Genius tactics in warfare don’t always involve the use of force. It is mostly a battle of wits, and the side most creative oftentimes emerges as the victor. These deceptive strategies deserve some attention.
11 Kosovo war
During the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999, the Yugoslav forces used decoys to minimize damage and casualty. Yugoslavia was neutral and a non-aligned country and it had expected possible invasion from either NATO or Soviet Union. The strategists developed concealment and deception tactics during the war.
The Yugoslav forces created fake bridges, airbases and fortifications. Each unit had to make at least 2 to 3 fake fortifications in the radius of 500 - 1000m from the real fortification. There were fake tanks and artillery made from old tires, telephone poles, wood, plastic and more. Old cars were used to simulate tank engine heat. Fake airplanes were built from wood and plastic. Old Sherman tanks and airplanes were set up as decoys for the enemy to waste their munitions from aerial attacks. Fake radar emissions were made using tractor plows and microwave owens.
The strategy worked as 90% of decoy targets were destroyed, and only 22 real armored vehicles and artillery pieces were destroyed, of that only 14 tanks (out of 1300).
10 The Battle of Meyongyang Turned Their Ships into Turtle Ships
With only 13 ships to fight a naval battle, Korean admiral, Yi Sun-Shin was left to his smarts in the battle of Meyongnyang against the Japanese. His ships had no roof or iron plating - only cannons, and an army the size of 300 Japanese warships.
Good geographical knowledge and understanding helped the admiral decide on his tactics. He chose the Myeongnyang Strait for his last stand because the waters changed direction every three hours or so. He took the flagship alone and planted himself in the middle with the water current coming straight at him, luring the Japanese vanguard towards him.
As soon as the current changed direction, the Japanese ships began to drift and collided with each other. In hiding, the 12 other Korean ships rallied forward with the cavalry, riding on the current, allowing the Japanese ships to line up to be destroyed by Korean cannon and arrow fire.With that trick alone, 31 Japanese warships were damaged or sunk, and the battle was won with just 13 ships.
9 The siege of Delhi by Timur
Timur marched to conquer Delhi in December 1398. The only problem he faced were the elephants being used by the opponents. It was something his army has never faced and clearly wasn’t a match for. Instead of going head on, Timur used two schemes to neutralize the threat of loss.
He used a part of his cavalry as bait and engaged the elephant forces to chase them, while dropping spikes on the floor as they gave chase. Timur realized that the elephant’s weakness was a spot that couldn’t be covered in protective armor. Their feet!
Timur then used cames with bales of hay and prodded them with hot iron rods and setting the hay on fire to spook the elephants as the camels ran towards their direction. Two things happened: the elephants were spooked at a running herd towards them, and they were blinded and suffocated by the smoke.
The elephants trampled their own armies, stomping each other to death, leaving Timur to do one final thing: capture Delhi.
8 Using Potatoes as weapons
Even food can be used as weapons. When Pressley O’Bannon of the destroyer U.S.S. spotted the Japanese submarine Ro-34 surfacing he decided to ram it. The two collided and a pirate-style manning of the destroyer proceeded by the submarine sailors. As soon as Japanese got on board, O’Bannon deck hands, who did not have any guns with them, grabbed potatoes from nearby storage bins.
They started to throw it at them, and in the heat of the moment without noticing, the Japanese sailors thought the potatoes were hand grenades. They got occupied trying to throw them away from the sub to fire back, giving O’Bannon the opening to distance itself to fire its guns at the sub. Firing too close would certainly be disastrous, for either party.
As its guns damaged the conning tower of the sub, O’Bannon had enough distance to use heavy artilery and depth charges to sink Ro-34. And sink it did.
7 The Ghost Army Deception
Hitler was making progress in his quest to conquer Europe. It was almost a success had the Allied troops not unleash their plan to trick the dictator. They used the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops called “The Ghost Army.’
It consisted of over 1,100 makeup artists, actors, sound technicians, painters, photographers, and press agents - most from Hollywood and ad agencies, who banded together to create one of the greatest deceptions in military warfare. No one knew about this until about half a century later. The details of its mission was so successful, they did not even have to fire a single shot.
They broadcasted fake radio traffic, used tanks, jeeps, and aircraft to create phantom cavalry and artillery formations, and state of the art recording devices to project sounds for up to 15 miles. They spread rumors and fake plans in bars, hoping this information would be passed on by spies.
The bluff was to get the German intel to believe heavy movement of Allied forces were headed to the coastline, distracting them from the real invasion that took place miles away.
Hitler directed all his forces towards a fake army, only to realize the real damage had been done elsewhere.
6 The strategy of beautiful women
When Liu Bang became Emperor Gaozu of Han, he was besieged at PingCheng by over 300,000 Xiongnu horsemen. What he did next was to appeal to the uglier side of humanity not known to be used in military warfare: bribery.
The Xiangnu in the north had been a threat to the Qin dynasty for a long time, and they managed to trap Gaozu at the Battle of Baideng. To get himself out of the pickle, he acted on Chen Ping’s advice by way of bribery.
