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Ghost Army troops honored with medal

Swatches | May 1, 2024 | By:

Four soldiers assigned to the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops—commonly referred to as the Ghost Army—move an inflatable tank. Besides inflatable equipment, they incorporated sound effects, radio trickery and impersonation to deceive enemies during World War II. Image: U.S. Army/National Archives

In March, members of secret military units commonly and collectively referred to as the Ghost Army received the Congressional Gold Medal in a ceremony in Washington, D.C., for their service during World War II. These soldiers, the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops and 3133rd Signal Service Company, used deceptive tactics to fool the enemy, including sound effects, radio trickery, false uniforms and vehicle markings, and even inflatable tanks.

They were in service in 1944–45 and their actions “were integral to several Allied victories across Europe and reduced casualties,” the Ghost Army Congressional Gold Medal Act states. They created false landing sites on D-Day and other tactical deception operations to pull enemy troops away or have Allied forces appear larger than they were. They faked radio traffic during the Battle of the Bulge and created phony headquarters to feed misinformation to Axis spies.

Many of these 1,100 soldiers had been recruited from creative fields, such as advertising and communications, and art schools. Three of the seven remaining soldiers, at 99 and 100 years old, were in attendance to receive their medals.

Efforts had been ongoing for seven years by the Ghost Army Legacy Project nonprofit to see these troops honored. Author and filmmaker Rick Beyer, president of the organization, directed a 2013 documentary and cowrote a book on the soldiers, updated last year. A museum exhibit on the unit is traveling the country in 2024 and 2025.  

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