One of the methods of deceiving the Germans before the invasion of Europe in 1944 was to create a fictitious army under the command of George Patton. Inflatable tanks and airplanes were manufactured along with radio traffic and it gave German intelligence fits. Patton after all had a reputation as the American army’s hardest hitter and was expected to be the general who led the invasion. This deception helped to keep German troops away from the real landing sites which helped to secure victory for the Allied cause.
Creating false weaponry to deceive an enemy is nothing new. Perhaps the most iconic false piece of weaponry is the Quaker gun and its use dates to the American Revolution in 1780. Colonial dragoons under the command of Colonel William Washington (a second cousin of George known affectionately as Billy) trapped 125 Loyalist redcoats under Colonel Rowland Rugeley in a barn near Camden, South Carolina. While Washington outnumbered Rugeley he realized it would be a bloodbath to try and attack the barn but he had few alternatives since he lacked even a single cannon. Washington decided to trick Rugeley into surrendering. Some of his men cut down a pine tree and fashioned it in such a way that it resembled a cannon. He mounted it and pointed it at the barn and told Rugeley that if they did not surrender he would open fire. Rugeley surrendered and no lives were lost.
Quaker guns again made an appearance during the Civil War. It was no secret that the Confederates were able to get their hands on real heavy ordinance when they seized Gosport Navy Yard in Norfolk, Virginia. Moving those heavy guns was another matter but what the Union government did not know could hurt them. While Confederate soldiers set up defenses along the Potomac in the early days of the war trees were cut down, painted black and mounted in gun emplacements. From across the river they looked like real cannon and it effectively closed the Potomac to river traffic even isolating Washington DC for a time. It was only later in the year when Federal soldiers began to raid into Virginia that they discovered the true nature of these guns.
Quaker guns were also used by the Confederates to give the impression that fortifications were still manned therefore buying time for their armies to evacuate a position. This charade was used prominently by Joseph Johnston at Centreville, Virginia in March 1862 and P.G.T. Beauregard at Corinth, Mississippi in May of 1862. Quaker guns were also put in place to give false strength to Confederate fortifications during the Siege of Petersburg in 1864-65.
This ploy was used up through World War II. During the Doolittle Raid on Tokyo broomsticks were painted black and installed in the tail sections to give the impression that the B-25s had machine guns mounted when they did not. A British battleship, the HMS Centurion, while obsolete, was fitted with Quaker guns and stationed in the eastern Mediterranean to project more strength for the Royal Navy then it actually had. The Germans also used Quaker guns. Artillery batteries at Pointe-du-Hoc in Normandy were moved out and replaced with painted logs in order to fool Allied intelligence gathering efforts.
Sometimes an actual Quaker gun does not even need to be installed for it to have an effect. Tourists visit Pearl Harbor every year and go out to the USS Arizona Memorial and tour the USS Missouri. Few visit the USS Utah memorial. The Utah was an aging ship used mostly for gunnery target practice and for training. She was moored on the west side of Ford Island on December 7 with no guns in her turrets and only wooden boxes covering the openings. Despite that she was targeted by a squadron of Japanese torpedo bombers. After being hit the Utah was heavily damaged and began to list and eventually sank taking 64 of her crew with her but those torpedoes could have been fired at a more prominent target and did a lot more damage than sinking a ship that was used for target practice. Like the Arizona, the Utah was not able to be salvaged and those who went down with the ship were never removed and still remain entombed inside the rusting hulk of their ship in Pearl Harbor.