I am mostly referring to WW2 and cold war when embedded spies could have impersonated officials on low levels to carry out orders which were never issued.

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    This question contains so many assumptions that I don't know where to start. Radio quality, the chance that a field operative had ever spoken to the senior officer, the probability that a senior officer would delegate transmitting orders to a junior radio operator, etc. – MCW Jul 4 '17 at 18:16
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    Adding to what Mark just wrote, don't forget ciphers and processes. They've been used forever to avoid this type of thing among others. – Denis de Bernardy Jul 4 '17 at 18:20
  • Closest example I can think of would be Operation Greif – Gort the Robot Jul 4 '17 at 22:45
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    Not a voice actor (at least partly because he was dead) but marginally related there was Operation Mincemeat where the body of a tramp (Glyndwr Michael) was dressed as a Royal Marines officer and dumped near the Spanish coast while carrying false papers about the anticipated invasion of Sicily. – TripeHound Jul 5 '17 at 7:03
  • Other account of Operation Mincemeat. – Denis de Bernardy Jul 5 '17 at 8:53

The only reference similar to what you ask would have been in Operation Corona, when some British planes carried German speaking radio operators to give wrong directions to nightfighters.

That said, I doubt this would have been tried beyond tactical, immediate level in air combat, because:

  • The setup was not easy (including finding radio operators who spoke the enemy language well enough to confuse the enemy).

  • Land troops would intensively used campaign phones, and the operators would be probably able to recognize who they were talking to (between communications would usually be from HQ to subordinate units).

  • Non-urgent messages would have been coded, or even delivered personally. Even if you had the enemy codes, letting the enemy know that you have the codes for a small tactical advantage is just the thing you should not do.

  • The situation would be less fluid. Even if you gave an unit an order to abandon the positions, that order would take some time to comply; during that time the ruse could be discovered.

  • If you gave the enemy time to discover the ruse, things could be wrong. One thing with deception is that you are giving away your intentions (tell the enemy to remove their forces from one position and, if the enemy discovers you, now the enemy knows which is your objective).

  • "letting the enemy know that you have the codes for a small tactical advantage" -- that was the conundrum of Ultra. Had they reacted to all the intercepted and cracked Enigma messages, the Germans would have picked up on Enigma being broken, and stopped using it -- taking away the advantage of being able to read the messages. So they had to decide when to act on it, and when to accept the casualties to keep up the ruse. – DevSolar Jul 5 '17 at 8:54

During WW2 the British used an actor who bore a striking resemblance to Montgomery, to throw off the Germans as to British intentions on invading France.

M. E. Clifton James was noticed when he appeared as 'Monty' in a British stage production, and was recruited by fellow actor David Niven to actually impersonate Montgomery, to the edification of German intelligence sources.

The goal of Operation Copperhead was to hint to the Germans that Monty was actually interested in southern France in early 1944. The effort appears to have been at least partially successful.

  • Was he hired for his voice too? – nic Jul 5 '17 at 7:40

A classic example would be the pre-D-day deception aimed at making the German's believe that the actual invasion was to take place at the Pas de Calais. An entire fake army, the First United States Army Group was invented as part of Operation Fortitude South.

To help sell the effect and convince the Germans that this was the main invasion force, a large deception operation created fake equipment, such as camps, dummy landing craft and airstrips, to look like a real army was being prepared. This was supplemented with wireless traffic between these fake units to simulate real operational communications. In addition notable senior staff, such as General Patton, were (supposedly) attached to the army to give it some credence.

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    I'm not sure why this is downvoted as I do think it's a good example of a concentrated effort to do what the OP is asking (though not using the "wrong" language so to speak). – enderland Jul 4 '17 at 23:04
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    @enderland I read the "to carry out orders that were never issued" part of the OP as meaning the opposite of what this answers; radio operators for pretended armies would have issued (and received) orders that were not to be followed. That said, the OP is not very well written (as evidenced by this debate about what it means and the need to interpret its expressions) so I agree that even if someone thinks that the answer misses the point, downvoting may be a bit too harsh, specially if there is no comment explaining why. – SJuan76 Jul 4 '17 at 23:54

When the Americans landed at Salerno, loudspeakers blared out in the best Hollywood style, "Come out with you're hands up. We've got you covered." Not spies, exactly, but certainly "voices."

The Americans refused to surrender, and won the battle.


    Most (in)famous (and most controversial) use of voice actor was Norman Shelley's impersonation of Winston Churchill in some of his most important and most famous speeches. Allegedly, Churchill had very unpleasant high-pitched voice, and he could not be bothered to record his speeches. Therefore, voice actor took his role and recorded 'We shall fight them on the beaches', 'Their finest hour' etc . Later, in 1949. Churchill re-recorded those speeches with use of new equipment.

    This topic is still hotly contested, with various claims and counter-claims, but as you could see from links below, there is physical evidence(records) that Norman Shelley indeed did record some of Churchill's more famous speeches.

Finest hour for actor who was Churchill's radio voice

Norman Shelley

Churchill's voice - 1909

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    "Churchill had very unpleasant high-pitched voice, and he could not be bothered to record his speeches" - that's not what your source document says. These were supposedly recordings of speeches that Churchill had already given to Parliament and, since there was a war on, Churchill simply didn't have time to record them then. Also the actor matched his voice to Churchill's, which wouldn't have made sense if the recording was supposedly made because Churchill's own voice was "unpleasant". – KillingTime Jul 5 '17 at 16:03
  • @KillingTime Added recording from 1909. It really sound different and unpleasant compared to famous recordings from WW2. – rs.29 Jul 5 '17 at 16:52
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    I can't see what a 1909 recording is intended to prove. WW2 was 30 years later. It's not uncommon for people's voices to sound different in their 60s to how they sounded in their 30s (especially for smokers). Also recording technology changed significantly in the same period. However, as I pointed out; if the actor who copied the speeches made his own voice sound like Churchill, the way Churchill spoke obviously wasn't a reason for making the recording. If it had been, they would have made the actor sound different. – KillingTime Jul 5 '17 at 17:37
  • @KillingTime Well, Churchill was no longer in puberty in 1909 ;) His voice could not mutate that much - from tenor to bass. Granted, recording technology was limited in those times, but realistically, there was no reason to change voice of relatively unimportant MP in boring Budget debate. And there was many reasons to change voice of war time leader in historic moment for the nation. Actor didn't want to sound like squeaky real Churchill, he wanted to sound like mythical Churchill we know today. And he accomplished that . – rs.29 Jul 5 '17 at 17:59
  • " there was many reasons to change voice of war time leader in historic moment for the nation." The point I'm making (for the third time) is that they didn't change Churchill's voice - the actor mimicked how Churchill sounded at the time. Also, as your answer states, Churchill re-recorded the speeches himself after the war, so we know what his voice sounded like then (i.e. not unlike the famous wartime speeches). – KillingTime Jul 5 '17 at 18:54

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