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The Ghost Army

World War II's Artists of Deception

Photos

Harry Gottesman and friends

Harry Gottesman and friends

Not so good of Milburn
 "      "     "       "  Phil
 "    too  "       "  Hap
Me - I'm fat!!

updated: 9 years ago

Harry Gottesman and Friends

Harry Gottesman and Friends

Phil was in the throws of the dts when he took this. We were sober of course. HG center.

updated: 9 years ago

Harry Gottesman and Friends

Harry Gottesman and Friends

Habay la Vielle, Belgium. HG on right.

updated: 9 years ago

Harry Gottesman and Friends

Harry Gottesman and Friends

At Ft. Meade. HG at left

updated: 9 years ago

A Letter Home - from Irving "Mickey" McKane Nussbaum

A Letter Home  from Irving quotMickeyquot McKane Nussbaum
Though most letters I found were heavily censored by the time they made it home, this one seemed to make it through unscathed.

What I found particularly interesting was the passage describing the hostages...


updated: 11 years ago

Harry Gottesman and friends

Harry Gottesman and friends

Me and Jim Moore and Tim. HG at right

updated: 1 year ago

Mickey McKane

Mickey McKane
"Mickey" McKane was in the 603rd Engineer Camouflage Battalion. He enlisted while at the Pratt Institute in NY. His original name was Irving Nussbaum, but he changed it during the war. He was battalion Sgt. Major for the 603rd, in charge ov various payroll and personel matters.

Mickey finished his education upon his return, including a Masters in Art at Columbia University. Mickey married Priscilla Mills who was also attending Columbia. Their best man was Mickey's old friend from the 603rd - Bill Blass. (Below, left)

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Mickey and Priscilla moved to New Hampshire and bought a gift shop/mail order business, The Stagecoach, and grew a successful business until the late 70's - together they raised 3 sons. Mickey passed away in 1992.

updated: 7 years ago

Irving Mayer

Irving Mayer
During his freshman year, Irving Mayer attended a presentation from Army recruiters, at Pratt Institute in NY. The need for intelligent, creative men to form a top-secret, tactical deception unit, resulted in his enlisting in the 23 HQ Special Troops. Along with the other 155 men of 406th Combat Engineers Company, he was trained in real combat and provided perimeter security for the Ghost Army. Under Lt. (now retired General) George Rebh, he also helped provide the fake “atmosphere” that accompanied the camouflage, sonic, and radio deception being perpetrated on the Nazis by the Ghost Army. During Operation Brest, Irv grabbed and tossed a live grenade from his crowded transport, possibly saving his friends in the 406th from severe injury.

He was always proud of his service in the 406th but said very little because he was sworn to secrecy. He did tell his brother and his best friend Bernie that he was in “the phantom army that helped General Patton, and served under Bradley.”

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After the war, Irv returned to Pratt Institute, and graduated with a BS in Mechanical Engineering. His strong patriotic commitment to the United States continued as he went to work on military weapons during the Cold War. Working as part of a 3-man team, Irv developed the first nuclear weapon that could be utilized by infantry. The Davy Crockett nuclear warhead system was deployed in West Germany as a first line defense against a possible Russian invasion through Berlin. In May, 1961, President Kennedy drafted a letter to these three inventors for their service to the US and “significant contributions to the defense of the United States."

Irv would have been proud and happy that his lifelong secret of service in the Ghost Army would finally be told in such a noteworthy fashion. From his family-Thank you Rick Beyer!

Editor's note: A small selection from the hundreds of photographs taken by Irving Mayer during his wartime service can be found below. All photos courtesy of Rob Mayer, except for the photo of the Davy Crockett Nuclear Gun.

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The Seminary in Luxembourg where many of the men in the Ghost ARmy were bivouaced from September to December, 1944.

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Cooking potatoes for Thanksgiving Dinner!

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These are most likely props for an amateur theatrical to wile away the empty hours between missions while the unit was stationed in Luxembourg.

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During the Battle of the Bulge, the Ghost Army retreated to Verdun, site of the biggest battle of WWI. More than half a million soldiers died there during WWI, and many of them remain buried there today

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Irv's son Rob believes this picture may have been taken at Walton Manor, where the Ghost Army was stationed before heading to France.

updated: 7 years ago

About The Ghost ARmy

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The Ghost Army was officially known as the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops. From June 1944 to March 1945 it staged 20 battlefield deceptions, beginning in Normandy and ending along the Rhine River. The deceivers employed an array of inflatables (tanks, trucks, jeeps, airplanes), sound trucks, phony radio transmissions and even playacting to fool the enemy. Scroll down at right to read more about the unit and some of the men in it.

updated: 7 years ago

Pre-History

A Disappearing Act

Before the men of the Ghost Army made armies appear from nowhere, some of them worked on making things disappear. Under the watch of the 603rd Camouflage Engineer Battalion, not yet assigned to the Ghost Army, an entire aircraft factory disappeared from the coast of Maryland – at least, from the air.

