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This Long-Secret Story is Finally Told in an Excellent Documentary!
on December 22, 2013
I grew up with my father giving us kids only sketchy and mysterious information about his time in the U.S. Army during WWII. As was typical of our generation with dads who had been GIs, we traded our fathers' war stories and, of course, everyone wanted their own dad to have the most grand, heroic tale so that we could boast about it with our friends and classmates. His stories were strange, though, and rather unsatisfyingly technical - such as, the time he and his platoon set up a fake bivouac in the woods and the Luftwaffe actually bombed and strafed it, and how they would repeatedly march through liberated French villages, change their shoulder patches when they reached the woods on the other side, and then march back through the same town again (to inflate the troop strength being reported to the Germans by spies), etc... Rather hard to explain and not the kind of stuff a kid can put up against the gripping tales of other kids' dads having tossed grenades into machine gun nests, being wounded and pinned-down while on forward reconnaissance missions, or single-handedly capturing almost a whole enemy division (there was, naturally, quite a bit of exaggeration)!
But now, with "The Ghost Army" it all comes together - things that veterans of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, such as my Father, could not reveal because they were ordered at the end of the war to keep them secret: the amazing sonic and radio deception operations that, combined with the rubber tanks, spoof unit insignia and fake division headquarters, created an integrated system of battlefield deception used effectively to fool the enemy, gain tactical advantage, and save lives.
It may have come too late to get me any props with my (former) classmates, but it's very satisfying to finally know the whole story!