10 Greatest Successful Bluffs In History

Winning a battle or moving valuable cargo around the world is no easy task. To be successful, sometimes you have to get creative and deceive your adversary. Often, the best strategy is to trick your opponent into underestimating you or to otherwise employ shifty subterfuge.

10 Operation Anadyr


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The Russians practice military deceit and denial so often that they have a specific term to describe the strategy: maskirovka. It was the basis for Soviet plans during the Cuban Missile Crisis (or what the Russians call the “Caribbean Crisis”). Top-level Soviets trusted no one, so they designed their bluff to fool everyone, including the Soviet military. Khrushchev and the Soviet state apparatus planned to deceive the Americans (and their own troops) about their true intentions regarding the large-scale movement of troops and weapons. Then they intended to vehemently deny reality when everyone wised up. The plan was code-named “Operation Anadyr.” CIA’s Gulf of To... Dare, Lorna Best Price: $35.30 Buy New null (as of 08:20 EST - Details)

Anadyr is a frigid river that flows into the Bering Sea, and it was the location that the Soviet high command “chose” for military exercises. Missile engineers were erroneously informed that they would be going to a nearby island, Novaya Zemlya, to test ICBMs. The Soviets provided all of their intelligence and soldiers with winter outfits, skis, and parkas, even though they were heading to Cuba. To further keep up the ruse, troops were only moved at night.

The Soviets wanted the American intelligence and any Western spies to think that the missiles were being moved north rather than to the coast of Florida. As a way to deploy ground forces to Cuba, the Soviet high command pretended that they were moving four regiments from the Siberian nuclear location to Cuba to make room for incoming regiments that were part of Operation Anadyr.

The operation went smoothly, and the Soviets were able to get their ICBMs close to Cuba before JFK found out. Even after U2 footage revealed Russian troop movement and suspicious-looking objects, Khrushchev outright lied to the president of the United States. When Kennedy began to suspect foul play, Khrushchev sent JFK a personal telegram saying that “under no circumstances would surface-to-surface missiles be sent to Cuba.” What followed next was the closest the world ever came to World War III as Kennedy figured out just how to call the communists’ bluff.

9 Tube Alloys


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The Manhattan Project is a well-known part of World War II history. Everyone knows about Los Alamos and Robert Oppenheimer, but the British are mostly left out of the narrative.

The initial stages of atomic development saw incredible Anglo-American cooperation. However, it was the British who really jump-started research and development of an atomic weapon with the fission experiments of O.R. Frisch and R.E. Peierls at Birmingham University in 1939–40. Actually, this isn’t surprising because the Americans had not yet entered the war. But the British were never fully integrated with official members of the Manhattan Project. So in 1942, they began their own covert atomic program.

The British knew the magnitude of the project, and they, like the Americans, wanted to keep it out of unfriendly hands. Neither the Nazis nor the Soviets were to know about the projects. But Britain went about it a bit differently than the Yanks, employing their characteristic droll and dry British humor to work their deception. As a result, their atomic program had much less security and secrecy than did the Manhattan project because the British simply used the most boring name possible. They called their project “Tube Alloys” so that no one would think to look too closely. Their deception worked. Against the State: An ... Rockwell Jr., Llewelly... Best Price: $5.02 Buy New $5.52 (as of 11:35 EST - Details)

8 Bias Of Priene

This story comes from ancient biographer Diogenes Laertius’s history of Greek philosophy, Lives of Eminent Philosophers. Written in the third century AD, the book chronicles the siege of Priene from the sixth century BC (which, of course, means that the story should be taken with a grain of salt).

Bias of Priene was one of the seven sages of Greece, and he led the city against the invading Lydian forces of King Alyattes. The king was doing quite well in the war and had the starving city of Priene on its knees, almost ready to surrender. But Bias came up with a clever plan to trick Alyattes. Even though the city was starving, he fattened up two donkeys and sent them with two healthy men to Alyattes’s camp. The ruse convinced Alyattes that the whole of Priene was also in such good condition and that the city had plenty of supplies to outlast his already long siege.

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