The Ghost Army of World War II

The ghost Army was a special unit in the U.S army department during the Second World War which was given a mission to impersonate other U.S army officers to confuse the enemy. They managed to operate successfully and carry out their mission effectively for many days in the battlefield in France and other places like Germany. This paper will examine the Ghost Army of the World War II and how they carried out their operations.

The Ghost Army department was popularly known as the 23rd Headquarters special troops. The unit consisted of about 1,100 men who were expected to pretend to be the real U.S army troops. The U.S army adopted the idea from the British units who used the deception technique to carry out their operation and attack their enemies in the late 1942 at El Alamein. This technique assisted the British troops to conquer their enemies. The 23rd Headquarters troops were recruited mostly at the school level where they were equipped with the necessary techniques they would use during their mission (Prados, 1995).

Unlike the real soldiers, the 23rd unit troops were encouraged to develop their intellectual abilities because their mission was not going to be a physical fight but rather applying tactics to confuse their enemies. They were encouraged to use their brains and the talents they had to deceive their enemies (Prados, 1995). Recruitment was also carried out at any other place that could encourage creative thinking other than schools. Some of the equipment’s they were given include; the British dummy tanks and artillery, fake aircrafts and huge speakers. The huge speakers were used in broadcasting and the artillery was used to make the enemy think that the army consisted many soldiers of over 3,000 men (Prados, 1995). The 1,100 man unit consisted of various specialists. For instance, there were camouflage engineers, combat engineers and signal service specialists. The troops were selected for their creativity and intellectual skills. Their weapon was not guns like the real army soldiers but artistry which enabled them to fool and confuse the German soldiers. During their training the recruits painted and sketched some of the major routes in Europe, establishing moving visual records for their mission.

Some of the people who participated in the 23rd Headquarters troops unit include; Bill Blass, Ellsworth Kelly and Arthur Singer and others. The unit was unique from other soldiers in that they would use their skills and talents other than engaging in the real battle with the enemy (Breuer, 1993). The troops applied the technological advancement to carry out their mission. They managed to set a believable scene through their theatrical acts. During their mission, the troops managed to confuse the German army over twenty times in different occasions. Most of their activities were popularly termed as illusions. The troops could pretend to be fellow soldiers of the real U.S army and put on uniforms the same as those of the U.S army soldiers. They also painted their vehicles the same as those of the U.S army unit. The troops would then dispatch some of its members to various directions and through their creative act, they could manage to create an impression to the enemy that the army consisted of huge number of soldiers and sometimes they were only few people in two vehicles (Breuer, 1993). Some of the recruits were recruited into the unit when they were still young. For instance, one of the recruits, Jack Masey was recruited into the army at the age of 18 years. The army troops were placed at some points to such as the cafes around the war areas to spread rumors among their enemy spies who might have been around. The ghost army consisted of the whole army chain. For instance, the unit consisted of the army troops and the generals just like the case of the real army unit. The army generals of the ghost army could dress the same with the real generals and the enemy spies could see them as the real army generals. They used to move from town to another spreading the fear and gossip to the enemy spies.

The troops travelled alongside the rest of the real American army troops all the way from New York to England. The army travelled across various hostile communities such as the Normandy. Their secret weapon was deception and trickery. The visual deception unit consisted of a round 600 camouflage engineers who were equipped with the inflatable tanks, army jeeps and trucks and fake airplanes. They would inflate fake airplanes with the air compressors and then pretend to be the real army troops so that the enemy troops could see them (Breuer, 1993).

Sonic deception consisted of the signal service specialists went to record armored sounds in the battlefields. They could then mix the collected sounds to match what their enemy could believe. The mixed sound was then recorded on the state-of-the-art wires recorders and then played to the enemy using the huge amplifiers and speakers. The radio deception also consisted of the signal specialists who acted as the real radio operators. They were good at mimicking voices of the real radio operators so that they would distract the attention of the German troops (Breuer, 1993).

In conclusion, this paper has examined the overview of the Ghost army popularly known as the 23rd Headquarters special troops. Although the ghost army troops were not real soldiers, they are still heroes and they should be accorded the great respect and honor that could be given to any hero. They managed to participate in the fight for peace with their intellectual skills and talents and yet they were not equipped with the military skills and techniques like the real soldiers.



Breuer, William B. Hoodwinking Hitler: The Normandy Deception. Praeger Publishers, 1993.

Holley, Joe. “Louis Dalton Porter; Used Artistic Skills to Trick German Army.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 08 July 2006. Web. 23 Sept. 2015. .

Prados, John. Combined Fleet Decoded: The Secret History of American Intelligence and the Japanese Navy in World War II. Random House Incorporated, 1995.



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