The planners of this operation knew that in order to do so, the true scale of the convoy must be hidden from Axis knowledge; once the Axis do learn of it, their leaders must be kept from knowing its true objectives and their forces must be kept preoccupied far from the intended landing sites of the Allied forces. In his article “Fortuitous endeavor: intelligence and deception in Operation Torch”, Commander Patch pieced together the planning and execution of this ambitious undertaking and underscored the significance of military deception and signals intelligence to its success.
Torch planning commenced in August 1942 with the formation of the Armed Forces Headquarters (AFHQ) led by General Eisenhower. During the planning, signals intelligence (SIGINT) of Allied forces was greatly enhanced when the British’s Government Code and Cipher School (GCCS) broke down high-grade Axis cipher codes, providing a source of intelligence information known as ULTRA. The intelligence information gathered by Allied forces helped shaped the strategic and operational framework of Torch. Particularly, SIGINT sources provided decrypts and Y-intelligence that informed Torch planners about weather conditions in Axis-controlled areas, accounts of Axis order of battle, movements of Axis shipping and naval assets, intentions of Axis leaders, and the Axis’ perceptions of the intent of Allied Forces. The latter helped Torch planners gauge the efficacy of their deception measures, a strategy they employed to help secure their covert operation.
Deception measures in war strategies have been valued as far back as the time of Sun Tzu but it has never been used in the scale that Operation Torch intended. Here again, signals intelligence played a key role. The extensive double-agent network controlled by British forces planted information that was to confuse the Axis forces regarding the true objectives of the massive