10 Examples of “False Flag” Attacks

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A Brief History

On August 31, 1939, German troops dressed in Polish uniforms pretended to attack a German radio station near the German-Polish border at Gleiwitz (Gliwice in Polish).  Concentration camp inmates had been previously shot and dressed in German uniforms and left at the radio station to make it seem the Poles had attacked Germany, giving Germany the excuse for starting World War II in Europe.  Actions taken against one’s own side under the guise of being an attack by an enemy is a ruse known as a false flag operation.  These can be done on air, on land or on the sea and do not have to be military operations, but can be business dirty tricks or political scams.  Today, even cyber warfare can include false flag operations.  Here we list 10 such events in no particular order.

Digging Deeper

1. Gleiwitz Incident, 1939.

Not only did the Germans kill people in order to “sell” the scam, they also broadcast anti-German messages in Polish from the allegedly captured radio station.  It is unlikely anyone outside of Germany believed the attack was actually initiated by Poland, but the operation may have been successful in that it helped arouse German fervor for a war against Poland.  Thinking that Britain and France would not come to Poland’s aid, Adolf Hitler was wrong, and his scheme resulted in Britain and France declaring war on Germany, eventually leading to the downfall of Hitler and his nation.  Other, similar, operations were staged along the German-Polish border as part of a larger plan.

2. Boston Tea Party, 1773.

Irate American colonists fed up with “taxation without representation” were in no mood to acquiesce to the demands of Parliament that Americans pay the hated tax on tea, so a group of American patriots dressed up as “Indians” (Native Americans) and boarded a ship in Boston Harbor, throwing its valuable cargo of tea into the sea.  Absolutely no one was fooled by this particular operation.

3. Reichstag Fire, 1933.

Hitler’s henchmen burned down the building of the German national assembly (Reichstag) and blamed Communists as an excuse to suspend democratic rule and institute a dictatorship, as well as an excuse to persecute and undermine Communists.  A Dutch Communist was found in the burning building and Hitler quickly used that fact to condemn all Communists, effectively ending any open opposition to his despotic ambitions.

4. Scandal of Scientology, 1971.

When author Paulette Cooper wrote a scathing expose on the Church of Scientology called The Scandal of Scientology in 1971, Scientologists responded by breaking into her house and stealing her personal stationary.  Scientologist agents then used that stolen stationary to write false bomb threats to Scientology offices to discredit Cooper.  The plot was found out, and Cooper was exonerated after initially being charged criminally, and another plot called “Operation Freakout” was planned in 1976 to portray Cooper as mentally unsound and have her falsely imprisoned in a mental facility.  That false flag plan was found out before it went into effect and Scientologists involved were arrested.  ‘Freakout’ had women imitating Cooper’s voice call in bomb threats to foreign embassies and other impersonators pretending to be Cooper commit other crimes.

5. University of Mississippi Reverse Racist Graffiti, 2002.

Three Black college students were caught painting anti-Black racist graffiti on the dormitory doors of other Black students in an effort to create the false scenario of White racism at the school, a fake Hate Crime to discredit White people.  The perpetrators claimed the incident had been a prank gone wrong.  In March of 2017 a Black man, Cainin Milton was arrested in South Carolina for spray painting anti-Black, anti-Gay and anti-Latino graffiti on a library named after a Black woman murdered in a hate crime church shooting.  Numerous incidents of this nature have occurred over the years.

6. Black Man Burns Black Church, 2016.

In December of 2016, Andrew McClinton was arrested for and confessed to burning the Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church in Greenville, Mississippi.  In addition to the arson, McClinton also apparently spray painted “Vote Trump” on the side of the building.   McClinton, a 45 year old African-American man, was a member of the African-American church.  This false flag incident was an obvious attempt to discredit people that voted for Donald Trump.  The alleged arsonist is also a convicted felon that did 8 years in prison for robbery.

7. Florida Gubernatorial Campaign, 1994.

Democrat Lawton Chiles paid operatives to make “tens of thousands” of calls to senior citizens by people claiming to be from the Republican candidate Jeb Bush’s campaign, telling the old people that Bush was against Social Security and programs for senior citizens.  Chiles won a close election and his campaign was outed for the dirty trick political false flag telephone operation.  Chile stayed in office until he died of a heart attack in 1998, never paying a price for the underhanded stunt, blaming underlings engineering the attack without his knowledge.  Political false flag operations are widespread, and include planting phony agitators in crowds that pretend to be from the opposition, use of phony “journalists,” and other dirty tricks.

8. Q Ships, World War I and World War II.

During World War I the British Royal Navy and the German Navy both used disguised merchant ships bearing false flags as heavily armed decoy ships that could get close to enemy cargo vessels and sink them.  These Q Ships were also used to attract submarines which generally used surface attacks to sink cargo ships during World War I and early in World War II.  When the submarine would surface to sink the “merchant” ship with gunfire, the Q Ship’s guns would be unmasked and sink the submarine.  During World War II the British and Germans were back at the false flag ships game, with elaborate disguising of the vessels to resemble actual other ships of neutral countries.  The United States Navy converted 5 ships to Q Ships, but with virtually no success and limited use, the first being sunk on its first voyage.  This false flag technique was pioneered by pirate ships that would fly a friendly flag in order to get close to their prey, and only when too close for the victim ship to escape would reveal their pirate banner.

9. Masada Action and Defense Movement, 1972 and 1988.

French White Supremacists, highly nationalistic and anti-Semitic, anti-Immigration and anti-Arab, posed as a fictitious Zionist Jewish group called the Masada Action and Defense Movement, setting off bombs around France in 3 incidents in 1972 and 1988 (2).  The idea was to bomb Arab and North African Muslim targets and blame Jews for the attacks with the aim of triggering an Arab-Israeli war.  Tactics included leaving anti-Arab leaflets at the scene of the bombings and Stars of David.  In 1989 the plot was found out, and 18 neo-Nazi Frenchmen were arrested from the French and European Nationalist Party.

10. Police Operations, Past and Present.

Law enforcement is well known to use false flag “sting” operations to nab criminals, although sometimes the operations seem like entrapment.  The television show, To Catch a Predator, lures pedophiles by officers pretending to be underage boys and girls on line, suckering criminals into responding to trysts that turn out to be arrests.  The FBI ran an operation called ABSCAM from 1978 to 1981 in which operatives pretended to be Arab Sheiks, luring greedy politicians into graft and bribery situations, ultimately resulting in 6 Congressmen and 1 Senator being convicted, as well as several other local and state government officials.  Drug operations are likewise usually false flag operations, with cops pretending to be drug dealers.  The use of fake hitmen to lure wanna-be murderers out into the open has also been employed. Even criminal organizations false flag operations in order to ferret out underlings prone to informing on the criminal enterprise.  Likewise with espionage/counter espionage agencies.

Question for students (and subscribers): What incidents would you include on the list?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Durham, Robert B.  False Flags, Covert Operations, & Propaganda.  lulu.com, 2014.

The featured image in this article, a photograph by Smerus of a plaque on site commemorating the incident, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.


About Author

Major Dan

Major Dan is a retired veteran of the United States Marine Corps. He served during the Cold War and has traveled to many countries around the world. Prior to his military service, he graduated from Cleveland State University, having majored in sociology. Following his military service, he worked as a police officer eventually earning the rank of captain prior to his retirement.