When America entered the Second World War, there was a great deal of anxiety regarding German bomber strikes on the US mainland. Though such bombing threats never actually materialized (Germany possessed neither the bombers nor the forward bases necessary to carry out such strikes), American war planners recognized the need to disguise important military installations from the air with camouflage.

The Glenn L. Martin aircraft factory in Middle River, Maryland was one such location. The factory churned out bombers (the most famous being the B-26 Marauder) and attack aircraft for Allied forces. In 1942, the 603rd Camouflage Engineer Battalion helped make the factory disappear. Veteran Ned Harris of the 603rd worked on the plant, noting "Our outfit was responsible for disguising that ...from the air, it looked like it was the countryside." Below are some images of their work.

*  *  *



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This first photograph is an aerial photograph of the  Martin  factory  in November of 1939. The runways are not as developed and the buildings and adjacent parking lots are still small. Photo courtesy of the Glenn L. Martin Maryland Aviation Museum.

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The aircraft factory has been camouflaged in this photo, dated 1946 (but likely taken during the war, based on the aircraft types on the tarmac). The buildings have had camouflage paint applied, and the parking lots to the left and right of the main complex have been covered with camouflage nets suspended from posts. Even the tarmacs have been painted to look like fields in the countryside. Some shadows are evident, but there were antiaircraft batteries tasked with keeping German reconnaissance planes at too high of an altitude to notice the shadows. Photo courtesy of the Glenn L. Martin Maryland Aviation Museum.

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This photo was taken in 1951, after most of the camouflage had been removed from the buildings and tarmac. Some of the paint still remains, but this image gives a good approximation of what the factory would have looked like before the 603rd worked their magic. Photo courtesy of the Glenn L. Martin Maryland Aviation Museum.

*  *  *



Once the disguise was complete, it was time for the 603rd to take their talents on the road. In January of 1944, the 603rd joined a handful of other specially picked units to form the 23rd Special Troops, otherwise known as the Ghost Army. Their mission fundamentally changed from hiding things on the American coastline to making things appear on the European front line.

updated: 8 years ago

Fred Fox

Fred Fox Princeton Ghost Army

Courtsy of Don Fox

One officer who threw himself into the deception mission with enthusiasm was Captain Fred Fox. Fox was a 1939 graduate of Princeton, where he was a member of the Princeton Triangle Club, the oldest collegiate musical-comedy troupe in the nation.  

While at Princeton, Fox was certainly aware of, and may have been  involved in a deception that foreshadowed his time in the Ghost Army. In the fall of 1935, a group of fellow freshmen secretly created a fictitious classmate, Ephraim di Kahble, out of whole cloth. They rented and furnished a room for him in a boarding house, then took out strange advertisements in the Princetonian under his name. Someone portraying Di Kahble even conducted a telephone interview with a New York newspaper. Eventually Di Kahble was revealed to be a hoax by the New York Times.

Fox’s flair for the dramatic served him well in the 23rd, where he believed it was critical that everyone fully embrace the deception mission. After preliminary operations in France, he wrote a memo that was put out under the name of Col Harry Reeder, the unit’s commander.

The attitude of the 23rd HQs towards their mission is lopsided. There is too much MILITARY and not enough SHOWMANSHIP.

Like it or not, the 23rd HQ must consider itself a traveling road show ready at a moment’s notice to present:

THE SECOND ARMORED DIVISION—by Brooks
THE NINTH INFANTRY DVISION— by Eddy
THE SEVENTH CORPS— by Collins

The presentations must be done with the greatest accuracy and attention to detail. They will include the proper scenery, props, costumes, principals, extras, dialogue, and sound effects. We must remember that we are playing to a very critical and attentive radio, ground, and aerial audience. They must all be convinced.  


According to fellow officer Bob Conrad, Fox was a key mover behind the improvised Ghost Army deception technique they called “Special Effects.”

Fred Fox said: Why don’t we put a stencil of the name of the unit that we were simulating, right on the trucks? And why don’t we start a counterfeit shoulder patch factory, where they would see we’re with the 75th Division (one of the divisions we did). And so forth. And the brass, were against it. But after Fox had been haranguing them for, I think, several weeks, they went along markers, things of that kind.


Fox secured permission for them to create phony command posts and the impersonate high ranking officers. "Anything" as Fox himself said, "to fool the enemy ground agent."

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At the war’s end, Fox wrote the official history of the 23rd for the US Army. (There is also evidence to suggest that he designed the logo on the cover of the history.) In certain spots a reader can almost see the twinkle in his eye. Here’s a typical Fox turn of phrase.

“Officers who had once commanded 32-ton tanks, felt frustrated and helpless with a battalion of rubber M-4s, 93 pounds fully inflated. The adjustment from man of action to man of wile was most difficult. Few realized at first that one could spend just as much energy pretending to flight as actually fighting.”


Further on in the history he touched  on an incident remembered by almost every member of the unit.

