(Author's note: This article was originally published on April 27, 2005 in the INDEPENDENT. I was fascinated by the story of the ghost army and the bravery of those guys in World War II and, with Memorial Day arriving in another week, I feel a tribute to them and our current fighting forces is appropriate with a reprint of that column....JM
by Jim McAllister
I’m sure you are wondering, "What in the world was the ghost army of World War II?" It’s an interesting story that I will explain in this column.
Ever since warfare has existed, armies have relied on some type of deception to gain an advantage on their opponents. Some ancient armies used plaster dummies, others used fake smoke signals and spies, and we all know about the famous Trojan horse. These ancient examples of deception were carried into modern warfare during World War II with the exploits of the ghost army or their actual title which was the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops.
The ghost army was a unique and little known group of American soldiers who played a big part in the Allied victory over Germany through their abilities in the art of deception. Even though information on this unit became available about thirty years ago, not much has been written about them. As World War II faded into history, so did the 23rd Special Troops.
The ghost army was organized by Lieutenant Colonel Merrick Truly. He was the executive officer in charge of these deception experts. Although Truly’s men reported to the American ground commander in Europe, General Omar Bradley, most of the American soldiers did not know of the existence of the Special Troops. They operated at night under strictly special orders and were not even required to give their identity to superior officers.