Soviet Operational
Deception:
The Red Cloak


by
Lieutenant Colonel Richard N. Armstrong (1988)


In order to perform illusions greater than a sleight of hand, the magician often uses a cloak. The creation of illusions is not magical, or mystical, but is a hint of suggestion, an understanding of human nature, relatively simple technical manipulations, and the fulfillment of carefully planted expectations. Despite this fundamental awareness, one is awed by the magician's illusions of objects disappearing and appearing. Similarly, on the battlefield, the application of deception depends on the same nonmystical elements but is potentially fatal for the one awed and surprised. The Red Army learned and practiced the art of deception at all levels of warfare during World War II. By cloaking various force groupings and activities, Soviet military leadership, particularly in the latter stages of the war, created operational-level deceptions that surprised German intelligence and commanders. This aspect of combat on the Eastern Front remains relatively unexplored in Western writings.1 The Soviets, on the other hand, have published significant studies that remain largely unexploited by Western military analysts and historians.2 Through their empirically structured military science, Soviet researchers and doctrine writers have applied deception to the tactical, operational, and strategic levels of war.

Deception at the tactical level is conducted by corps and below and has the goal of hiding activities associated with battle preparation.3 Exploiting time of day or night, terrain, weather, and specific camouflage and mock-up devices, tactical units seek to conceal their Activities and formations by using feints, ruses, demonstrations, or other tactical actions.

Operational-level deception is conducted at the Front (equivalent to a U.S. army group) and army levels of command so battle preparations can be conducted secretly.

At this level, deception is achieved by maintaining radio silence; concealing command and control and troop regroupings; disseminating false information to the enemy; camouflaging the assembly areas of supporting units; and creating dummy troop concentrations, command posts, and defensive installations. Operational-level deception is achieved only by strictly observing the tactical deception measures.4
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