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The Art of Deception in War

The Ghost Army

At first, I thought the Ghost Army was a myth, but in World War II, there really was a Ghost Army! It was an army of tactical deception. They were officially known as 23 Headquarters Special Troops. They were an American army, given a mission to look like the armies of allies.

After D-Day, they put on what was called a “traveling road show.” In this road show, they used inflatable tanks which were made to look like British Navy Tanks from World War I. The army itself was made of art students, who used their skills to make the tanks look real, and made the enemy look outnumbered.

The Ghost Army used four different techniques to deceive the enemy:

1. Visual Deception: This is the part that used the inflatable tanks. They also had inflatable jeeps, trucks, and airplanes on fake airfields. They pretended to camouflage them but did so in a way that the enemy could still see them.

2. Sonic Deception: This part was headed up by Colonel Hilton Railey (the same guy who discovered Amelia Earhart!). They made recordings of army sounds and played them on speakers for the enemy to hear. The sounds could be heard 15 miles away.

3. Radio Deception: Also known as “spoof radio.” Fake radio operators would send fake signals, and they became skilled at sounding like the real thing. The enemy could not tell them apart from the real radio operators.

4. Atmosphere: These were real people or equipment that were set among the fake to make them seem even more real. Real people wearing uniforms would walk around the set or in town, and a few real tanks would sit among the fake ones.

In 2013, PBS made a documentary about the Ghost Army. It tells their story by interviewing many people who were there.

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