The National WWII Museum today announced the opening of its newest special exhibit, Ghost Army: The Combat Con Artists of World War II. Exclusively sponsored by E. L. Wiegand Foundation and displayed in the Museum’s new Senator John Alario, Jr. Special Exhibition Hall, Ghost Army tells the story of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops—the first mobile, multimedia, tactical deception unit in US Army history.
Activated on January 20, 1944, the unique and top-secret “Ghost Army” unit was comprised of 82 officers and 1,023 men. Under the command of Army veteran Colonel Harry L. Reeder, the group was capable of simulating two whole divisions (approximately 30,000 men) by using visual, sonic and radio deception to fool German forces during the final year of World War II. Armed with nothing heavier than .50 caliber machine guns, the 23rd took part in 22 large-scale deceptions in Europe from Normandy to the Rhine River, the bulk of the unit arriving in England in May 1944, shortly before D-Day.
The brainchild of Colonel Billy Harris and Major Ralph Ingersoll, the Ghost Army consisted of a carefully selected group of artists, engineers, professional soldiers and draftees, including fashion designer Bill Blass, painter Ellsworth Kelly and photographer Art Kane. Many West Point graduates and former Army Specialized Training Program participants were assigned to the 23rd, and it was said to have one of the highest collective IQs in the Army. The unit waged war with inflatable tanks and vehicles, fake radio traffic, sound effects and even phony generals, using imagination and illusion to trick the enemy while saving thousands of lives. Along with the 3133rd Signal Service Company in Italy, the unit helped liberate Europe from the grip of Nazi tyranny.
Through The National WWII Museum’s newest special exhibit, visitors can learn the comprehensive story of the 23rd and their role in Allied victory. Curated by the Museum’s James Linn, Ghost Army features inflatable military pieces, historical narrative text panels detailing unit operations, profiles of unit officers, archival photography, and sketches and uniforms from unit officers. Additionally, the exhibit will feature a historical artifact collection curated and donated to the Museum by Ghost Army Legacy Project President and Exhibit Consultant Rick Beyer.
“The Museum is proud to explore the epic story of the Ghost Army, whose contributions were kept secret for over 50 years after the war ended,” said Linn. “These servicemembers were responsible for creating the illusion of a large fighting force that didn’t actually exist. It was nothing short of brilliant tactical strategy carried out through theatrics on the battlefield. Their heroic actions saved lives and helped secure victory, but unfortunately went unrecognized for decades.”
Ghost Army is on display from March 5 to September 13, 2020. Throughout the exhibit’s run, a robust schedule of public programming and educational initiatives, free to the public and students, will further explore the exhibit’s themes. For more information, visit www.nationalww2museum.org.
The National WWII Museum tells the story of the American experience in the war that changed the world—why it was fought, how it was won, and what it means today—so that future generations will know the price of freedom and be inspired by what they learn. Dedicated in 2000 as The National D-Day Museum and now designated by Congress as America’s National WWII Museum, the institution celebrates the American spirit, the teamwork, optimism, courage and sacrifices of the men and women who fought on the battlefront and served on the Home Front. For more information on TripAdvisor’s #1 New Orleans attraction, call 877-813-3329 or 504-528-1944 or visit nationalww2museum.org.