“By clever manipulation, the 23rd was able to garner 520 cases of cognac. This was enough liquid to drive one jeep 22,000 miles if Cognac would explode. And don’t think it wouldn’t. So this bivouac area is referred to as "Cognac Hill."


Fox revealed his sensitive side when he wrote about their December1944 retreat during the Battle of the Bulge, when they withdrew to Verdun, scene of the bloodiest battle of World War I.

Verdun is a depressing city filled with a million ghosts of other unhappy soldiers. That makes it much too crowded... It is hard to celebrate in dreary, cold, unlighted barracks, especially when neither liquor, victory, home nor girls are available.


Fox’s ends his official history with these words:

On 30 August, Army Ground Forces wrote SECOND ARMY that the 23rd was to be deactivated by 15 September. Its ashes were to be placed in a small Ming urn and eventually tossed into the China Sea.On 10 September the 23rd Adjutant told your 87-pointed historian that the only thing that kept him from being released was the completion of this story. So now it’s done and tomorrow I will be a free man again.

The End

Frederick E. Fox

01-634769

Capt AUS Sig O. ret.


After the war, Fox became a minister. In 1956 he went to work in the White House, serving as a Special Assistant to President Dwight Eisenhower. While there, Fox sought to get the Ghost Army’s story declassified, so that he could write a book about it. But the Army refused, and it remained classified until the 1980’s.

Always a dyed-in-the-wool Princeton man, he went to work for the university in 1964, becoming its  “Keeper of Princetonia” in his words, and “its number one cheerleader” according to his classmates. Fox died in 1981.  

updated: 10 years ago

The Inflatable Tank

“Officers who had once commanded 32-ton tanks, felt frustrated and helpless with a battalion of rubber M-4s, 93 pounds fully inflated. The adjustment from man of action to man of wile was most difficult. Few realized at first that one could spend just as much energy pretending to flight as actually fighting.”

--Official U.S. Army History of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, written by Capt. Fred Fox  

The Ghost Army’s trademark tool of visual illusion was the inflatable M4 Sherman tank. The deceivers were equipped with hundreds of them.

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Fully inflated, the tank was 18’4” long, 8’3” wide, and 7’9 to the top of the turret. As the diagram above exlplains, it took 20 minutes to inflate.

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The tank was actually built on a skeleton of inflatable tubes, which was then covered by a skin of neoprene.

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ghostarmy 311


The turret was a separate piece inflated on its own, then attached to the body of the tank.

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This photo shows dummies being assembled by the Ghost Army under a camouflage net in Normandy.  In the foreground you can see the canvass bags in which the dummies were carried.  A partially inflated tank can be seen to the right, a more fully completed one toward the left. In the center (enlarged below) the men are using an air compressor to inflate the frame of yet another tank.

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According to the website www.pattencompany.com, the inflatables were designed by Fred Patten at the U.S. Rubber Company in Woonsocket Rhode Island. (Patten also designed the inflatable one-man liferafts carried by fighter pilots in the Pacific.) The tanks were manufactured by a consortium of companies that included U.S. Rubber, Goodyear, and the  Scranton Lace Curtain Manufacturing Company, in Scranton PA.

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Theresa Blais (nee Ricard)  was one of the workers who put together tanks at the U.S. Rubber's Alice Mill in Woonsocket. She was 16, and every day after school she was paid 49 cents an hour to work the 3-7 shift. She needed her ID badge (above) to get in to the building. Terry and her fellow workers referred to the tanks as "targets." "We were painting, they called it cementing, these big tubes. We'd cement them and fold them different ways to make sure it fit."  

Blais says she didn't know exactly what the dummies would be used for.  "When you're 16 you don't pay too much attention," she said.(Quotes from an interview in the Valley Breeze by Louise Tetreault.)

As far as is known, none of the rubber tanks made during the war survive today.  



updated: 10 years ago

Introduction

Introduction
The 21 operations carried out by the men of the 23rd Special Headquarters Troops in World War II were tactical deceptions. Each one was mounted in order to deal with a specific battlefield situation, and had its own carefully scripted scenario designed to play on the fears and the expectations of the enemy.  Details on selected operations can be found in this section.  

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updated: 10 years ago

John Jarvie

John Jarvie
John Jarvie served as a jeep driver in the 603rd Camouflage Engineers. He studied art at Cooper Union before the war. His wartime art fills several three-ring binders, and captures everything from bombed out churches to busy brothels, from Russian refugees to weary soldiers in the rain. He eventually became the Art Director for the in-house ad agency for Fairchild Publications, owner of Womens Wear Daily.  He lives today in Kearny, New Jersey.

In Luxembourg, and later in Trier, Germany, the men of the Ghost Army came across many Russian refugees whom the Germans had imprisoned or enslaved. In the parlance of the time they were known as   "Displaced Persons."  Some of the most moving portaits painted by artists in the unit are of those refugees, may of whom are believed to have been executed or sent to the Gulag once they were repatriated to the Soviet Union. This is a woman who Jarvie knew only as "Mama."

