Have you heard of the Ghost Army? You may recognize them from the 2013 PBS documentary The Ghost Army or from the forthcoming Bradley Cooper-produced film of the same name. The Ghost Army was a 1,100-man special force of artists and sound-engineers recruited from art schools and advertising agencies to deceive the German troops. The newest SPY ON HISTORY book, VICTOR DOWD AND THE WORLD WAR II GHOST ARMY brings this forgotten history to middle-grade readers and we’re here to share some interesting facts about the Ghost Army to celebrate the book’s publication on January 23rd!
- The men in the Ghost Army weren’t recruited through the original draft, but were handpicked from art schools for their skills in drawing and design.
Many were from art schools based in New York, like Pratt Institute, Victor Dowd’s alma mater.
- Almost none of the Ghost Army was actually trained for combat.
Before they were deployed, the Ghost Army spent two years doing camouflage work in the US, even working on camouflaging bomber planes at important military sites. The irony of the Ghost Army missions was that if they were successful, they would be fired on by German forces – and they didn’t have the capability to fight back.
- The mission of the Ghost Army was to distract the German army from the real Allied Forces’ missions.
The Ghost Army had to take care to imitate a real infantry division perfectly – they even hung up fake laundry. They also engineered sound effects to make it sound like infantry divisions were retreating when they were actually moving up the front lines.
- Because of the Ghost Army, the final invasion that ended the war cost fewer lives than some training exercises.
When the Allied leaders read documents from captured German soldiers made days before the invasion of Germany, they discovered that the Ghost Army’s deception had worked and the Germans thought that the invasion was taking place 10 miles away from the actual crossing of the Rhine.
- Even during the war, the members of the Ghost Army found time to paint and draw – much of their art is still preserved today.
An exhibition of art created by members of the Ghost Army during the war appeared at New York City’s Salmagundi Club in 2015.