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British "Rupert" at Merville D-Day Bunker Museum - France

The Paradummy is a device first used in World War II that, used with other artificial paratrooper units, is meant to cause an invasion by air to appear larger than it actually is. Paradummies can also be used to lure enemy troops into staged ambushes.

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German paradummies

The first known use of paradummies was by the Germans during the Battle of the Netherlands and Belgium in 1940. They used straw-filled puppets that were thrown en masse out of airplanes in order to incite fear and panic among the civilian population. The regular German paratrooper units, the Fallschirmjäger, were actually much smaller in number. In August of the same year, paradummies were also used over Scotland for deceptive purposes. These dummies no longer exist and little is known today about their appearance and other details.

The Luftwaffe's Fallschirmjäger used artificial jumpers in later times as well, such as during the Ardennes Offensive, which started in the middle of December 1944. These dummies were so convincing that some American troops rapidly evacuated their positions. Subsequent clarification confirmed only the landing of dummies, as well as the testimony of isolated German soldiers who were taken captive.

To facilitate an even more realistic depiction of a Paratrooper landing, the Luftwaffe was believed to have experimented with smoke bombs attached to the feet of the dummies as a way of simulating kicked-up dust. These modified dummies, however, were never used.

British paradummies

British "Rupert" at Merville Bunker D-Day Museum - France

The British dummies were assembled in the USA and shipped to Great Britain. The first known use of the puppets was in North Africa in 1940 when they were dropped on Italian troops at the Siwa Oasis. Paradummies were also dropped over Italy during Operation Husky.

In 1942 the Paradummies served as a distraction to the British invasion of Madagascar, which at the time was administered by France's Vichy Government. The dummies used during Operation Ironclad roughly resembled those dropped at night in Normandy on D-Day. Little if anything is known about dummies created before 1942 as they are no longer in existence.

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Operation Titanic

The paradummy drop over Normandy is probably the best known operation of its kind. In the early hours of the morning of June 6, 1944 a force of 40 Hudsons, Halifaxes and Stirlings dropped a total of 500 dummies in four separate locations along the coastal interior. Window, rifle fire simulators and two teams of Special Air Service soldiers carrying recordings of loud battle noise were also dropped to reinforce the deception and divert German troops away from the Allies' actual drop zones. The dummies were nicknamed Rupert and were fabricated with sack cloth/burlap representations of a human figure stuffed with straw or sand and not the highly elaborate and lifelike rubber dummies suggested in some accounts and portrayed in the film The Longest Day. They were equipped with an explosive charge that burned away the cloth after landing to prevent the immediate discovery of their true nature. Two Stirling aircraft were lost in the operation and of the six SAS soldiers involved, only two eventually reached safety, the others were captured and remained in German POW camps until the end of the war.

A few of the original dummies are now displayed in war museums. In the 1980s, several more dummies were found in the hangar of an old airfield in Great Britain. They have frequently been offered in auctions and on the Internet.

American paradummies

US "Oscar"/PD-pack at Airborne Museum St. Mere Eglise - France

In 1943, the United States Navy Beach Jumper Unit (a deception unit) conducted tests using parachute dummies made of a non-magnetic metal, probably lead or aluminum. The dummies got their nickname "Oscar" since they resembled Oscar statues. The actor Douglas Fairbanks Jr., who served as a lieutenant in the navy, was directly involved in the development and design of these dummies. It is believed that he brought the idea with him from Great Britain, where he was stationed for a time. In early March 1943, the test flight with several of these paradummies took place at an airfield near the coast of Chesapeake Bay. The Paradummies were dropped by a TBF Avenger plane over the coast and airfield. Three observation groups standing at various distances shared in writing their impressions with the navy. A few of them had been intentionally left unaware that dummies had been dropped - they were simply told to report on what they saw. The reports stated that the dummies proved defective since they were too small and had no moving parts that might move during the drop which reduced their effectiveness. The observers mostly felt the dummies looked unrealistic.

As a result of this test, the US Navy at Lakehurst developed larger, inflatable dummies made of rubberized material, the so-called PD-Packs. The PD-Packs were used in southern France and the Philippines.

Another use of artificial Paratroopers by Americans in the Second World War took place over New Guinea during a jump of the 503d Infantry Regiment. It is believed these were the rubber dummies. In the 1950s, the US Army further developed the "Oscar" paradummy variation. This development led to an easy-to-transport, foldable dummy whose head and boots were made of plaster. The dummies now also wore realistic fabric uniforms. The new type was used during missions in Korea.

Other uses for paradummies

'Movie Prop from the famous 1960s war film "The Longest Day," at Airborne Museum St. Mere Eglise - France

During the Vietnam War, the Americans dropped leftover dummies over Vietcong outposts and in their vicinity. This served to lure the North-Vietnamese into staged ambushes, where they could be attacked with air power. Other covert operations used blocks of ice instead of dummies, which would melt in the hot Vietnamese weather before Communist forces could arrive. The parachutes would be left and found in the drop zones and lead them to believe that American troops were still operating in the area.

The modern American paradummies are made of PVC and look like GI-dummies, but they are larger than the dummies of the 1950s. During the Gulf War, special forces implemented these dummies to distract Iraqi troops. They have also been used in Afghanistan.

The Americans also use paradummies during exercises to simulate larger paratrooper invasions.

Further reading

  • Jon Latimer, Deception in War, London: John Murray, 2001 ISBN 0-7195-5605-8

External links


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