John Jarvie Videoclip

updated: 12 years ago

Some images of the men of the 603rd Camouflage Eng. Bat. finding time to lighten the mood a bit

Some images of the men of the 603rd Camouflage Eng Bat finding time to lighten the mood a bit

No shortage of talent among these men

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Note from Ghost Army producer Rick Beyer:

"These images were posted by Keith McKane, whose father Mickey was in the 603rd Camouflage Engineers. The markings on the photos suggest they were taken by George Martin, who was the official photographer of the unit. The pictures were all taken on November 4, 1944, when the unit was in Luxembourg. The backdrop in the bottom photo was part of the "Blarney Theater" that the men set up in the semininaryin Luxembourg where many of them were billeted. This was the same stage on which Marlene Dietrich sang to them. More on that in another entry!"

updated: 7 years ago

Ned Harris

Ned Harris
Ned Harris served in Company C of the 603rd Camouflage Engineers.  He studied art at the Pratt Institute in New York City before joining the Army and ending up in the 603rd After the war he became a photographer and designer, and eventually became a co-owner of the New York design firm Wallack and Harris.  He is the author of the book Form and Texture, a photographic portfolio." Today he keeps busy curating various photography exhibits and experiments with a digital scanner and common house and garden items to create his own unusual artworks

Harris was an assistant truck driver in the Ghost Army, and recalls that he grew "very fond" of his two-and-a-half ton truck (known in the Army as a "deuce and a half"). The driver of the truck was George Diestel, who later became an actor and set designer in Hollywood.  

Harris found a German grenade case that he used as a receptacle for all his art materials: my paper and ink and the paints, "and whatever I found as I went along."

updated: 8 years ago

Task Force Mason

June 1944

Ghost Army artillery mason

Dummy artillery emplacement

The first elements of the Ghost Army went into action in France in June, 1944, shortly after the Normandy invasion. Victor Dowd, a sergeant in Company D of the 603rd Camouflage Engineers, recalls the moment he learned he was headed to France. "A week after the invasion of D-Day I was with this nice girl, and I remember thinking: "What in the hell am I doing in the British Countryside with a pretty girl, when there are guys my age being shot at and killed in Normandy?" And I remember kissing her goodnight, and riding my bike back to our tent. And there was a light on in our tent, and somebody said, "Who's there?" and I said, "Sgt Dowd" and a voice said "you better get in here." And I said I better park my bike. And one of the wise guy members of the platoon said, "You're not going to need your bike any more." The next day we were on Omaha Beach in Normandy."

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Dowd was part of Task Force Mason, a 15 man platoon under Lt. Bernie Mason flown to Normandy in a C-47  ahead of the rest of The Ghost Army. On June 14, 1944, they landed on a makeshift airstrip at Omaha Beach. "And the thing I remember very vividly" says Mason (right),  "is that one of the men in my platoon, Irv Stempel, when the plane landed, he sat down, rested his back against one of the wheels of the plane, and jotted off a quick v-mail, handed it to the pilot to take back to England so he'd be able to mail it back to his family."

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It was a jarring transition. "I can remember the wild difference between last night, when I was in the lovely, quiet, serene countryside, and the grim reality of today" says Dowd (left) . There were bodies of German soldiers on the ground, and sights that seemed almost surreal. "There was a cow impaled in a tree that was shorn of all its leaves" according to Mason. "It had to be 30 or 40 feet in the air, I wish I had a photo of it, because it is so unreal that it is hard to believe."

Mason's platoon was attached to General Joe Collins' VII Corps as an experiment in deception. Their assignment was to set up dummy artillery emplacements, about a mile forward of the 980th artillery, to draw enemy fire. "It was kind of scary,' says Mason. Task Force Mason stayed with the 980th Artillery for 28 days.  Their efforts to draw fire succeeded as they were attacked by both German artillery and aircraft.  Luckily, there were no casualties.  The experiment was judged a success. There would be bigger operations--and more danger--in the Ghost Army's future.    

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updated: 8 years ago

The 603rd Camouflage Engineers

Before joining the Ghost Army, the 603rd trained in deception techniques. They also took part in some large scale camouflage projects, including camouflaging the Martin Aircraft plant in Baltimore Maryland.

The largest of the four sub-units in the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, the 603rd handled visual deception. It was equipped with inflatable tanks, cannons, jeeps, trucks, and airplanes that the men would pump up with air compressors, and then camouflage imperfectly so that enemy air reconnaissance could see them. They could create dummy airfields, motor pools, artillery batteries, and tank formations in a matter of hours.

"Officers who had once commanded 32-ton tanks felt frustrated and helpless with a battalion of rubber M-4s, 93 pounds fully inflated. The adjustment from man of action to man of wile was most difficult. Few realized at first that one could spend just as much energy pretending to fight as actually fighting."
-Official History of the 23rd HQ Special Troops

Many of the men in the 603rd were artists recruited from New York art schools such as Cooper Union and Pratt. The army recruited them into the unit when it's main mission was conceived as camouflage. When the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops was formed in early 1944, the 603rd was chosen to handle the visual deception.

