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The Ghost Army

World War II's Artists of Deception


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