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How To Make a Fake Tank

By Kevin M. Hymel

Deception is a vital tool in war. During World War II, the British developed a dummy tank to fool enemy surveillance planes into thinking they had more tanks than they needed, were strong where they were weak, and were preparing to attack where they were not.

The tank’s body had to be inflated through four separate individual compartments.
The tank’s body had to be inflated through four separate individual compartments.
A soldier pumps air into the tank’s turret.
A soldier pumps air into the tank’s turret.
A soldier attaches the pump tube to one of the tank’s valves.
A soldier attaches the pump tube to one of the tank’s valves.

Made of rubber, the tank could be assembled and inflated in 20 minutes. The tank pictured was assembled in Anzio, Italy, in March 1944, where Allied forces tried to break out of their beachhead. In England, similar armies of fake tanks were being inflated in the fields of East Anglia, on Britain’s southeast coast. These tanks were part of an elaborate deception, code named Operation Fortitude, that convinced Adolf Hitler the invasion of France would come at the Pas-de-Calais, far from the Normandy beaches. These rubber-and-air tanks did their job and contributed to Allied victory.

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A British soldier prepares an Italian generator to inflate the fake tank body, which is still in its bag. The forge pump, in the wooden box, will be used to inflate the turret.
A British soldier prepares an Italian generator to inflate the fake tank body, which is still in its bag. The forge pump, in the wooden box, will be used to inflate the turret.
The completed tank on it side.
The completed tank on it side.

 

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