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The Ghost Army

World War II's Artists of Deception

Inside the 23rd

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