During World War II, a massive recruitment effort targeted students from the top art schools across the country. These young designers, artists, and makers were being asked to help execute a wild idea that came out of one the nation’s most conservative organizations: the United … Continue reading →
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This is ninety nine percent invisible. I am roman Mars. In the nineteen forties, there were, as there are today, a lot of great art and design schools in New York City Pratt Cooper Union parts. And there were then, as there are today, a lot of young, talented artists and designers that those schools who would go on to have great careers Nineteen forties there was something else that some of those artists and designers had to do. First, that's our own Katy mingle. There was a war going on World war, two and the army needed artists, because well they had kind of a crazy idea. It was a crazy idea that came out of one of the most conservative organizations. You can imagine the United States Army that's Buyer more about Rick in a minute, and it had to go up the line to high ranking general, up his highest Eisenhower himself to get approval.
The crazy idea was this big did Army would design a deception unit a unit that would here too the enemy to be a large armor division, thousands of soldiers, tanks, trucks guns. Only this unit would actually be equipped with vague tanks, fake trucks guns and manned by just a handful of soldiers and it really is something unusual. Rick buyer has a forthcoming book about dollar and also made a film about it called the ghost army people say to me: where did the Germans have something like this? It did the chaplain these have something like this, and what I have said is the Germans in Japanese did deceptions, but I haven't found anybody ever who had a unit. Quite like this one, the that our group began landing on the northern coast of France that morning, families
goodbye naval and therefore D day June. Sixth, nineteen forty four months- The most critical period of war war to the allies landed on the beaches of Normandy and began to liberate France from the Germans who had occupied it for four years. At that point, they were lay marching toward Berlin and success of the Normandy landings. Undue day was due in part to deception, using a variety of techniques. The allies trick the Germans in the thinking the invasion would happen at a different time and place, but a couple of U S: Army men, Ralph, Ingersoll, Billy Harris wanted to take deception to a whole new level. They wanted to a mobile deception unit and we're going to put that on the bow building give that to the generals to use for whatever set of circumstances come up. So what were the circumstances in which a unit like this would be needed? Well, let's see American! horses regarding a border but there's a whole in one spot,
And if the Germans realise there's an unguarded spot, they could use it to break the line, but the Americans dont have any troops to fill at home. Sometimes they can send the real truth, because the real troops are needed, someplace else, and sometimes they can send them because they just don't have enough, for they can't get them there and That's where the ghost Army came in this town, Secret unit was officially called the twenty third headquarters, especial troops and nicknamed the ghost army after the war. The so called most army would impersonate a larger armoured. Division might be the six murmured division or some other one. It changed, but division. That was made up of say, fifteen or twenty thousand soldiers when they, the ghost army or actually only about a thousand men you want to make it seem like something. Is there that isn't there and if you want people to do that, you're gonna want artists,
the army was interested in recruiting people with art. With an art background we'll do, installations of sorts, that's jack! May I'm may see during world war. Two I served in the ghost army before the army. Jack was just a kid in high school, pretty famous high school in New York City called the high school of music and art. Its now call the Guardia High School. I was an art major, young jack as shipped off to Europe, to join the camouflage. You know where you discover that's a lot of the other guys and his unit are So it is a good fifty percent of safe and when things, all of those artists have been working on was designing fake tanks and trucks. By the time jacket to Europe they ve done all there are indeed undecided. Rubber was the best material to use for that one
discovered my first inflatable tank inflatable rubber tanks were a crucial. Part of the visual deception unit. You could flight one to see something rise like a souffle and and about a half hour from nothing to a full tank was rather quite interesting. Ok, but the visual deception unit had more than just tanks, its tanks and trucks and artillery and jeeps and all sorts of vehicles, virtually every kind of vehicle the army had the ghost army, had inflatable versions of basically anything and make themselves appear to be the full sized armoured division that they were pretending to be this stuff was all meant to be believable from a distance for planes flying overhead, or maybe people looking through binoculars and at a distance. The inflatable were super realistic, but you had to be careful about certain details. Sometimes
the barrels of the tanks will at that inflated and they said, of course that was a mess plan gun barrels, never a good thing, but there were other data else to consider a real tank ways, forty tonnes they when it drives across the field. Italy It's a set of tank tracks that are really obvious to aerial reconnaissance, so that afternoon it would actually use a bulldozer to make fake tracks around the fake tanks. But there was one cardinal rule. Jack says about working with. Inflatable was never under any circumstances You ever to carry and inflatable across the road of ease. He too dude carrying a forty tonne tank would look wrong. You work Suppose too casually pick up and move in inflatable vehicle in a place where you could be seen when the artist soldier weren't busy with their dummy tanks Jack's as they did artists do spend their time
catching local people. Local architecture, churches or through Normandy across France. And into Germany during their travels through Europe when they weren't sketching local architecture. The ghost army was often acting and they call at special of facts, and I call it play acting because that's really what it was and the idea was for us to go into town and sit down in a cafe so that anybody watching us remember. The Germans were occupied France for four years. At this point so yeah there were spies everywhere tanks, which of course, we That not only did we have actual tanks which, of course, we didn't, but that we actually were members of the second Armand division, which are in fact we weren't. They still face unit numbers on their trucks they made fake patches to put on their sleeves. Sometimes they seem to be having a little too much fun with this part of the job, like the time.
