In June 1940, the Italians declared war on the British in Africa. Out-numbered and unlikely to receive sizable reinforcements of men or desperately needed supplies, it is surprising that the British even survived. But necessity is the mother of all invention, so the British got creative. Under the leadership of General Archibald P. Wavell, the commander in chief of the Middle East, the British set out to greatly exaggerate the size of their forces, supply levels, and state of battle readiness. When their deceitful charades proved successful, Wavell turned trickery into a profession and created an entirely new agency dedicated to carrying out deception.
“A” Force looks at how and why the British first employed deception in World War II. More specifically, it traces the development of the "A" Force organization, first formed in Cairo in 1941, as the first British organization to practice both tactical and strategic deception in the field. While older studies have focused on the D day deception campaign and Britain’s infamous double agents, this work explores the origins of Britain’s deception activities to reveal how the British became such masterful deceivers.
Whitney T. Bendeck has pursued a career in the field of history, focusing on deception, after visiting Normandy in 1998. Holding a PhD in history, she works for the International Affairs Program at Florida State University where she is an assistant instructor, as well as the director of undergraduate studies. She lives in Crawfordville, FL.
~ From the Book ~
“When Dudley Clarke accepted his assignment to coordinate deception in the Middle East theater, he took on an enormous responsibility. At its most basic level, his job was to mislead the enemy into making decisions detrimental to the enemy’s war effort.… [N]o one was better suited for the post. Clarke was a man of great intelligence, creativity, and ingenuity who possessed a certain mischievousness that made him the ideal candidate for the job.… “For the secret war,” he said, “was waged rather to conserve than to destroy: the stakes were the lives of front-line troops, and the organisation which fought it was able to count its gains from the number of casualties it could avert.’”
~ Praise for “A” Force ~
"A book worth reading by not only the history buffs but also by those of you that appreciate cleverness and guile on a grand scale. I highly recommend it."
— Tallahassee Democrat
"The appearance of [this book] would have been important at any time; its appearance now, as the US Armed Forces faces downsizing and major constraints in the way in must henceforth conduct US military policy, is more than timely. It means that this important new book must be considered “essential reading” in all US military academies and policy units. Dr. Bendeck, a US academic at Florida State University, has written a book which should, perhaps, have been written by a British historian. And yet she has captured the start of British combat (including theater strategic) deception operations with a sympathy and understanding rarely shown by US analysts to Allied combat operations before the entry of the US into World War II."
— Defense & Foreign Affairs Special Analysis
“Deception has been part of warfare since Sun Tzu and before. It has never played a large role in the American way of war, but the British have excelled at it. Dr. Bendeck's book traces the history of British deception efforts in World War II from their beginnings in Africa through the large scale efforts at El Alamein to their better-known and often stunningly clever applications during the Normandy invasion. An exceedingly well-researched and thought-provoking book for all students of World War II and intelligence/deception in general.”
—Rear Adm. Thomas A. Brooks, USN (Ret.), former director of Naval Intelligence