The Ghost Army of World War II, by Rick Beyer and Elizabeth Sayles, Princeton Architectural Press, New York, 2015, $40
This interesting history bears the unusually long subtitle How One Top-Secret Unit Deceived the Enemy With Inflatable Tanks, Sound Effects and Other Audacious Fakery. Guile and deception are common tactics military forces use to lull enemies and gain tactical advantages during warfare. Co-authors Beyer and Sayles relate the story of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, a U.S. Army unit created expressly to deceive Axis troops in Europe in 1944–45. Through the use of such ruses as inflatable tanks, sound effects, phony uniforms and clever acting, this versatile and highly mobile Army unit mimicked the appearance, behavior and sounds of various divisions in France, Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg.
The authors detail the development of the Ghost Army and how its existence remained a highly guarded secret—even from its own forces and friendly civilians—to protect the artists, engineers and other personnel within its ranks from becoming targets. The Ghost Army’s skillful trickery discouraged potential enemy attacks and bought valuable time for real military units to move into more advantageous strategic positions.
Illustrated with numerous period drawings and photographs, The Ghost Army is packed with humorous, moving and dramatic recollections from the soldiers and officers who served in this unique unit. It is a marvelous homage to an exceptional military force whose talent and bravery saved many Allied lives and ultimately helped win World War II.