News / USA

Fake Tanks, Ghost Army Helped Defeat Germans During WW ll

Remembering The Ghost Army that Saved US Lives in WW IIi
X
May 24, 2013 1:38 PM
Life is often stranger than fiction as filmmaker Rick Beyer found out when he learned that an American Ghost Army helped defeat the Germans during World War Two. The story was classified for decades, and after it was declassified it took Beyer eight years to piece it together with hard-to-find footage, interviews with selected veterans, and artwork created by soldiers at the front. Beyer created the first documentary on this unit whose job was not to wage war, but to deceive the enemy. VOA's Penelope Poulou has more.
Penelope Poulou
Life is often stranger than fiction as filmmaker Rick Beyer found out when he learned that an American Ghost Army helped defeat the Germans during World War II.

The story was classified for decades, and after it was declassified it took Beyer eight years to piece the story together with hard-to-find footage, interviews with selected veterans, and artwork created by soldiers at the front. 

Beyer created the first documentary account of this specialized unit that was charged with helping defeat the enemy by waging a war of deception.

Elaborate ruse

In March 1945, after months of bitter fighting, the Germans had retreated behind the Rhine River, their natural frontier, to mount their final defense.

For the Germans, the view from the air revealed hundreds of American vehicles. They intercepted Allied radio transmissions which appeared to confirm that two American divisions were on the ground. German observation posts reported hearing them moving in across the river.

Members of the Ghost Army work with an inflatable tank, one of hundreds of props used to deceive the enemy during World War ll. (Courtesy Plate of Peas Productions)Members of the Ghost Army work with an inflatable tank, one of hundreds of props used to deceive the enemy during World War ll. (Courtesy Plate of Peas Productions)
Only nothing the Germans heard or saw was real. Hundreds of inflatable tanks and other military vehicles were props in an elaborate ruse, one of many that a small group of American soldiers staged to distract the enemy. They were known as the Ghost Army. 

"The 1,000 men in this unit were basically pretending to be two divisions of 30,000 men and trying to convince the Germans that they were attacking across the Rhine in one place where the real attack was going to take place 10 miles away," said filmmaker Rick Beyer.

The operation on the Rhine was deemed a great success.

Bringing history to life

In the documentary, some Ghost Army veterans talk about how they used sounds and special effects to give the operation a realistic feel.

"I told my children it was the biggest boom box you ever saw, but it played sounds of tanks and activity," said one.

Getting the radio transmissions right was crucial.

"It's always the scenesetter. It's always the first information you're gonna get to the enemy.  Because they're going to hear the radio broadcast long before the troops arrive. So you have to get the radio right," Beyer asserted. "You can't skip the other parts, because if you hear a radio that says an armored division is moving in, and then you never see any tanks or you never hear them at night moving in, you're not going to believe the radio."

Masquerade

Wherever they were stationed, The Ghost Army impersonated real units.  They masqueraded as generals and set up phony command posts to deceive enemy spies.

"The people who came out of this unit is, in itself, a fascinating story," said Beyer.

They were artists and designers who got their start in The Ghost Army. During their downtime, they painted to escape the horrors of war.

"Among those artists are fashion designer Bill Blass, painter and sculptor Ellsworth Kelly, wildlife painter Arthur Singer, photographer Art Kane, very famous for a picture with all the jazz musicians on the stoop in Harlem," said Beyer.

Beyer's Ghost Army underscores the bravery of the men who went to the front lines with fake weapons that only could make noise to attract the enemy so lives were spared somewhere else.

You May Like

Video Drug Use Rises in Afghanistan

Ninety percent of world’s heroin comes from Afghanistan More

Here's Your Chance to Live in a Deserted Shopping Mall

About one-third of the 1200 enclosed malls in the US are dead or dying. Here's what's being done with them. More

Video NASA: Big Antarctica Ice Shelf Is Disintegrating

US space agency’s new study indicates Larsen B shelf could break up in just a few years More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs