V-2’s fell short of their intended targets.
Throughout the war 30,000 V-1 rockets were produced, or which 10,000 were aimed at England. Though ineffective against the British war effort, the V-1’s still caused terrible casualties, mostly from errant bombs which struck civilian homes. Around 6,200 people in London alone were killed from the attacks. British intelligence estimated that if the German’s had made the correct adjustments to the flying bombs, casualties would have increased by 50%.