Secret WWII 'Ghost Army' Finally Getting Its Due

US outfit that tricked Hitler will receive Congress' highest honor this week
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 18, 2024 10:30 AM CDT
Secret WWII 'Ghost Army' Finally Getting Its Due
The insignia patch for the Ghost Army adorns a cap belonging to World War II veteran Anderson Wilson, of Slidell, Louisiana.   (Scott Threlkeld/The Advocate via AP)

A once-secret Army unit tasked with the unusual mission of tricking Adolf Hitler about the size of enemy troops will receive Congress' highest honor this week. The "Ghost Army"—more formally known as the Army's 23rd Headquarters Special Troops—will receive the Congressional Gold Medal on Thursday, reports, which refers to the soldiers as "combat con artists."

  • What was it? The unit of about 1,100 soldiers created illusions with inflatable tanks and jeeps, fake radio chatter, and prerecorded soundtracks of troop movements, reports the Washington Post. The idea was to draw the Nazis' attention from where the real attacks were happening, and the unit is credited with saving up to 30,000 US service members in more than 20 such grand deceptions. For instance, the Ghost Army's tactics helped the American Ninth Army cross the Rhine deep into Germany largely unabated late in the war.

  • The talent: Artists and engineers populated the unit, including names such as fashion designer Bill Blass, painter Ellsworth Kelly, and photographer Art Kane, per
  • Classified: The unit's existence remained classified until the mid-1990s, and it became better known through a 2013 documentary. "It's the first mobile, multimedia, tactical deception unit in the history of warfare," director Rick Beyer tells the Post.
(More World War II stories.)

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