For information on who was in the unit, click here

updated: 9 years ago

Bill Blass

Bill Blass
Famed fashion designer Bill Blass is certainly the best-known member of the Ghost Army.  He was memorable even at the time: I have unearthed many sketches of him by other Ghost Army soldiers, and wartime photos show him cutting a glamorous figure.  

Bill Blass
Wonderful Guy" says Jack Masey, "Read Vogue in his foxhole."  Bill Sayles remembers him as having a great attitude: "He would never shirk a duty. If it was cleaning trash cans, he was right there with a smile and beautiful teeth."

Bill Blass
While soldiers were sketching Blass, he was filling up notebooks with fashion designs.  Two notebooks of Blass designs remain in the Blass Archives, showing a portion of what he was dreaming up during the war. "He would sit on a bunk bed on Saturdays and Sundays, and he would do little thumbnail sketches of clothes, Sleeveless, sleeves, short skirt, long skirt, all this kind of stuff," says Sayles. "And he would, in two half-days, do about 300 to 400. Just little thumbnail sketches. Then he'd wrap it up, send it down to Buenos Aires, or Rio de Janeiro. He had some contacts there. And they would pay him $2 apiece. He did pretty good."

Bill Blass
Almost all of the photos of Blass taken during the war show him grinning away madly.  In his autobiography, Bare Blass, he offered this explanation:  

"For me, the three and a half years that I spent in the army represented absolute freedom. I was truly on my own for the first time in my life.  So, naturally, in that exuberant state of mind, I didn't always notice how bad things were.  


Images courtesy of Bob Tompkins and The Bill Blass Archives

updated: 13 years ago

Orders from General Bradley

Orders from General Bradley

Special orders for interacting with Germans.

I hope these photos of "special battle orders" from General Omar Bradley can be enlarged so you can read them.  The folder is very small (pocket size). They concern how American soldiers were to treat Germans now that they were fighting in that country.
-Tina Gottesman-Alves

updated: 9 years ago

Arthur Singer

Arthur Singer

A wartime self portrait.

Arthur Singer served in Company C of the 603rd Camouflage Engineers. Fellow soldiers recall his prowess with watercolors, and he painted many while serving in the Ghost Army.  After the war he went on to become a legendary wildlife artist. He illustrated more than 20 books, including the enormously popular Birds of North American. He and his son Alan also created the "Birds and Flowers of the Fifty States" series of postage stamps, which came out in 1982.  Arthur Singer died in 1990.

In the wake of the Battle of the Bulge, The Ghost Army was pulled back to the French town of Verdun, scene of terrible fighting in the previous war. "It reeked of World War I," recalls Bob Conrad, from the Signal Company Special.  Singer painted this haunting scene of an abandonded French fort there.  At least one other Ghost Army artist, Ned Harris, sketched the same scene.

updated: 12 years ago

John Jarvie and the Battle of the Bulge

John Jarvie and the Battle of the Bulge

American troops fighting in the Ardennes. Photo Courtesy of the National Archives.

While the 23rd Special Troops were conducting Operation Koblenz in a thinly held sector of the Ardennes, they were caught in the path of the last great German offensive of the war. The offensive is now known as The Battle of The Bulge. John Jarvie of the 603rd Engineers describes the experience in his own words below.


"I left Luxembourg [City] morning of Dec. by jeep with Lt. Andrews and our equipment. Drove via Arlon to Bastogne (12th Army Group planning) for instructions. We got our orders plus billeting for the night at a house further back on the main road.
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Had a big feather bed on the 2nd floor (cold, bed warmed with long handled charcoal warmer.) Had coffee, bread, and hot oatmeal with hot milk for breakfast. (mmm) Drove secondary roads heading through Wiltz, east to Hoscheid to parish house, met village priest who arranged billet and bivouac area for C Company, 603rd Engineers due to arrive for the operation the next day. (The priest) billeted the lieutenant and I in the parish house where a bishop’s portrait hung over the headboard. “This is the bishop’s bed,” he announced reverently, “you’ll sleep here tonight – he won’t be here - Sunday.” Next day mass was interesting – no pews, just high back-wood spoke canewoven low seats that could be turned around for kneeling. Many of the company attended...before getting into their various simulations, to attract more German strength to counter that of our simulated division. I’m certain other units of the 23rd were doing simulations in various other areas (we were rarely all together.) However, shortly we were alerted to massive Nazi offensives threatening right into our front.
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We pulled out immediately with approximately 100 men and secret equipment in the face of a vicious two division armored attack. We were pulled back into Luxembourg City and installed into defensive position – any capture of part of our unit or equipment would’ve exposed the US deception so we were quickly moved to Verdun. Hoscheid was an immediate crossroad target in from of Wiltz and Bastogne for the 5th Panzer Army."

