Political Body doubles are actually surprisingly rare. Granted, if they’re really good, we’d never know about them, since that’s kind of the point, but documented examples are hard to come by. Still, here are three examples of “authentic” fake world leaders.
1. General Bernard Montgomery
The name might not ring a bell, but Montgomery was the British World War II general responsible for planning the D-Day invasion of Normandy. So, you know, kind of a big deal.
In the lead-up to the historic invasion, MI5 noticed that another soldier, an Australian actor named M.E. Clifton James, was a dead-ringer for the general. James was tasked with a special mission: Pretend to be General Montgomery and travel around Gibraltar and Northern Africa while loudly talking about fake Allied plans within earshot of Nazi spies.
James, who was missing a finger from the first World War and wore a prosthetic to better pass as Montgomery, pulled it off. In his autobiography, I Was Monty’s Double James claimed that the Nazis had been so thoroughly duped that they considered assassinating him.
The Germans ended up moving a lot of their troops to southern France, where, thanks in part to James’ actions, they thought the invasion would come from instead of Normandy.
2. Saddam Hussein (and maybe his son, Uday Hussein)
Saddam Hussein is said to have used lots of body doubles.
The late Iraqi dictator reportedly employed a roster of body doubles while ruling the Middle Eastern country, according to U.S. Millitary officials.
According to an expert, especially observant Iraqis could tell if they were dealing with the real Hussein by whether or not his bodyguard would ever joke around.
Talk of Hussein’s use of body doubles was so prolific, that when he was captured in 2003, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had to address concerns that the U.S. had nabbed a decoy.
“Knowing that his doubles had used plastic surgery and could very well have done duplicate tattoos and bullet holes and various things [like] moles that would make it appear they were Saddam Hussein, the decision was made to have him publicly identified,” Rumsfeld explained in a Pentagon briefing.
Hussein’s oldest son, Uday Hussein, may have used a body double as well. According to the supposed double, Latif Yahia, he went to school with Uday, and in 1988 when he was serving his mandatory stint in the Iraqi military, was enlisted to be Uday’s body double against his wishes.
Yahia claimed that he had been shot 26 times while pretending to be Uday, who he said was a psychopath. He eventually escaped Iraq, and there was even a Hollywood movie about his story, The Devil’s Double.
Some journalists have cast serious doubts on some or all of Yahia’s story, but it made for a pretty good movie.
3. Felix Dadaev and Joseph Stalin.
The leader of the U.S.S.R. was infamous for his mastery of propaganda, so perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that he employed body doubles. One double, known only as “Rashid,” was reportedly dismissed from the army because of his resemblance to Stalin. After he went home, a KGB agent came to recruit “Rashid,” and he would go on to sit-in for the dictator at meetings and banquets. He died in 1991 at age 93.
A little more is known about another of Stalin’s supposed doubles, Felix Dadaev.
As Dadaev tells it, he was injured during the Russian liberation of Grozny in 1942 and Soviet superiors faked his death. He was told that he needed to pass as Stalin — who at the time was nearly 40 years his senior. Had he not impressed the chief of the secret police or Stalin’s personal head of security, Dadaev says he probably would’ve been shot.
His biggest outing as “Stalin” was during the dictator’s trip to the 1945 Yalta conference. Stalin’s flight was a secret, but one with Dadaev was made public.
Dadaev kept his role as a body double a secret until he was 88, only spilling the beans in 2008 (with the blessing of Vladimir Putin, naturally).
There may be many more… or not
Joe R. Reeder, a former undersecretary for the U.S. Army, told Fox News in 2001 that many other world leaders had used body doubles to escape capture. According to Reeder, Osama bin Laden probably used body doubles, as did Manuel Noriega, Haitian general Raoul Cedras, and Fidel Castro. There are also crazy rumors that Hitler used a body double to escape death. Many of these rumors are based on hearsay and speculation.
It’s really hard to separate the truth from hogwash when dealing with a conspiracy of this magnitude, and even then, some of the truth smells fishy.