With this month’s celebration of the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion in World War II, much has been written about how the final phase of the war was won by Allied Forces. A combined force of over three million troops from the United States and eleven other countries participated in the largest seaborne invasion ever carried out.
But did you know about the Ghost Army that was also part of the plan to overthrow Hitler’s Army? A couple of months after the D-Day invasion, this secret army arrived in France with a special mission: to deceive, mislead and befuddle the enemy by conducting a traveling road show.
There were four basic tactics the ghost army used to deceive the German Army: Visual deception, Sonic deception, radio deception and atmosphere.
|Inflatable rubber tank|
|Sound deception unit with 500 lb. speakers|
The radio deception was also carried out by the signal company. Creating “spoof radio,” special operators created fake radio transmissions, impersonating radio operators from real army units. They were so skilled in mimicking a departing operator’s method of sending Morse Code that the enemy couldn’t tell that the real unit with its real operator had moved on.
“Atmosphere” was the term used to describe the theatrical effects which supplemented the other deceptions. Using various techniques, this unit simulated actual units deployed elsewhere by using copies of their insignia, painting it on vehicles, and pretending they were being deployed as if they were regimental headquarters units. Trucks were driven in convoys with only a couple of men seated near the rear to simulate a truck full of infantry under the canvas cover. The unit’s members put their theatrical skills to use as well, engaging in "playacting, like pretending to be MPs (military police) who would stand at crossroads wearing divisional insignia. Other actors spent time at French cafes near the war's front to spread gossip among the spies who might be there, to, as one former Ghoster put it, "order some omelets and talk loose." Some actors would also play the parts of Allied generals, dressing up like officers and visiting towns where enemy spies could see them.All these tactics were amazingly effective at creating believable scenes. From their landing in Normandy until the Allied Forces crossed into the Rhine River Valley, these men staged more than twenty battlefield deceptions, or “illusions” as the men preferred to call them, with some taking place just a few hundred yards from the front lines.
Kept classified as a military secret until 1996, the Ghost Army is estimated to have saved tens of thousands of soldiers’ lives with its deceptions and to have been instrumental in several Allied victories in Europe.
Have you ever heard of the Ghost Army? Do you know of anyone who served in it?
Marilyn Turk’s roots are in the coastal South, raised in Louisiana, moved to Georgia, then retired to Florida. Calling herself a “literary archaeologist,” she loves to discover stories hidden in history. She is the author of two World War II novels, The Gilded Curse and Shadowed by a Spy, and the four-book Coastal Lights Legacy series set in 1800s Florida—Rebel Light, Revealing Light, Redeeming Light, and Rekindled Light—featuring lighthouse settings. Marilyn’s novella, The Wrong Survivor, is in the Great Lakes Lighthouse Brides collection and Love’s Cookin’ at the Cowboy Café, in the Crinoline Cowboys collection. She also writes for Daily Guideposts Devotions.
She lives with her husband, 10-year-old grandson Logan, and a 17-year-old cat. When not writing, Marilyn can be found playing tennis, gardening, walking, fishing, or kayaking. She and her husband have visited over 100 lighthouses so far, but the RV is ready to travel and go see more. Marilyn is the director of the Blue Lake Christian Writers Retreat in Alabama, www.bluelakecwr.com. Website: @http://pathwayheart.com
If you're interested in World War II history, you might like the books I wrote that take place during that era.