Examples of trickery in warfare

Oct 2017
South Australia
Was inspired to create this thread by the story of when the Romans were besieging Syracuse and Archimedes used several different clever inventions against them, to the point that eventually he was able to trick them by merely dangling some ropes over the city walls, causing Roman soldiers to flee thinking it was another deadly invention.

What cunning deceptions in warfare can you think of?
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Forum Staff
Apr 2010
T'Republic of Yorkshire
Battle of Hamamatsu.

Tokugawa Ieyasu, having been forced to retreat into his castle, ordered the gate to be left open while banging the war drums loudly. The pursuing Takeda troops, suspecting a trap, did not chase him into the castle, enabling him and his men to survive what was otherwise a defeat.


Forum Staff
Aug 2016
"All war is deception" - Sun Tzu

Probably the most famous deception was Operation Fortitude - the First US Army Group, commanded by Patton, that was supposed to invade France at Calais.

A very common trick was to leave your campfires burning brightly while your army slipped away under cover of night. A variation on this one was to light more campfires than necessary to make your enemy believe your army is larger than it really is.


Ad Honorem
Jul 2015
I suppose you are looking at real innovation on the spot such as with Archimedes.
Well two from the 80-years-war come to mind:
At the siege of Antwerpen in 1585 the besieged had created what may possibly be the first WMD. The descriptions of the weapon are vague, supposedly it was a fireship with a delayed explosion. It killed 800 Spaniards on the spot and eye witnesses claim to have seen the bottom of the Schelde river.
At the siege of Den Bosch, the Dutch commander prince Frederick Henry couldn't really attack because the area around the city was basically a swamp. Not daunted by this, he poldered off the area with dikes and dried the land by using windmills. Maybe the most innovative siege in history.
Feb 2016
Seige of Ladysmith ... the British had dummies guarding the walls to trick the Boers over garrison size.

The British in WW2 planted a dead body off the coast of Spain with some fake plans and German spies fell for it hook line and sinker.
Likes: Niobe
Mar 2019
In WW2 Marine Fighter Squadron 214, better known as the Black Sheep squadron where known to have created radio traffic that suggested they were a bomber formation who had lost their fighter escort. The Japanese got a real surprise when the sent fighters up to intercept

Operation Grief conducted by German soldiers disguised as US servicemen during the early stages of the Battle Of The Bulge.

Back in the early 70s James Blish began novelizing Star Trek episodes. In one of the volumes he tells of a letter he received. It was from a US soldier attached to a recon unit in Vietnam that got ambushed in a valley by artillery. In desperation the units commander on open radio called in a phaser attach from the support vessel USS Enterprise.

The letter explained they were not exactly sure what the NVA was thinking but the attack stopped long enough for the recon unit to make good its escape


Ad Honorem
Oct 2012
The Battle of Midway

The U.S. had been forewarned of an upcoming Japanese offensive by listening in on Japan's naval & diplomatic comm traffic. The problem for the U.S. was that the objective of the offensive was referred to as only "A.F."

There was some disagreement between various intelligence organizations on where "A.F." might be, but on a a hunch that it could be Midway, the island garrison was instructed by Pearl Harbor via an underwater cable (making that comm traffic completely secure) to falsely broadcast via an open comm channel that it was having trouble with it's desalination equipment. That communication was intercepted by the Japanese who subsequently reported that A.F. was short of drinking water, confirming the target for the offensive as Midway.

This allowed Chester Nimitz to plan an ambush of the Japanese fleet that would ultimately prove to be the most decisive naval battle of the Second World War, and one of the more decisive naval battles in human history.
Likes: Spike117
Jul 2017
Philip II took a city by surprise by lashing ships together and rolling siege towers across them against the undefended side of the city walls while Philip's soldiers were attacking from the other side.

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