Shortly after the Allied landing in Normandy or the famous "Day D", on June 6, 1944, two Frenchmen on bicycles came across an incredible sight - four American soldiers lifted and carried a tank weighing 40 tons! One of the soldiers saw them and when he saw the shock and disbelief on their faces, he simply said: "Americans are very strong!", Smithsonian magazine writes. Patriotism aside, the people from Unit 23 were no superheroes. However, they had a very interesting tank - an inflatable one!
Their unit was called a rather mysterious and ominous - Army of Ghosts. It consisted of 1,100 artists, illustrators, and sound effects specialists recruited from the New York and Philadelphia art schools.
Their task was, although essentially simple, no less unusual - to deceive the Nazis! Inflatable tanks, large speakers that emitted the sounds of a huge army on the move, and fake radio transmitters helped them achieve this goal. All these objects were made by the artists themselves, and with their help they staged more than 20 operations and military "actions". Some estimates say that in this way they saved between 15,000 and 30,000 lives of "real" soldiers. Their great deception was never discovered, and it was so secret that even their fellow soldiers did not know about the existence of this unit! After the end of the war, most of the soldiers-artists continued their artistic careers. Worst of all, for years they could not tell anyone what they experienced and what deeds they did.
A secret kept for more than four decades!
The secret has been kept for more than 40 years! "Ghost Army" was first mentioned in Smithsonian magazine in 1985. Five years ago, a documentary was released in which some secrets were finally revealed. Some, but not all! This is a perfect example of how there are phenomenal, fantastic stories about the Second World War that still delight us, 70 years later. However, there are things that are still hidden when it comes to "Army of Ghosts" - claims Rick Bayer, the director of the film of the same name.
Deception has long been part of the war. The Trojan horse is perhaps the most famous example. However, what separates the 23rd unit from all other stories is the complexity of the strategies used to create a multimedia "show" that is completely portable, but at the same time incredibly convincing. The Nazis would be deceived in one place, the equipment would be packed and the artists would be in another place the next day, ready to repeat the deception.
The members of the "Ghost Army" played their biggest "play" just before the end of the war. In order for the American 9th Army to cross the Rhine and enter deeper into German territory, the 23rd Army had the task of deceiving the Germans. Pretending to be the 30th and 79th divisions, combining real tanks with inflatable ones, 1,100 people then tricked the enemy into thinking that there were over 30,000 soldiers against them!
The Nazis never understood the deception! The "Ghost Army" returned to the United States in July 1945. They expected to take part in the invasion of Japan. However, after dropping atomic bombs on Heroshima and Nagasaki, their "services" were no longer needed. The unit was disbanded on September 15, 1945. The stories of soldiers / artists who in an incredible way "painted" the world in its darkest period never entered the official books and documents about the Second World War.