Almost 1100 men fought World War II as members of the US “Ghost Army“, the result of an uncommon lateral thinking in war strategy. Created for “tactical deception”, this unit had the task to deceive and confuse the enemy on the entity of US divisions, their resources and their movements, through the employment of inflatable tanks, soundtracks, fake radio transmissions and further camouflages. In an effort between military strategy and acting, more than twenty battlefields were staged between 1944 and 1945, starting in Normandy and ending in the Rhine River Valley. The members recruited (known as ghost soldiers) were students from New York and Philadelphia art schools, architects, stage designers, advertisers and sound technicians.
From a few weeks after D-Day the Ghost Army (whose insignia is pictured on the left) acted close to the front lines, playing a complex strategy which included the “Atmosphere” technique: confusing signs on the fields, driving trucks in loops to make the displacement of the troops impossible to decipher and simulating real units by the adoption of their divisional insignia. With the help of engineers from the Bell Labs, soundscapes were created mixing together previously recorded sounds of armored and infantry units. Even a “spoof radio”, with phony traffic nets, was transmitted on-air.
Maybe the most impressive resource of the division was played by the 603rd Camouflage Engineers which was equipped with a battery of pneumatic tanks, cannons, jeeps, and airplanes inflated through air compressors and so light they could be lifted by a few soldiers. The men created sets of fake vehicles to stage dummy airfields, troops bivouacs, and artillery fields which could be arranged in just a few hours.
The existence of the Ghost Army was kept secret until 1996 as revealed by the documentary “The Ghost Army“, produced in 2013 for PBS. Several of the Ghost Army soldiers later became famous personalities in different creative fields, including fashion designer Bill Blass (pictured on the left) and painter Ellsworth Kelly
The official history of the Ghost Army, with the unit’s ghost emblem at the bottom
A tank disguised as a simple truck
Every vehicle in this 1944 convoy is an inflatable used by the Ghost Army
Speakers mounted on jeeps broadcast phony troop movements
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