For centuries, military units used camouflage and concealment techniques to thwart the enemy. Ongoing advancements in technology enable soldiers to more effectively hide themselves and their equipment during battle. However, until 1996, little was known of the Ghost Army tactics used during WWII that saved thousands of lives.
The unit was established by recruiting talented art school students and ad agency employees. The creativity of these individuals enabled the unit to act as a modern-day Trojan horse to defeat Hitler and other enemy forces. The unit was known as the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops and specialized in the art of deception.
The soldiers used inflatable tanks, rubber airplanes and costumes. They broadcast various codes on radios or engaged in conversations to give enemy forces false information. Approximately 1,100 military personnel staged deceptions on dozens of battlefields from 1944 to 1945. The illusions were often created close to the front lines and gave the appearance of more troops and equipment than were actually in the vicinity.
Similar to Hollywood sets, the Ghost Army often pretended to be members of units that were in actuality located miles from the area. Tactics used often included a handful of vehicles traveling in loops to give the enemy the impression that an entire unit was traveling nearby. Dummy vehicles and equipment might be positioned alongside actual vehicles to make a unit appear larger.
The traveling shows included personnel dressed as high-ranking officers who appeared in villages and towns known to also have enemy spies. The soldiers might then strike up public conversations within earshot of the enemy to spread gossip and misinformation via the spies.
The Ghost Army unit included the 3132 Signal Service Company Special who recorded the sounds produced by infantry and tank units. The company then played the soundtracks through amplified speakers that traveled through the air for miles in order to make the enemy believe a battle was underway at a different location.
The signal company also created phony radio broadcasts that included conversations or Morse code designed to be intercepted by the opponents. The messages were used to deceive enemy forces into believing the location of a unit that had already departed. The broadcasts also led the enemy to a site where a battle was actually not taking place.