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The Art of the Bluff, the Value of Deceit, and the Most Thrilling Episodes of Cunning in Military History, from the Trojan Horse to the Gulf War

by Jon Latimer

Pub Date: Nov. 12th, 2001
ISBN: 1-58567-204-1
Publisher: Overlook

Former British army officer and military historian Latimer (Operation Compass 1940, not reviewed) provides an introduction to contemporary doctrines involving military deception, enlivened and exemplified by anecdotes ranging from the ancient Egyptians to the recent air war against Serbia.

The first half of Latimer’s study makes one main point: deception is most successfully employed when commanders use it to prompt specific enemy responses. That central tenet serves as the springboard into discussion of operational and strategic uses of military deception. Numerous dramatically described examples, such as the daring British evacuation at Gallipoli or the Allied conversion of Nazi spies into double agents, effectively illustrate his analysis of the importance of military subterfuge. Latimer offers similar elucidation of these principles in sea and air operations with equally entertaining results. He devotes the remainder of these pages to long case studies showing how both Operation Bodyguard (the Allied deception plan supporting the D-day invasion) and Soviet trickery on the WWII Eastern front forced the German military into weakened positions in reaction to Allied deception. Ultimately, Latimer concludes that deception plays as important a role in modern war as it has throughout history. This is not a particularly earth-shattering revelation, but the author does offer a clear assessment of deception’s battlefield utility and places it in an entertaining, if well-trod, historical context.

An intriguing and lively summary that will appeal mainly to readers with a very general interest in military issues and history. (35 b&w photographs, 10 maps)