Can users be unaware that they are experiencing a simulation? One example is “Fortitude”

One of the assumptions in my model is that the users of a simulation are almost always aware that it is a simulation – ie they know that they are not seeing real life.

One of the exceptions that almost proves this rule may be the deception campaign (Operation “Fortitude”) surrounding the 1944 D-Day landings. This was intended to make Hitler think that the D-Day landings would take place near to Calais, rather than the actual location in Normandy.

After the invasion had begun, the plan was to make Hitler beleive that the Normandy landings were only a feint, designed to draw his forces, and that the main landing would still come in the Calais area.

To achieve, this, a fictitious army (the First US Army Group, or FUSAG, located in Kent, opposite Calais) was simulated. This simulation was delivered in several ways, including:
– dummy vehicles placed where air reconnaissance might see them
– continuous encyphered wireless transmissions in the area
– sending back false information through double agents, whom the German Abwehr believed.

The simulation was even interactive, in that spies were directed by the Abwehr to investigate specific issues, and duly sent back falsified replies. There was an excellent feed-back loop, as German cyphers read by Bletchley Park allowed the simulators to judge the effectiveness of what they were doing.

The result was that German units which might have made a landing in Normandy much more costly were kept in the Calais area until it was too late.

This is of course not only an example of simulation users being unaware that they were watching a simulation; it is also an example of simulators deliberately setting out to deceive.

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