-John Jarvie, 603rd Camouflage Engineers

updated: 7 years ago

The 406th Combat Engineers

Led by Captain George Rebh (center), who later became a major-general, the 406th was an engineer combat company that provided perimeter security for the Ghost Army. Staffed with 168 officers and men, it also executed construction and demolition tasks including digging tank and artillery positions. The men of he 406th used their bulldozers to create simulated tank tracks as part of the visual deception.  

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Another picture of the officers of the 406th, gathered on the stage of the BLARNEY theater at the seminary in Luxembourg, November 1944.

From Left:  Lt. Daley, Lt. Aliapolous, Capt. Rebh (Commander), Lt. Robinson, Lt. Kelker. (Photo courtesy George Rebh)

For information on who was in the unit, click here


updated: 9 years ago

The Signal Company Special

The Radio Men

This group handled radio deception, also known as spoof radio. Operators created phony traffic nets, impersonating radio operators from real units. They learned the art of mimicking an operators method of sending Morse Code, so that the enemy would never catch on that the real unit and its radio operator were long gone.

"Radio was the stage setter. Were the silent orchestra underneath the musical on the stage. When you think of the 23rd Special Troops, you think of the inflatable tank, or the sound guys. And theyre great. But they have to have a stage on which to perform.  And we provided that stage. We painted a picture for German intelligence,in their mind, as to what was going on."
"Spike" Berry, T4, Signal Company Special.

"Could I have sent just one radio message that changed the tide of battle, where one mother, or one new bride was spared the agony of putting a gold star in their front window? That's what the 23rd Headquarters was all about."
-Sgt. Stanley Nance, Signal Company Special

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This is the radio plan for Operation Viersen, the Ghost Army's last deception.  

For information on who was in the unit, click here



updated: 9 years ago

The 3132 Signal Company

The Sonic Deceivers

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The men of the 3132nd were the sonic deception experts. The unit came together under the direction of a colorful figure named Hilton Howell Railey.  Colonel Railey grew up wanting to be an actor, but instead turned to journalism. ((image1-L)He later became the spokesman for Admiral Byrd’s Antarctic expeditions and recruited Amelia Earhart to fly across the Atlantic—launching her to international fame. He wrote articles for the New York Times on military preparedness and a popular 1938 biography entitled "Touched with Madness."Headstrong and debonair, he was committed to making sonic deception work. “He had style. He had grace,” says Ghost Army veteran Dick Syracuse. “This guy was certainly a leader.” Railey trained two sonic units at Pine Camp (now Fort Drum) in upstate New York. The 3132 Sonic Company served in the Ghost Army, while the 3133 operated independently in Italy.
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With the help of engineers from Bell Labs, the men of the 3132nd painstakingly recorded sounds of armored and infantry units onto a series of sound effects records that they brought to Europe. For each deception, sounds could be mixed to match the scenario they wanted the enemy to believe. This program was recorded on state of the art wire recorders (the predecessor to the tape recorder), and then played back with powerful amplifiers and speakers mounted on halftracks. The sounds they played could be heard 15 miles away.

We could go in at night and crank the speakers up out of the back of the half-track, and play a program to the enemy all night, of us bringing equipment into the scene. And we could make them believe that we were coming in with an armored division.
-Lt. John Walker, 3132 Signal Company


For information on who was in the unit, click here

updated: 9 years ago

Camp candids by Harry Gottesman

Camp candids by Harry Gottesman

Henry Lane Eng 44

updated: 9 years ago

Operation Bettembourg

September 1944

Operation Bettembourg
There is one rather bad spot in my line, but I don't think the  Huns know it.  By tomorrow night I will have it plugged.
--George Patton, September 21, 1944

One of the riskiest deceptions the 23rd engaged in was Operation BETTEMBOURG, in September of 1944. After racing across France, George Pattons Third Army was stalled near the Moselle River. When Patton massed troops for an attack on the fortified city of Metz, it left a dangerous 70-mile gap in the northern part of the Third Army's front line. A German counterattack through that hole could cripple Pattons flank. The 23rd was called on to ride to the rescue. Its ambitious mission: plug the hole in the line by pretending to be the 20 thousand men of the 6th Armored Division.

The sonic company played sounds of different tank movements for four nights. On one recording you might hear the voice of a sergeant saying Put out that cigarette, private! then hear the sounds of tanks starting up and moving out. In these black moonless nights says the units official history, the roaring columns were extremely realistic.

After a while my eyes were beginning to tell me what my ears were hearing, and I began to see tanks.
Dick Syracuse, 4th Platoon, 3132 Signal Company

To help the enemy see tanks, several dozen inflatable decoys were set up in forward positions for the benefit of any German observers. Meanwhile, the special-effects teams went to work on what they called the atmosphere, playing to any spies reporting back to the Germans. They sewed 6th Armored patches on their uniforms and repainted the markings on their vehicles. One of the men impersonated a major general, and made himself highly visible, traveling from town to town in a convoy of jeeps. All the men were given a short history of the 6th Armored, and were sent into nearby towns, supposedly on recreation leave, where they could be overheard talking about their division in cafes and bars.

