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Deceiving the Nazis: ‘Ghost Army’ members receive Congressional Gold Medal

The innovative unit utilized during World War II may have prevented the deaths of as many as 30,000 soldiers.

An inflatable “dummy” M4 Sherman tank used during World War II. Credit: U.S. Army via Wikimedia Commons.
An inflatable “dummy” M4 Sherman tank used during World War II. Credit: U.S. Army via Wikimedia Commons.

After a decade-long lobbying effort, soldiers in a top-secret, World War II disinformation division (only revealed in 1996) have been presented with the top award that Congress can bestow.

The “Ghost Army” unit included men from both the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops and the 3133rd Signal Service Company who used creative means of deceiving Nazi forces.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) was among Congress members who addressed the March 21 Congressional Gold Medal ceremony honoring those whose efforts may have saved as many as 30,000 other soldiers’ lives. Quoting from an army report, he said: “Rarely, if ever, has there existed a group of such few men which had so great an influence on the outcome of a major military campaign.”

Three of seven surviving members of the Ghost Army attended: Bernard Bluestein, John Christman and Seymour Nussenbaum. Others who spoke at the event included Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.).

The Ghost Army sought to recruit its members from creative fields, aiming for those skilled in art, advertising or architecture, including a significant number of Jewish Americans. They were sworn to secrecy.

Innovative deceptions the unit utilized to feed falsehoods to the enemy employed missions to signal fake troop movements or phony signs of upcoming attacks. The group put out radio signals intended for the Nazis to discover and used loudspeakers to put out the sounds of vehicles in motion, as well as used ploys like “dummy” inflatable tanks and fraudulent generals.

The division also used costumes to imitate generals with Nussenbaum comparing their efforts to “putting on a big production.” While the Ghost Army comprised about 1,000 men, they had developed the techniques to imitate two divisions of 30,000.

Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth said the Ghost Army “helped change the course of the war for thousands of American and Allied troops, and contributed to the liberation of a continent from a terrible evil.”

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