The U.S. Army Created Fake Armies to Mislead and Confuse the Germans

Its artillery couldn’t fire, its tanks couldn’t move, and its members were more adept at wielding paintbrushes than guns. Yet, a top-secret unit of 1,100 American artists, designers and sound engineers — unofficially known as the “Ghost Army” — helped to win World War II by staging elaborate ruses that fooled the forces of Nazi Germany about the location and size of Allied forces. Members of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops and 3133rd Signal Company Special, who literally practiced the art of war, saved the lives of thousands of American servicemen and earned one of the country’s highest civilian honors. Employing inflatable decoys, fake radio chatter, and loudspeakers that blared sound effects, the Ghost Army could simulate a force 30 times its size as it operated as close as a quarter of a mile from the front lines. Rarely, if ever, has there been a group of such a few men which had so great an influence on the outcome of a major military campaign. Following the war, Ghost Army members returned home and settled into careers in advertising, architecture, design, theater, art, fashion and radio. For decades, their exploits remained little-known, as members followed strict orders to not even tell their families about the Ghost Army in case a similar unit needed to be deployed against a new enemy in the Cold War, the Soviet Union.