Winston Churchill once told Joseph Stalin “In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies”. During World War II, the power of these bodyguards, in the form of military deception, became strikingly apparent. The German military was the most technologically advanced force ever encountered. The Germans were the first to use jet-powered aircraft on the battlefield. They created the enigma machine, which proved to be an extremely difficult system to break. How could the Allies possibly fool them? The answer was a mix of technology and some incredibly talented soldiers.
The men were the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, better known as the Ghost Army. This unit was the first of its kind specifically created to deceive the enemy. Through multiple operations, they did exactly that. These 1100 soldiers created a diversion that drew German attention and gunfire to them, instead of the thousands of Allied troops they were impersonating.
The Ghost Army consisted of 4 distinct groups:
- The 406th Engineer Combat Company Special were 166 “regular” soldiers – these men handled security, construction, and demolition.
- 603rd Camouflage Engineers were the largest group at 379. As the name implies, the 603rd was created to engineer camouflage.
- 3132 Signal Service Company consisted of 145 men in charge of half-tracks loaded down with massive 500 watt speakers which could be heard for 15 miles.
- The Signal Company Special Formerly the 244th signal company, The 296 men of the Signal Company Special handled spoof radio communications. The Germans heavily relied on captured and decoded radio messages to determine the Allies’ next move.