THE GHOST ARMY

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The 23rd Headquarters Special Troops

Did you know that some of the most important battles in World War II were fought with inflatable tanks, cardboard planes, and loudspeakers? In 1944, at the height of WWII, the Americans introduced a new unit to the battlefield – the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, AKA the “Ghost Army”. The 23rd was comprised of 1,100 men, whose sole purpose was to deceive Axis commanders.




The idea for this unit came from the 1942 Allied campaign in El-Alamein called Operation Bertram, in which British troops used fake plywood constructs to make jeeps look tanks and tanks look supply trucks.






In May of 1944, the 23rd arrived in Britain and took part in deceiving the Germans on D-Day into thinking that the invasion had begun in Pas-de-Calais, rather than Normandy. After that, they continued setting up inflatable “tanks”, dummy planes and vehicles, fictitious radio transmissions, and vehicle-mounted speakers that played pre-recorded sounds of battle and troops moving.






Many of the soldiers of the 23rd were recruited from places such as art schools and advertising agencies, as well as engineers, designers, and architects.








Not only would the 23rd‘s soldiers build mock battlefields, they would also disguise themselves as high ranking officers and visit nearby towns, where they would discuss fabricated plans.




The Ghost Army was so successful that, at one point, Axis propaganda reported a large Allied force in a place that had no soldiers at all.




The Ghost Army was kept secret for many years, and its existence was only revealed over 40 years after the war had ended. To this very day, some of the unit’s works and methods are still kept classified.

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