It was a desperate gamble intended to last for 3 days, but in fact in worked so well that it was stretched out to a week. Each day the men of the 23rd grew more nervous, convinced that the Germans, who were constantly probing their lines, would eventually see through their deception. But instead the Germans, fooled into thinking an American attack was coming here, blew their bridges and retreated across the river.

updated: 10 years ago

Jack Masey

Jack Masey
Jack served in Company B of the 603rd Camouflage Engineers.  He was good friends with Bill Blass, and created a book of caricatures of the men in his company that he had printed in Luxembourg, and distributed to the men of the unit.

After the war he went to Yale and then ended up in the foreign service, designing US exhibits all over the world, including the model kitchen in which the so-called Kitchen Debate between Nixon and Kruschev took place in 1959.  Masey also worked on the American Pavilion at the Expo 67 Worlds Fair, hiring his Ghost Army buddy Bill Blass to design the uniforms of the hostesses at the Pavillion. Since leaving the foreign service, his credits include museum installations at Ellis Island, the World War II Museum, and the Johnstown Flood Museum.

He was interviewed on July 18th, 2006, in New York City.   See a clip from that interview.

updated: 15 years ago

Camp candids by Harry Gottesman

Camp candids by Harry Gottesman

Latini Eng 44

updated: 9 years ago

Bill Sayles

Bill Sayles
Bill Sayles served in Company B of the 603rd Camouflage Engineers. He attended Pratt and studied advertising. After the war he shared a New York City studio with fellow Ghost Army veteran Arthur Shilstone. He had a long career as an art director and book illustrator. One book, Macrame: An Introduction, sold millions of copies, and Bill found himself being interviewed by Barbara Walters, who admitted to using the book to learn how to macrame.






This is one of a number of sketches Bill made during the war. Bill was interviewed for the film in New York City on July 19, 2006.

updated: 1 year ago

Operation Viersen

March 1945

Operation Viersen
This was the final performance of the 23rd, and the most dramatic. In March of 1945, as the 9th Army prepared to cross the Rhine into Germany, the 23rd was called upon to feint a crossing in a different place to draw German units away from the point of the real attack. The effort required the 1000 men of the 23rd to use every resource at their disposal as they impersonated two full divisions, some 40 thousand men.

It began with phony convoys hitting the road, and spoof radio networks giving the impression of major forces on the move. When they reached the Rhine, more than 600 inflatable tanks and artillery were set up. Camoufleurs laid down smokescreens. The sonic crews worked around the clock. At night they played the sounds of trucks rolling in. In the daytime they played sounds of heavy construction, as if bridging units were being put together. (Actual bridging units were also attached to 23rd and assembled some real bridge sections to give credibility to the illusion) Crews kept up a pretense of artillery fire by setting off flash canisters. The Germans responded with heavy artillery fire of their own, but the only tanks and guns they damaged were rubber inflatables, and the men scurried around to fix them.

The result was extremely successful. Intelligence reported German units converging across the river from the deception. When the two divisions being impersonated by the 23rd attacked miles up the Rhine, they met only disorganized resistance and suffered an astonishingly low number of casualties. Ninth Army commander William Simpson issued the 23rd a commendation: The careful planning, minute attention to detail, and diligent execution of the tasks to be accomplished by the personnel of the organization reflect great credit on this unit.

Make a tax deductible donation to support the film.

updated: 10 years ago

Camp Candids

Camp Candids

Reinwald

updated: 9 years ago

Arthur Shilstone

Arthur Shilstone
After serving in the 603rd Camouflage Engineers, Arthur Shilstone went on to a long and prominent career as an illustrator. His work has appeared in more than 30 magazines, including National Geographic, Life, Sports Illustrated and Smithsonian. He was also an official artist for NASA. He lives with his wife in Redding, CT. The painting in the center of the montage at right was made after the war , and depicts a true incident where two French civilians came upon the Ghost Army and thought they saw four Americans lifting up a tank. Arthur was interviewed for the film at his home on July 20, 2006.

updated: 15 years ago

Camp candids by Harry Gottesman

Camp candids by Harry Gottesman

Willy Flemer

updated: 9 years ago

Harold Laynor

Harold Laynor Ghost Army

Hal Laynor during WW II

Harold Laynor was born in New York City in 1922 and graduated from Parson’s School of Design. While serving in the 603rd Camouflage Engineers, the visual deception arm of the Ghost Army, he was wounded during the Battle of the Bulge. He was convalescing in a Paris hospital when painter Pablo Picasso visited the ward. Struck by Laynor's interest in his work, Picasso invited the young artist to visit him in his studio. "I found Picasso wonderful and it's not difficult to see why he is the top figure in the art world today" wrote Laynor to his wife Gloria. "My visit to his studio and working with him greatly inspires me to continue with my painting."

Picasso strengthened Laynor's belief that an artist must trust in his or her intuition to create freedom and originality. Laynor's strong convictions about patriotism coupled with his sense of the realities of war are dramatically portrayed in his vivid and striking collection of World War II  paintings, some painted during the war, some painted afterward based on wartime sketches and watercolors.

