Decapitation Tactics

So my question is why didn’t the Allies pursue into more decapitation tactics? These tactics are useful to undermine an organization by eliminating the head of the group. It’s interesting to note that the Allies had done this before with smaller leaders. Reinhard Heydrich and Isoroku Yamamoto we’re both killed by Allies forces. Allied agents and operatives killed assassinated Reinhard in 1942 in Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia. They trained and sent agents to find and take him out. Similar to how the Americans proceed in taking out Yamamoto. The American intelligence broke through Japanese codes and sent fighter planes to intercept and kill Yamamoto.
What I am trying to get at is why didn’t the Allies pursue in more of these tactics? Was it due to a limited or lacked of intelligence, resources, hesitancy, or another factor? Cause during the war, most assassination attempts of Hitler was carried out by Germans operating by themselves. So could it be theoretically possible for the Allies to carry out a strike onto important Axis leaders? Such as Goebbels, Goering, Tojo, Mussolini, etc. These strikes would have cause a series of significant changes and consequences in the war effort. An example would be Yamamoto. He argued for the usage of aerial combat, but after he was killed his successor, Mineichi Koga, use battleships rather than aircraft.
So in conclusion, could the Allies attempt strike attacks? Was it possible or not? And would it have great affects?


The title made me think this would be a thread wondering about the finer points of Japanese officers loping off the heads of POWs and failed subordinates.

Yamamoto was only shot down because he undertook a trip near the front lines. Most of the other Japanese leaders simply weren’t practical to target.

Heydrich was specifically targeted by the Czechs because of his abuses of Czechs. I suspect Hitler and most other main Nazi leaders were considered too difficult to get to. The Allies may have also wanted to save Engima intelligence intercepts on more practical targets.

The one place I would think the Allies might have been more active in assassination/decapitation tactics would have been France. Leading up to Overlord, the Allies had air superiority and an active French resistance. I wonder if there was any consideration of targeting Rommel, for example.


I would not be suprised if it was also just considered as an ‘ungentlemanly’ way to conduct war and a fear of reprisal on their own command structure.

Rommel was targeted (rather unsuccessfully) in North Africa, the reprisals against the Czechs after Heydrich’s killing were 5000+ dead and considered too excessive to risk again, and by ‘44, the Allies planned then dropped plans to kill Hitler in case he was replaced by someone competent.


The allies did try numerous times to eliminate high ranking officials and officers throughout the war but the sad reality is many of these individuals were well protected and well behind enemy lines.

Yamamoto was basically a fluke the allies knew when and where he would be flying but not which aircraft he would be on so they went and lucked out. Yamamoto could of just as easily survived the crash or been on one of the surviving planes and the allies didn’t know until they picked it up on the wire that Admiral Yamamoto was dead.

As to leaders like Hitler, Mussolini and Emperor Hirohito taking them out was always on the table but the allies also knew taking them out could actually extend the war like if they had taken out Emperor Hirohito he was a god to the Japanese and killing him would of incited the Japanese civilians into full on defence of the home islands which the allies did not want.

Hitler was a complicated case on the one hand many career officers saw him as a dangerous leader and we’re not above killing him but again killing Hitler was a dangerous proposition as on the one hand it might of shortened the war but on the other Hitler was well liked and admired by many Germans even late into the war and eliminating him could of had the opposite effect and extended the war.

With all that being said given the chance the allies would of done their best to eliminate high profile targets if given the chance and that included Hitler, Mussolini and to some degree even Stalin as many allied leaders saw him as a threat too. Also let’s be honest high profile targets were next to impossible to kill without inside help as they were well protected and well sheltered often well behind the lines.


Decapitation attacks are really difficult. If you look at the Gulf War, with the overwhelming intelligence advantage and precision weapons, the coalition couldn’t decapitate the Iraqi leadership. Look how long it took to get Osama Bin Laden.
The allies got lucky twice in Heydrich’s security being sloppy and the code intercept that identified Yamamoto’s route long enough in advance to organise an intercept.
It’s not so much lack of desire but the fact that decapitation strikes are very long shots where success is rare.