Ghost Army Members Who Staged Secret WWII Battlefield Deceptions Awarded Congressional Gold Medal

DALLAS — With inflatable tanks, radio trickery, costume uniforms and performing, the American army models that grew to become often known as the Ghost Army outwitted the enemy throughout World Warfare II. Their mission was stored secret for many years, however on Thursday the group stepped out of the shadows as they have been awarded the Congressional Gold Medal at a ceremony in Washington.

“The actions of the Ghost Army helped change the course of the conflict for 1000’s of American and Allied troops and contributed to the liberation of a continent from a horrible evil,” Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth mentioned throughout the ceremony on the U.S. Capitol.

She mentioned that most of the methods the Ghost Army pioneered are nonetheless used on the battlefield. “Despite the fact that expertise has modified fairly a bit since 1944, our trendy methods construct on a whole lot of what the Ghost Army did and we’re nonetheless studying out of your legacy,” she mentioned.

Three of the seven recognized surviving members attended the ceremony on the U.S. Capitol: Bernard Bluestein, 100, of Hoffman Estates, Illinois; John Christman, 99, of Leesburg, New Jersey; and Seymour Nussenbaum, 100, of Monroe Township, New Jersey.

Their work throughout the conflict “was like placing on a giant manufacturing,” Nussenbaum mentioned in an interview earlier than the ceremony.

“We’ve had in some instances folks impersonating generals, placing on a basic’s uniform and strolling across the streets,” he mentioned.

Nussenbaum, who grew up in New York Metropolis, was learning artwork on the Pratt Institute earlier than he joined the Army. Finally, he joined a unit specializing in camouflage that was a part of the twenty third Headquarters Particular Troops.

“Our mission was to idiot the enemy, to placed on a giant act,” mentioned Nussenbaum, a painter who went on to a profession in business artwork.

Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts mentioned throughout the ceremony that the Ghost Army members have been “inventive, authentic thinkers, who used engineering, artwork, structure and promoting to wage battle with the enemy.”

“Their weapons have been unconventional however their patriotism was unquestionable,” he mentioned.

Home Speaker Mike Johnson mentioned throughout the ceremony that it’s estimated that between 15,000 to 30,000 lives have been saved due to the Ghost Army’s work.

The laws to honor the army models with the Congressional Gold Medal — Congress’ highest honor — was signed into regulation by President Joe Biden in 2022. That got here after nearly a decade of labor by relations of the troopers and Rick Beyer, a filmmaker and writer who has who helped carry their story to gentle after their mission was declassified in 1996. Beyer, president of the Ghost Army Legacy Challenge, produced and directed the 2013 documentary “The Ghost Army” and co-authored the 2015 guide “The Ghost Army of World Warfare II.”

“They put themselves in hurt’s method wielding creativeness, bravado and creativity so that different troopers would possibly have the ability to battle and reside,” Beyer instructed these gathered Thursday.

“This can be a day that has been a very long time coming but it surely has been properly definitely worth the wait,” Beyer mentioned.

The Ghost Army included about 1,100 troopers within the twenty third Headquarters Particular Troops, which carried out about 20 battlefield deceptions in France, Luxembourg, Belgium and Germany, and round 200 troopers within the 3133rd Sign Firm Particular, which carried out two deceptions in Italy.

One of many greatest missions, referred to as Operation Viersen, got here in March 1945 when the twenty third Headquarters Particular Troops’ deception drew German models away from the purpose on the Rhine River the place the ninth Army was truly crossing.

“That they had a whole bunch of inflatables arrange,” Beyer mentioned in an interview earlier than the ceremony. “That they had their sound vehicles working for a number of nights. That they had different models hooked up to them. That they had arrange a number of phony headquarters and staffed them with officers who have been pretending to be colonels.”

“This was an all-hands-on-deck affair and it was fully profitable,” Beyer mentioned. “It fooled the Germans. They moved their troops to the river reverse the place the deception was.”

In September 1944, the Ghost Army helped fill a niche in Gen. George Patton’s line throughout an assault on the Germans within the French metropolis of Metz.

“They find yourself holding this a part of the road for eight days, which is actually lengthy when it comes to doing a deception, attempting to maintain up appearances,” Beyer mentioned.

Kim Seale of Dallas mentioned that his father’s work within the Ghost Army got here as a shock to him. Solely about six months after his father’s demise on the age of 84 in 2001, he was instructed of the connection by a previous member of the Ghost Army who was placing collectively a reunion.

“I mentioned, ‘What do you imply, Ghost Army?’” Seale mentioned.

“My Dad by no means talked about it,” Seale mentioned. “He stored the oath.”

He mentioned his father, Oscar Seale, who was a captain, had instructed him that at one level throughout the conflict that he had transitioned from a tank division to a place as a courier. Seale mentioned he now thinks that is when his father joined the Ghost Army.

“It’s been a 20-plus yr journey of studying concerning the Ghost Army, studying about what my Dad did, studying about what the lads did and simply being amazed at that story,” he mentioned.

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