It’s pretty easy to hoax people. We all want to be deceived, but only up to a point. Some hoaxes are fun and pleasant, others malicious and unpleasant. We’d like a way to tell the difference (Robert Carroll).

Feb 7, 2015

How Royal Air Force Fooled Nazis in Operation Corona?

Operation “Corona” was a British Royal Air Force (RAF) initiative to confuse German night fighters during RAF bomber raids on German cities during World War II. Native German speakers impersonated German Air Defence officers. They initiated communications via radio with German night fighter pilots and countermanded previously given orders, thus reducing the efficiency of German air defense. Operation Corona was, according to accounts, both successful and highly amusing for the British monitors.

The operation was first launched during the attack on the German industrial center of Kassel on the night of 22 October to 23 October 1943 in which 90% of the city was burned, leaving 10,000 dead and 150,000 homeless.

Operation “Corona” was made possible by the Jewish diaspora when many people, mostly Jews, fled Nazi-Germany to England. These people were very valuable to RAF Bomber Command, since between them they natively spoke any German accent and hence were capable of countermanding the orders given from the senior officers in the Luftwaffe Air Defense headquarters, and so could redirect the night fighters to other targets, give them orders to land immediately at an airbase, head off for another patrol area, or follow a course which led them completely astray.

For example, on one occasion, over Ludwigshaven on 17 November 1943, a broadcast in German ordering, “All butterflies go home”, caused many of the German fighters to land. Only one British bomber was lost that night.

The contest of real controller versus fake and the resulting confusion got so bad that the Luftwaffe switched to using women for controllers, hoping the change in voices would help. The British counter-moved by then using German-speaking Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) personnel and continued harassing the Luftwaffe.

From "WAR IN THE ETHER", a typescript issued by Signals Branch, Bomber Command in October 1945.

"CORONA came into use on the night of 22/23 Oct 43, and immediately drew blood. The target on this occasion was Kassel, and before the end of the evening, there was chaos in the enemy night defense organization. A furious German ground controller was warning his aircraft to “beware of another voice” and “not to be led astray by the enemy”, culminating in an instruction, which must at least have succeeded in raising a laugh from his harassed pilots: “In the name of General Schnmidt, I order all aircraft to Kassel”. The Gen. Schmidt on whose authority he spoke was the Commander of the German Air Force on the Western Front.

The enemy was seriously disturbed by the impact of CORONA, which went from strength to strength, especially when the “Y” service produced a ghost voice who not only spoke idiomatic German but could also mimic perfectly the voices of his opposite numbers. It was this ghost who, on one occasion after a particularly violent outburst by the German controller, remarked into his microphone – “The Englishman is now swearing”. The German’s immediate and somewhat fatuous rejoinder was “It is not the Englishman who is swearing, it is me”.

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