“Fake” Fleet ushers in allied forces for D-Day

World War II veteran John Bucur, who served in the U.S. Army and landed at Normandy two days after the invasion, takes part in the oral history day at Ricky Run Middle School in Chantilly, Va. (WTOP/Kathy Stewart)
WASHINGTON — There was a phantom fleet used to confuse the Nazis ahead of the D-Day invasion. It worked, but a local World War II veteran says that despite the subterfuge, many Allied soldiers died anyway.

The top-secret — yet entirely fake — fleet of rubberized life-sized inflatable tanks, planes, boats, amphibious landing crafts and heavy artillery was all made by Goodyear, the rubber and tire company.

It gave the appearance of “massing hundreds and hundreds of troops, but nobody was there. We were at the other end,” said John Bucur who served in the U.S. Army at the time.

Bucur said the Germans fell for the fake fleet, and were deceived into thinking the Allied invasion would take place farther north, at an area that was only 20 miles across the English Channel.

“They really fell for it,” he recalled. “Under those circumstances we presumably had it a lot easier but we really didn’t because we had those darn cliffs.”

Bucur had landed on Omaha Beach in Normandy on day-two of the invasion. “We had to wait for the second day because we could not get our equipment in unless they had a landing made and an opening up through the cliffs.”

He was with an Army intelligence gathering unit (17th Field Artillery Observation Battalion assigned to V-Corps, First Army) that was supposed to locate German gun positions and inform the Air Force and artillery in order to eliminate them.

U.S. planes were supposed to assist from above, but they got lost in the fog. As a result, they couldn’t take out the German cement bunkers in the cliffs used to housing massive guns. “They couldn’t come up and neutralize these pill boxes on these cliffs,” Bucur said.

“You know they lost seventy-five to eight percent of the men” during that time, he noted.

He says that after the first day, the tide came all the way up to the cliffs. He says the men couldn’t dig in and protect themselves from enemy fire. “So some people drowned, or if they were injured nobody could get to them. It was a pretty sad situation,” he recalled.

“However, the Rangers (Army) were able to scale those cliffs and we did prevail,” And the rest, as they say, is history.

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