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!
Tremendously entertaining and off-beat documentary about a U.S. WWII corps largely made up of artists, designers, stage folk, and craftsmen, tasked with both improving camouflage, and creating the illusion of troops where they weren’t. They used a combination of inflatable tanks and infantry pieces, along with broadcasting false orders by radio, and playing the sounds of an army unit over loudspeakers. They did a lot of good, while often taking on the nerve shattering task of trying to draw fire themselves, directing it away from the real battle units.
There’s a lot of humor here, unusual and appreciated for a WWII doc. But on the flip side, there’s not a lot of emotion, and it can be a bit repetitive. An interesting true story of an oddball but important group of soldiers.
Great film. It is amazing that the deception worked so well under such horrid conditions. We hear about the horrors endured and the bravery of such groups as the 101st Airborne, Patton's army and others, but the "Ghost Army" is one which escaped the history books until it was declassified.
The tactics used for deception were quite good for the time. It took people who could think outside the box to make their actions believable. Their actions saved many thousands of lives and possibly helped shorten the war in Europe. Bravo to every one of these men. Their work may not have been recognized at the time during the war by the rest of the troops, but the generals were certainly grateful. As one veteran mentioned, it was worth it all if only one mother never put a star in their window because of the existence of the "Ghost Army".
I was pleased at the sentiment of one man who mentioned that he never thought badly of those in Luxembourg who, as he was leaving for the rear to escape possible capture by the Nazis, the citizens were taking down the American flags and putting up the Swastikas, but doing so as they had to survive. It was all about survival for the civilians of Europe at that time.
An excellent documentary and well worth your time viewing.
The 70th anniversary of their finest deception is upon us this month. All the best to those who are still with us.
Great information here. Ingenuity, working towards common objectives, betting your life on your team's creation... they have it. Not an overly sentimental look at their part in the war; they took incoming fire, too, and it pained them. But it drove them as well. This was the frontier of whole new ranges of technology. Not the cutting-edge, the bleeding-edge! And they kept the great parts of the Alliance that prevailed: Their sense of purpose, adventure, fun, curiosity, laughter and trying again. A great tribute to not only the men we meet, and the ideals that inspired them. What they fought for and what was forced to be beaten in war. It was much more, bigger than I ever knew. Worth every minute.
It showed a lot of film of the actual 23rd and offered a lot of new info. about their part in the war. I didn't have to fast forward but once due to repeating same info. It's nice to know, wouldn't find a need to see it twice.