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The Ghost Army: Top-Secret Unit That Duped Hitler

The Ghost Army was one of the first known specialist armed forces established with the primary goal of deceiving and manipulating the enemy

By- Khushi Bisht

The 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, also known as ‘The Ghost Army’ was the military deception force of the United States Army was formed on January 20, 1944. They were assigned an exclusive role of developing deceptions in order to divert the Nazi army’s attention away from the offensive. Anything the Germans heard or saw was indeed a hoax. It was a well-planned ruse, carried out by a small squad of American troops to divert the enemy’s attention.

These 1100 men were simply acting as two units of 30,000 army personnel, attempting to persuade the Germans that they would be invading across the river Rhine in one location, however, the actual mission would actually occur 10 miles away.

The Ghost Army
A dummy Sherman tank under construction by 6 Field Park Company, Royal Engineers, in the Anzio bridgehead, 29 April 1944. Wikimedia Commons

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Their goal was to confuse the enemy by using fake uniforms, arms, and sound effects in conjunction with specially built tanks that appeared realistic but were simply loaded with air. There were artists, actors, designers, and audio technicians who acted as decoys. Ellsworth Kelly, Bill Blass, Jack Masey, Arthur Singer, and Art Kane were among the artists who later went on to have very bright futures.

They built convoys of dummy tanks and vehicles out of lightweight and moveable items such as air-filled rubber and used these decoy structures, which were strengthened by bogus radio signals and special sound effects, to fool the Germans into believing the Allies were nearby.

The Ghost Army
An inflatable dummy tank, modeled after the M4 Sherman. Created during World War II. Wikimedia Commons

The Ghost Army, which was divided into three units: radio, audio, and visual deception performed several operations between May 1944 and 1945, mostly near the front lines, saving countless American lives by using a mixture of artistic and scientific skills, with the primary intention of deceiving Nazi units about the location of Allied forces in Europe. These units were very diligent. They had no weapons to defend themselves, so any error in the plan would’ve been catastrophic.

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The Ghost Army was one of the first recognized professional military forces formed primarily to deceive and manipulate the enemy. In July 1945, the Ghost Army returned to the United States, believing they would participate fully in the Japanese invasion. However, the unit was deactivated on September 15, 1945, after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as well as the Surrender of Japan.

This was, indeed, an unforgettable experience in a distant land during a world war. These men fought with a great deal of ingenuity and courage. The mission was kept top secret for decades that followed. It was in 1996 that the US government declassified the Ghost Army record. Their last mission, in the ultimate days of the war, was a vital battle in Germany with dozens of lives on the line, in which they used every tactic they could think of.

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