When an Army of Artists Fooled Hitler
2013 05 23

By Leah Binkovitz | Smithsonian

Shortly after the D-Day invasion on June 6, 1944, two Frenchmen on bicycles managed to cross the perimeter of the United States Army’s 23rd Headquarters Special Troops and what they saw astounded them. Four American soldiers had picked up a 40-ton Sherman tank and were turning it in place.

Soldier Arthur Shilstone says, “They looked at me, and they were looking for answers, and I finally said: ‘The Americans are very strong.’”


Patriotic pride aside, the men of the 23rd were not equipped with super-human strength. They did, however, have inflatable tanks.

Shilstone was one of 1,100 soldiers who formed the unit, also known as the Ghost Army. They were artists and illustrators, radio people and sound guys. Handpicked for the job from New York and Philadelphia art schools in January 1944, their mission was to deceive the enemy with hand-made inflatable tanks, 500-pound speakers blasting the sounds of troops assembling and phony radio transmissions.


This painting depicts two Frenchmen looking shocked upon seeing four American soldiers lift a 40-ton tank.

Over the course of the war, they staged more than 20 operations and are estimated to have saved between 15,000 and 30,000 U.S. lives. The illusion was never broken and not even their fellow soldiers knew of their existence.

Kept secret for 40 years, the story of the Ghost Army first broke in Smithsonian magazine in the April 1985 issue, when then-illustrator Shilstone shared his part in the war. Now, Shilstone and 18 other members of the 23rd are part of the new PBS documentary, “The Ghost Army.”

When he first began researching the story, director Rick Beyer says he was amazed. “First you think, maybe I’m misunderstanding or maybe it was just one time,” says the director. It’s a skepticism he’s since encountered on the road, including at a presentation for seniors at the Perkins School for the Blind in Massachusetts. “There was one guy, while I was setting up and he was just convinced that the whole thing was bullshit.” He told Beyer he had served in General Patton’s Third Army and never knew of any Ghost Army. But Beyer continued with his screening. Afterward the same man approached him and said, “This is the most amazing story I ever heard!”

[...]

Read the full article at: smithsonianmag.com






Related Articles
Rare Photos: Hitler’s Bunker and the Ruins of Berlin
Did Hitler Have A Son?
Georg Elser: The Man Who Almost Killed Hitler
Russia´s inflatable decoy weapons and military hardware in pictures
The Ghosts of World War II: Haunting Photography of War and Peace


Latest News from our Front Page

NATO Exercise in Ukraine Coincided with MH-17 Shoot-down
2014 07 24
Rapid Trident was omitted from the flurry of coverage on the shoot-down MH-17. From the U.S. Army in Europe website: Rapid Trident supports interoperability among Ukraine, the United States, NATO and Partnership for Peace member nations. The exercise helps prepare participants to operate successfully in a joint, multinational, integrated environment with host-nation support from civil and governmental agencies. ...
Warning of ’imminent’ terror attack in Norway
2014 07 24
Norwegians were warned Thursday of the concrete possibility of a terror attack occurring in that country at the hands of people with connections to an extremist group in Syria. A press conference was called in Oslo, Norway on Thursday where an announcement was made of a "possible concrete threat" to national security in that country from terrorists related to an extremist ...
Judge says government can access everything in a Gmail account
2014 07 24
All your emails are belong to us. At least that’s what the latest court order from a judge in New York says. The warrant, granted on June 11, states that the government can access all the content and files contained in a Gmail account. Yes, this is a significant blow to privacy. The subject of this specific search relates to a money laundering ...
Scotland Yard Spied on Grieving Families: secret surveillance after police victim shot seven times in head ’by mistake’
2014 07 24
More terror from the ’anti-terror’ brigade. Undercover police gathered evidence on 18 grieving families By Rob Evans and Vikram Dodd | The Guardian Undercover police officers secretly gathered intelligence over two decades on 18 families fighting to get justice from the police, it was revealed on Thursday. The intelligence covering high-profile campaigns was collected between the mid-1980s and 2005, and affected grieving families ...
Air Algerie AH5017 with 116 onboard goes missing for hours, found crashed in Mali
2014 07 24
An Air Algerie flight carrying 110 passengers and six crew members has reportedly crashed in Mali after having disappeared from radar early on Thursday morning between Burkina Faso and Algeria. A French Ministry of Defense official told Fox News that the two French fighter jets located the wreckage of the plane, which had crashed in Mali. An airport official additionally confirmed ...
More News »