The battlefields might not be the ideal place to promote arts. But, this secretly allied ghost army made up of architects, sound technicians, actors and designers were given a unique opportunity to display their talents and also win the war for the Allied nations against the Nazis. They were to dress up as fake soldiers, create an artificial armoury of artillery, armored tanks and take this army to several positions to allow the axis to bombard them.
The people involved were enlisted in a fictional special forces division. The official count is not confirmed, but it was around 1,000 “servicemen” at least. They moved around the battlefield, breaking protocol and talking loudly about their next plan of “attack” in local towns. They invited the wrath of the Axis on their positions that were all set decorations and nothing else. This war dramatic team is believed to help allies quite a lot in their invasion of mainland Europe as they are supposed to have undertaken more than 20 battlefield deceptions.
Here is the official emblem of the army. Nice work by the artists, eh?
The fake planes and armor may seem ridiculous from here. But, an overhead plane won’t easily notice the deception.
Inflatable tanks, artillery pieces, aircraft and other dummies were used. The also recorded fake blasts and live fire to get rid of any suspicion.
The speaker system used to give the feeling of a huge military convoy passing was a very convincing one. It was placed near artillery units.
The army after constructing these dummies, even camouflaged them to make it work. However, they deliberately left some of the camouflage off so that incoming planes could spot and straff. Fake camps were created with nobody inside complete with laundry hangings. Artificial convoys with only a single driver in them gave the feeling of a big troop movement.
All this required specialized training from the experienced set decorators and other artists. Even though it was all a setup, the purpose was military, and all tasks were carried out very seriously and professionally. Proper schematics and engineered standard designs were used to create the vehicles and armour.
From the air, the effect was very convincing. The “soldiers” were told to mix with the locals and boast loudly about their plans. The undercover enemy agents picked up the info and relayed it to the command.
The whole operation was kept so secretive that the details were eventually declassified only in 1996. These pictures were also released back then. The last mission undertaken by the ghost army was along the river Rhine in Germany. Thousands of lives were saved as a result of this daring act. They were one of the unsung heroes of the war. They didn’t get any medal of honours or any appreciation of their hard work at the front, and they were actors!