THE "RUBBER DUCKS" OF WW II
One of the closet guarded secrets of the war.....the rubber companies played in the United States’ “illusionary warfare”.....was unveiled by the War Department soon after WW II. The story of a giant deception that caused the Germans, just before D-Day, ti see fleets of invasion craft that didn’t exist, loaded with weapons that never were forged, and pointed for attacks that never were planned. PT boats complete with armament, and landing craft and barges carrying tanks, field artillery and other combat equipment, appeared and disappeared overnight and in great numbers along the English Channel coast in the hectic days preceding June 6th, 1944, much to the confusion of Germans observers and the high command.
The “Tanks” above....sure enough are just “blow-ups” that pretty much resemble the ‘real-deal’ when just a few feet away......just think what these would look like to an enemy flying overhead...looking down...a vast fleet of “rubber ducks” setting in any bay...or along any shore sure would get attention....real fast!!!!
This huge ruse was made possible by production, with great speed and under highest priorities, of pneumatic, balloon-fabric models of the craft and equipment required for this vast decoy operation. Built to size, and with a close resemblance to the real thing that made them,when inflated, utterly deceiving to German reconnaissance pilots, these “ships” and their cargos were allowed to be seen in the waters of British ports from which Allied supreme headquarters had no intention of launching an attack.
Having served their confusing purpose in one locality, they were deflated and moved by truck to another false base, again to distract enemy attention and further muddle his defense preparations. The companies involved quickly adapted themselves to the project when called upon by the Army and Navy to fashion psychological weapons of war out of the same fabrics and skills that in peace-time had produced gargantuan figures for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York and for other parades.
Landing craft of various kinds, PT boats and barges, tanks, tank destroyers, field and heavy artillery, combat vehicles and other equipment with which to load them were designed and patterned on drawing boards. As fast as the dummies were completed they were turned over to the Army and Navy for shipment to Europe, deflated and folded and with a minimum demand upon precious cargo space. The last shipment, with D-Day knocking on the door, was rushed to England by plane.
Inflated Bofors guns, airplanes, half-tracks, and tanks also were designed by Army camouflage experts to create the illusion, from the air, of actual mobile armament. Thus it was possible for tacticians to place an “entire army” in the field at some point which would serve to confuse enemy observers, while the actual armed unit moved under cover of darkness or camouflage to some point isolated from the illusionary army of balloon-like equipment. Companies which participated in the decoy program included Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, General Tire and Rubber Company, United States Rubber Company, and Dunlop Rubber Company.