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Laynor went on to become a Professor of Art at Millersville University, Millersville, PA. An internationally renowned artist, Laynor won many prestigious awards including the Louis Comfort Tiffany , Guggenheim Fellowship and the Huntington Hartford Fellowship for painting. Laynor has exhibited in many important galleries and many of his paintings are included in special collections.

Laynor died in 1992.  His collection of World War II paintings has been exhibited all over the world, and is about to be put up for auction by the Laynor Foundation.

ghostarmy 230




This is Part 1 of a 1992 video about Laynor and his work. The style is quite dated, but it offers a chance to hear Laynor talk about his work. Produced by Gigantic Productions, ©1992 Gloria Laynor.

Links to parts 2 and 3 are below:

Part 2

Part 3


updated: 12 years ago

Rosters

Who was in The Ghost Army?

We are in the process of creating a master searchable list of people who served in The 23rd Headquarters Special Troops. You can access the list here. This is an ongoing project, so the list may have incomplete or incorrect data. If you notice any errors, or have any suggestions, please email rick@ghostarmy.org

Some of the documents on which the list is based are available for viewing below.

Interestingly, the list is up to about 1350, significantly more than the 1100 number in the official history. It may contain names of people in the 3132 or the 603rd who did not travel overseas.  

Rosters

updated: 8 years ago

John Hapgood

John Hapgood
John Hapgood  worked as a commercial artist in New York after the war, employed by The New Yorker and others. He was an almost  legendary character to his friends, who recall him living upstairs from Bernard Baruch and going to movies with Katharine Hepburn. He also spent a great deal of time on Block Island, where he lived in a home he called "Hap Hazard." He died in 1995.

updated: 15 years ago

Camp candids by Harry Gottesman

Camp candids by Harry Gottesman

Group resting

updated: 9 years ago

Camp candids by Harry Gottesman

Camp candids by Harry Gottesman

Boccia at left

updated: 9 years ago

Victor Dowd

Victor Dowd

Photo by Bob Boyajian

Victor Dowd was a Sergeant in the 603rd Camouflage Engineers. "I did hundreds of drawings. It isn't as though we weren't busy. But you have to realize, no matter how busy a soldier is, there's always down time. Soldiers are playing cards, they're shooting craps, they're playing solitaire if theyre all alone, theyre reading. And I drew. I just developed the habit, and I don't think its ever left me."

ghostarmy 168
Among his many drawings are moving pictures of refugees, in World War II parlance DP's--"Displaced Persons,"  like this small boy at rgth who Dowd drew in Verdun on Christmas EVe 1944, and refugees at the DP camps the Ghost Army helped operate in April of 1945.

He had a wide and varied art career after the war. He did some comic books with Stan Lee (creator of Spiderman) at Marvel Comics. Eventually he got into advertising illustration. "I did thousands of drawings of beautiful women holding products. In those days, the newspapers and the magazines were full of drawings. Today with the computer thats no longer the case. " He illustrated 20 books, and also spent 15 years as a fashion illustrator.  "So my whole life has been drawing. And its been a good one."

updated: 12 years ago

Camp candids by Harry Gottesman

Camp candids by Harry Gottesman

Ned Harris sketching

updated: 9 years ago

George Vander Sluis

George Vander Sluis

Sketch by George Vander Sluis

Born in 1915, George Vander Sluis studied at the Cleveland Institute of Art, and began to teach art at the Broadmoor Academy (later renamed the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center) before joining the Army.

As part of a WPA program, he painted the mural below for the US Post Office in Rifle, Colorado.

ghostarmy 187


ghostarmy 187


Vander Sluis did a large number of pen and ink sketches, including the ones below of Trevieres, France, that were published in Yank Magazine in August, 1944.

ghostarmy 187


ghostarmy 187


After the war, Vander Sluis went on to spend more than 35 years as an art professor at Syracuse University. His work has been shown at numerous exhibitions, in places such as  the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Whitney Museum.In the 1960's he began painting designs oit n barns in upstate New York as a way to encourage barn preservation, an effort that was written up in the New York Times. According to his son Jeff, eventually landed him on the television show "To Tell the Truth." He also designed several stamps for the USPS.

ghostarmy 187


George Vander Sluis died in 1984.

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updated: 12 years ago

Camp candids by Harry Gottesman

Camp candids by Harry Gottesman

Nothing written on back. Communications setup?

updated: 9 years ago

Harry Gottesman and friends

Harry Gottesman and friends

With kids in Europe

updated: 9 years ago

Camp candids by Harry Gottesman

Camp candids by Harry Gottesman

Wm Lane

updated: 9 years ago

Camp candid photos by Harry Gottesman

Camp candid photos by Harry Gottesman

Geo Harvey

updated: 9 years ago

Candid photos of camp by Harry Gottesman

Candid photos of camp by Harry Gottesman

Chow at the Seminary

updated: 9 years ago