Gil Seltzer is 104 years old, but he still has vivid memories of his time in the Ghost Army 75 years ago. He sat down for a StoryCorps interview with his granddaughter, Sarah Seltzer, and an edited version of it appeard on NPR Weeknd Edition this morning.
A bipartisan group of representative and Senators are renewing an effort to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the Ghost Army of World War II.
In the House of Representative, Democrat Annie Kuster of NH and Republican Peter King of New York have introduced HR 2350, a bill to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops and the 3133 Signal Service Company.
“It’s an honor to sponsor this bipartisan legislation to honor the unsung heroes of the Ghost Army whose innovative tactics sowed confusion among enemy forces during World War 2,” said Congresswoman Kuster. “The members of the Ghost Army, including Granite Stater Mickey McKane, saved countless Allied lives through their visual and acoustic deception. It’s long past time that these brave Americans were recognized for their contributions to the war effort during WWII, and I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.”
“I commend Rep. Kuster for introducing this legislation which honors the critical role of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops (“Ghost Army”) during World War II. Their heroics were unknown for more than 40 years and it is finally time that the American people not only learn about but recognize their ingenuity and selflessness which saved countless American and Allied lives. They deserve their due,” said Congressman King.
In the Senate, the gold medal effort is being led by Sens. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, and Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, who have introduced S 1421. Nine other Senators have co-sponsored the bill.
“These brave soldiers brought unique, creative skills to the most dangerous and critical missions,” said Senator Markey. “They epitomized the American can-do, innovative spirit. Against the odds, they convinced the enemy forces that they were the ones at a tactical disadvantage. It’s time these brave patriots are recognized for their critical contributions to the Allied victory in World War II.”
“Our nation will always be grateful to the members of the ‘Ghost Army’ soldiers who served with distinction during World War II,” said Senator Collins. “This bipartisan bill would recognize these soldiers with Congress’ highest civilian honor for their courage and resourcefulness, which were pivotal in the European theater and likely saved many American lives.”
Ben Affleck, director and star of Argo is working on the Hollywood version of The Ghost Army, based on the PBS documentary by Rick Beyer, and the book The Ghost Army of WWII by Beyer and Sayles. Read all the details in Variety.
The Ghost Army Legacy Project today published 52 wartime letters from Sergeant Harold J. Dahl on its website. These letters document his experiences from first joining the 603rd camouflage Engineers in 1942 until returning home in 1945. They cover such topics as life in the Army, being called on to carry out a secret deception mission, heading overseases, confronting the horrors of war, and the celebration at war's end. A special postscript explores the story of a wartime romance and a search through historical archives for an answer to a 75-year old mystery.
“We are thrilled to offer more primary source materials to people researching the Ghost Army,” says Rick Beyer, President of the Ghost Army Legacy Project, “especially students doing National History Day projects.”
Harold Dahl enlisted in 1942 and rose to the rank of Sergeant in the 603rd Camouflage Engineers. The Dahl collection is one of the largest and most varied in the Ghost Army Legacy Project Archive. There are five boxes containing 431 items. Donated by Dahl’s family. The collection includes several hundred original wartime photos, and 225 letters that Dahl sent home over the course of the war. There are also a variety of other items including newspaper clippings, manuals, maps, a flattened C-Ration can, and more.
Great article in the venerable Jewish magazine "The Forward" about Ghost Army pals Seymour Nussenbaum and Bernie Bluestein.
The US Post Office has announced that it is bringing out ten new stamps honoring artist and former Ghost Army soldier Ellsworth Kelly later this year. The stamps feature ten Kelly paintings ranging from 1951 to 1971. "Kelly pioneered a distinctive style of abstraction based on real elements reduced to their essential forms" says the Post Office in its announcement.
Of course the famous minimalist isn't the first Ghost Army artist to be featured on USPS stamps. Arthur Singer (with son Alan) did the artwork for the famous Birds and Flowers of the 50 States stamps introduced in 1982, and George Vander Sluis designed an iconic airmail stamp brought out in 1971. Kelly, however, is the first Ghost Army artist to be honored by name in a series of postal stamps - quite a tribute! US Postal Service #WWII
This first day cover of Vnder Sluis's air mail stamp, signed by the artist, is part of the Ghost Army Legacy Project collection.
Birds and Flowers of the 50 States - 1982
The Ghost Army and Chicago veteran Bernie Bluestein were featured in multiple media stories in Chicago this Veterans Day weekend. Here are links:
WLS TV: Ghost Army: Bernie Bluestein, of the Chicago area, 95, reflects on time in top-secret unit during WW II
Chicago Tribune: "A top secret 'Ghost Army' of artist-soldiers fooled Hitler’s troops. One of its last members is living a quiet life in Schaumburg"
The first ever Ghost Army historical marker was dedicated September 26, 2018, in Bettembourg, Luxembourg. The marker stands on the exact spot where the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops carried out Operation BETTEMBOURG, one of their longest and most important operations.
The marker was unveiled by 95 year old Ghost Army veteran Bernie Bluestein, and Laurent Zeimet, mayor of Bettembourg.
The Ghost Army Legacy Project erected the marker with the help of grants from the US Embassy to Luxembourg and the PSYOP Regimental Association, as well as the assistance of the Commune of Bettembourg.
“We are grateful to these organizations,” said Rick Beyer, President of the Ghost Army Legacy Project, “for enthusiastically stepping forward to help preserve the legacy of this remarkable unit. We could not be doing this without their support."
The historical marker was designed by Paul Singer, whose father, Arthur Singer, was one of the soldiers in the Ghost Army. It commemorates a mission carried out in September, 1944. For more than a week, the 23rd helped defend a dangerously undermanned section of the Third Army’s front line, stretching more than twenty miles. Ghost Army Operations Officer Col. Clifford Simenson considered it a turning point for the unit: “It was our first operation that was executed fully professionally and correctly.”
"The embassy is proud to support this historical marker" said U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg J. Randloph Evans. "With this marker, the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops will never be forgotten. I look forward to the dedication."
The Arizona legislature has passed a concurrent resolution asking Congress award a Congressional Gold Medal to the members of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops The resolution, HCM2008, was introduced by State Representative Richard Andrade.
Three Arizonians Albert Files, Glenn Uhles and Harold Laynor served in this unique unit.
Legislation is now pending in the US House (HR 2701) and US Senate (S 1256) to award this unit, and a sister unit that operated in Italy, a Congressional Gold Medal. The resolution passed by the Arizona House and Senate urges the state’s Congressional Delegation to support this bill.
We are very excited that the Arizona has become the first state legislature to go on record supporting the Ghost Army Gold Medal bill. We hope it will help convince Arizona's congressional delegation to get on board and support this effort!