They stole a bunch of cases of expensive cognac from a tavern. Just to piss off Taverner Lenny to be a german collaborator. There are hoping that he is then I'd be so angry at them. That he's gonna go the Germans and tell him we're. Not only do I know the sixth armor division is here with their general was at my tavern today. The whole point of the ghost army was to make sure that their presence was known the ghost army needed to be seen and heard, and perceived by the Germans as being real. Andrew, and they were one goes, the recording of drop moving in which This deception unit that I probably would have been drafted into sonic deception, so they record the sounds of tanks.
Down roads. The sounds of trucks of men reaching a certain point in all the men jumping out and then be able to play them back in such a way as to make the enemy think that those things are really happening. This was all so new and strange that the army made a top secret film, which explained how soon can be used to deceive the enemy in it actors Sadly, portraying a group of german officers who, in the midst of being Pont by the Sonic Deception unit, I thought, if not about bank or t, hear reports definite sounds of tanks moving into assembly about The movie goes on to explain that the Germans in that seen were fooled or former govern they had convince them that an armored division under cover of darkness, moved along the river across from them. The enemy committed is tight destroyers of reserves to this bridge up here they moved in
on my way, and they waited, and we down here, where they weren't the cylinders, and great detail about process of recording and playing back sounds above loudspeakers or the military requirements have been developed, the speakers project sound as far as fifteen miles, and there was a huge library of sounds to choose from, for example, engines. Different sounds depending on the train and they had all of those different kinds of sounds what we would like your background going on, one productive Roy. They would look at what they're trying to simulate what're, we try to make people think is happening, and then they take all the appropriate sounds and mix them.
Yeah there to create a sonic story. People who heard this then it was unbelievably eerie that it was so realistic that Darting seeing vehicles that weren't there The third component of the ghost Army were the radio operators. It was well known that the Germans listened in on radio communications about allied troops, so the ghost army trying to impersonate a real armor division. To send the right kind of transmissions bring trained radio operators from all sorts of other units to have the very best operators. Part of the radio deception unit all of the units paid incredible attention to detail, but the rate operators had to be perfect mimics. They had to learn the exact keystrokes of an individual Morse code operator in the unit. They were impersonating the way
radio operator in the fourth armoured division, always starts his messages with four dots in our data that, because that's just what they do and if you don't do that the german intercept person listening, is gonna. Think we'll wait. A minute. Is that really from the fourth armor division Sea have different units, visual sonic and radio, and their operating separately, but they're all organs By the same people, so they're very carefully working on different components of the same plan, the three said units might only be vaguely aware of what one another were up to an every thing was kept completely secret from the rest of the military if the their mere existence ever led to the Germans. The whole deception well, as the safety of the ghost army could be compromised. The guy
stormy carried out twenty one different deception missions between June, one thousand nine hundred and forty four and March one thousand nine hundred and forty five pretty much the entire time that you, Army was operating in Europe. Greek says one of their most important missions was operation, bet Hamburg, which took place near the border between France and Germany. So picture this there's a river near the german border, the Moselle River in german troops, from one side, american troops or, on the other there part of a front. That's Hundreds of miles long and General George PAN realises that there's a seventy five mile gap in his life unguarded seventy five miles, but the jury could use the brake across the border if they knew about it so they bring in the Ghost Army survey. They arrived in about the middle of the night. It's in September, forty four
and they're, using all three units, the visual unit with the inflatable tanks rating guys but specially sonic deception in it, because most of the Germans, the other side of the Moselle River therewith earshot in other words, and so it's a great opportunity to use sound to build make it seem, like so many times some of, and so many troops remove again. The deception goes on for seven days, Seven days is a long time to fool anybody: the ghost soldiers are getting nervous. They ve never done a deception for this long before and even pattern is nervous. He wrote a letter to his wife and he says, bad spot. My line, but I dont think the Huns know about it yet were holding to it by the grace of God, will have it plugged by tomorrow, and then stay. The eighty third division moves in and takes over for the ghost army.
