The ASOM Hosts Special Ghost Army Exhibit

The U.S. Army Airborne and Special Operations Museum is hosting a special Ghost Army exhibit, in its temporary gallery through April 25, 2021. Ghost Army tells the story of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops—the first mobile, multimedia, tactical deception unit in US Army history.

What is the Ghost Army?

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.

Ghost Army Soldiers lifting an inflatable tank. Built on a frame of inflatable tubes, the facsimiles were surprisingly realistic when viewed from a few hundred yards, from a reconnaissance plane in the air, and especially when combined with camouflage netting or other natural coverage.

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.

This wire recording and playback machine recorded tank, truck, artillery, and small arms sounds by pulling a 37 gauge steel wire over the recording head that magnetized each point along the wire to reproduce sound. The 3132nd Signal Service Company of the Ghost Army projected these sounds of combat towards the German lines in an attempt to disguise real U.S. Army unit locations and intentions, as well as draw enemy fire to keep them occupied in a certain area of the battlefield. This artifact, on loan from National World War II Museum, is featured in the temporary Ghost Army exhibit at the ASOM through April 25, 2021.

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 this special exhibit, visitors can learn the comprehensive story of the 23rd and their role in Allied victory.

Honor the Past, Give a Gift to the Future

For more than twenty years, the U.S. Army Airborne & Special Operations Museum has told the stories of service members who have fought valiantly to protect the liberty we hold most dear. Today, you can honor the past by giving a gift to the future. Every donation allows the Museum to continue our mission of preserving and honoring the legendary feats of our Airborne and Special Operations Soldiers. Click below to give back to the ASOM today.