Gaozu sent a painting of a Chinese princess to the Xiongnu commander’s wife. In it, he included a message that he intends to surrender and present the beautiful Chinese princess as tribute to her husband. He even sweetened the deal with more gifts to the commander’s wife if she got to ask her husband to withdraw his forces.
The Xiangnu commander did so, and Gaozu honored the bribe by sending over noble ladies to marry the Xiangnu leaders. The strategy worked with the result of a peace treaty and avoided bloodshed between the two. The promise of beautiful women to marry seemed to satiate their quest for conquering.
5 Master of Strategy - Captain Thomas Cochrane
Captain Thomas Cochrane’s adventures sound like that of a comic book hero. Tales of his masterful deception and tactics started when he took command of the the HMS Speedy. In 1800, he escaped a Spanish warship that was after him by flying a Danish flag. The strategy worked and he fended off boarding by claiming his ship was plague-ridden.
Later that year, he was also being chased by the French. He instructed his crew to turn off all the lights, but leaving one on the stern turned on. The enemy frigate followed the light, thinking they must have forgotten only to find a lantern being placed on a barrel floating in the ocean.
Tales of his naval escapades were so incredible that in Speedy’s 13 month cruise, Cochrane had captured and burned 53 ships before three French ships finally captured him on July 1801. Even while he was a prisoner, Admiral Charles-Alexandre Linois of the enemy’s side frequently asked him for advice.
4 Operation Spring of Youth used fake boobs
Called The “Operation Spring of Touth,” a bunch of Israeli special forces commandos infiltrated Beirut in 1973 to kill three leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). To get into protected grounds, they cross-dressed as women. They even had wigs and high heels as well as fake boobs.
The men walked along in each other’s arms as if they were on dates and walked past police, bodyguards and more without raising any questions. No one saw the Adam’s apple, or noticed their five o’clock shadow unfortunately. And they certainly didn’t bother to check the Uzi guns hiding under their clothes.
The commandos were successful and got into the Palestinian leaders’ rooms, proceeding to wipe everyone out. One of these “women” eventually became the Prime Minister of Israel later, and is now serving as the current Defense Minister - Ehud Barak.
This was not the first time a ruse of such was used. 11 Australian commandos in 1943 did the same thing as they disguised themselves as Malay fisherman to take out seven Japanese ships during WWII.
3 Battle of Bach Dang
Ngo Quyen led Vietnamese forces to drive out the invading forces of the Southern Han state of China commanded by Liu Hongcao. The battle of Bach Dang had put an end to a thousand year Chinese imperial domination in the country.
Ngo met Liu Hongcao at the Bach Dang river, where he sent out small shallow-draft boats to provoke a fight only to retreat upriver, but for tactical reasons. He drew the Chinese fleet in, and with such small numbers to begin with, it was almost a sure-win for the Chinese forces.
Ngo had anticipated this, and instructed his men to plant a barrier of large poles in the bed of the river. The top of the poles were tipped with iron, and would be hidden by the high tide. As Ngo ordered his army to retreat upstream, he waited until the tide lowered and ordered his army to fight back.
The resulting effect stranded the huge ships of the Chinese forces as they were penetrated by the poles. Liu Hongcao lost more than half his forces in that fight. They retreated, thus ending the 1,117 year of Chinese domination of Vietnam.
2 Operation Mincemeat
German commanders found top secret documents explaining the Allies’ plans to invade Sardinia and Greece. So without much fact-checking, the Germans waited for the allies there. They were prepared. Unfortunately, the allies did not arrive. Sicily was their real target instead.
The British carefully tricked the Germans by obtaining a corpse of a homeless man and giving him a false identity as a Major in the Royal Marines. They attached a briefcase to his belt with a chain, which contained the false identity papers and details of the false invasion plans. They then threw the corpse near the Spanish coast, knowing that he would eventually wash up ashore where the enemy would find him.
When the body was found, those documents were provided to the Germans, and the British made the ploy even more believable by sending requests to their ambassadors in Spain to be on alert because a plane crashed near the Spanish coast might by carrying important documents that needed retrieval at all costs.
The plan worked, and the Germans moved their troops from Sicily to Sardinia and Greece. They did not move to defend Sicily only until it was too late.
1 Persian Cats
According to recorded history, fifty thousand Egyptians fell as opposed to seven thousand Persians when they came pushing their forces into Egypt, they came in knowing how their enemies held cats in high regard and were considered sacred to their religion. They would never injure them on any account. To capitalize on that fact, the Persians made use of cats as weapons of war.
During the invasion of Egypt in the Battle of Pelusium, Persians painted cats on their shields and brought along hundreds of actual cats onto the front lines during the siege of Pelusium. Because of their beliefs, the Egyptians refused to fire their arrows at the Persians out of fear they might injure the cats.
All the Persians had to do after, was walk right into the city. Cambyses II of Persia soon overthrew the 26th Egyptian dynasty, and was later acknowledged as pharaohs in Egypt’s 27th dynasty.
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