And the Germans never caught onto the ghost army during that operation or any other over the course of the war. The ghost army lost three soldiers and had several dozen wounded, but overall it was one of the safer assignments of war to being in the camera. I feel- and I always felt I was kind of lucky- that's jack- may see again the camouflage It was just another name for the visual deception unit, which I had friends you heard, the infantry several workout several were wounded but being assigned to the camouflage core kept me away from frontlines. It's true that Ghost army suffered far fewer casualties and other units. That's part, because they were really good at their jobs. It there option was ever uncovered by the Germans would be catastrophic for the men and the ghost army there Brady without any heavy weapons. They don't have any real tanks, they don't have any real artillery. So there
putting on this show of force in a very vulnerable plays still I the army, extremely fondly. He got to see parents to see parish, great cafes and destroys, was completely fabulous expense. For me, after Jack Macy left, the ghost I mean he went to Yale School of Knocker. Dollar rights. Thank God after Yale, he went unto design some amazing things. He design kitchen use in the American National exhibition in Moscow in nineteen, fifty nine, with a famous debate, we Nixon, increase Khrushchev took place. He work with Buckminster on a geodesic dome for the nineteen sixty seven World Expo in Montreal and Jack.
He wasn't the only artist and the ghost army to have a great career. Remember all those artists that were constantly sketching around Europe. Some of them became any famous after the war. Ellsworth carry the minimalist painter and sculptor was this unit, Arthur singer, while by far is to illustrated birds of North America and many other books, Bilbil ass. The FAO designer Jack, Macy Build last were good friends and the army and joy likes to say that bill blast was the only soldier that Red Vogue in his foxhole nunnery Red Foger sparked off, but he made sketches of fashion. Sketches wherever he went. He was for working away, getting ready for the great moment when he would leave. The army government officially kept the ghost army a secret until the nineteen eighties, because there were hoping to be able to use some of the deception tactics in future complex some, you
were told not to talk about their experience ever to any one, but Thirdly, not everyone got the same directives on this. I was in company Bay, and we were never told that we were not supposed to talk about it. I was blogging about the ghost army, the second I left it and everybody I had everybody reduced to gigantic lie. An amusement them in the idea of a fake unit. You know. Pretty amusing thing. It is amusing, but beyond amusing. It's strange and amazing that they tried this and that they actually pulled it off. Not every hour operation was successful, There's a number of operations where it's really clear that the German, believed what they were trying to sell them and that it had an effect on the war.
Did help to save lives. It did help to win the war. In the story of the Trojan horse after a group in ten year war? The Greeks pretend to give up and sail away Even behind a giant wooden horse which the trojans drag back into their city as a victory trophy at night in elite force, agree Fighters which has been hiding inside the horse, creeps out and is able to capture the city of Troy. Victory by deception. Dad deception wouldn't have worked very well and we were to undergo a stormy, is taken. It's probably wouldn't be very useful in today's complex For obvious reasons, we can get the army to tell him what kinds of deceptions they're doing these days, but You can be sure they're doing something because well here all this guy said this action of the enemy is, of course, as old as war itself.
Ninety nine percent of visible, was produces week by Katy mingle, with same Greenspan, Avery Truffle men and me roman Mars, special thanks to Jim mingle. Yes, that's Katie's dad for his help. Editing in fact checking this week. Rick buyer- Co. Author Elizabeth sales forthcoming book is called the ghost Army of WAR war to its full of amazing images, and so many more details about specific operations performed by the ghost army it'll be out on April twenty
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Transcript generated on 2020-02-15.