The Airborne and Special Operations Museum will host a special exhibit, The Ghost Army: Artists of Deception, from December 15, 2020 through April 25, 2021. Ghost Army tells the story of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops—the first mobile, multimedia, tactical deception unit in US Army history.
Activated on January 20, 1944, the unique and top-secret “Ghost Army” unit was comprised of 82 officers and 1,023 men. Under the command of Army veteran Colonel Harry L. Reeder, the group was capable of simulating two whole divisions (approximately 30,000 men) by using visual, sonic and radio deception to fool German forces during the final year of World War II. Armed with nothing heavier than .50 caliber machine guns, the 23rd took part in 22 large-scale deceptions in Europe from Normandy to the Rhine River, the bulk of the unit arriving in England in May 1944, shortly before D-Day.
The Ghost Army consisted of a carefully selected group of artists, engineers, professional soldiers and draftees, including fashion designer Bill Blass, painter Ellsworth Kelly and photographer Art Kane. Many West Point graduates and former Army Specialized Training Program participants were assigned to the 23rd, and it was said to have one of the highest collective IQs in the Army. The unit waged war with inflatable tanks and vehicles, fake radio traffic, sound effects and even phony generals, using imagination and illusion to trick the enemy while saving thousands of lives. Along with the 3133rd Signal Service Company in Italy, the unit helped liberate Europe from the grip of Nazi tyranny.
Through this special exhibit, visitors can learn the comprehensive story of the 23rd and their role in Allied victory.