skip navigation

The Ghost Army

World War II's Artists of Deception

The Mission

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."

theghostarmy 409
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."

theghostarmy 409
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.    

Make a Secure Donation Now