The Mercy Health-Saint Mary’s Health Care Hauenstein Neuroscience Center in Grand Rapids is named for a man who crafted and engineered one of the greatest lies ever told.
Wall Street scammer Bernie Madoff should be envious of retired U.S. Army Col. Ralph Hauenstein because it was this Fort Wayne, Indiana native who was destined to stand at General Dwight Eisenhower’s side in 1944, creating a diversion —a lie — that convinced Adolf Hitler the D-Day invasion was not going to happen where Allied landing crafts unloaded the troops that helped to liberate France.

Hauenstein joined the U.S. Army at the age of 22, was commissioned as a second lieutenant soon after that and commanded an all-African-American unit in Michigan. He left the Army after a couple of years and moved back to Grand Rapids where he became the editor of The Grand Rapids Herald.

Hauenstein rejoined the Army in 1940. After the second World War started, he rose the rank of colonel and served under General Dwight Eisenhower as chief of the Army’s Intelligence branch.

That’s when and how he got the job of lying to Adolph Hitler. Not only did Hauenstein have to lie to Hitler, he had to create a lie Hitler would believe. Hauenstein told me his team had to first find the body of an upper middle-class Englishman, dressing the corpse in a British uniform, loading it with phony maps and other false information and then parachuting it where German troops were sure to find the body.

He also created a fake air base complete with rubber aircraft and mannequins that were moved around every night so that it would look like at active military installation when German spy planes flew over the island the next day.

All of that as clever, but his creativity didn’t guarantee it was a lie Hitler would believe. Hauenstein, who would become one of the first U.S. Army soldiers to liberate Paris told me that for a lie to be believed you first have to make sure that you are telling your victim what he wants to hear.

Second, you need to make sure your “victim” is surrounded by “yes men” who will back up whatever he wants to believe.

Hitler wanted to believe, his officers wanted to make him happy. Hitler believed. One of the world’s greatest lie worked.

This is an excerpt from Last Chance Mile: The Reinvention of An American Community by Rod Kackley. For more of his work, please go to or download his free app available through iTunes and Google Play.

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