WASHINGTON, D.C. – The campaign to award the Congressional Gold Medal to the “Ghost Army” – the highly secretive WWII Army units that specialized in creative deceptions on the battlefields of Europe – achieved a critical milestone this week when legislation to honor the soldiers achieved its 290th House sponsor.
That moves HR 707 closer to House passage since the rules allow floor consideration of legislation with more than 290 cosponsors (two-thirds of the members). The bipartisan bill, originally submitted six years ago, was introduced by Rep Annie Kuster (D-NH), with Rep Chris Stewart, (R-UT) as the Republican co-lead. Companion legislation will follow soon in the Senate.
“This year may finally be the year that these little-known but highly significant U.S. Army units get the honor and recognition they deserve by awarding them the Congressional Gold Medal,” said Rick Beyer, president of the Ghost Army Legacy Project. “And with only about a dozen surviving Ghost Army veterans still living, the time is now to get this bill through Congress.”
The existence of the Ghost Army was top secret for more than 40 years until it was declassified in 1996. That’s when the public first learned of the creative and daring techniques the Ghost Army employed to fool and distract the enemy about the strength and location of American troops, including the use of inflatable tanks, sound effects, radio trickery and impersonation.
The 23rd Headquarters Special Troops staged more than 20 deception operations, often operating dangerously close to the front lines, in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany, with a sister unit, the 3133rd Signal Company Special, operating in Italy. They have been called “a traveling road show of deception,” with a unit of only 1,000 troops looking and sounding like more than 20,000. They are credited with saving an estimated 30,000 lives with one U.S. Army analyst saying, “Rarely, if ever, has there been a group of such a few men which had so great an influence on the outcome of a major military campaign.”
The Congressional Gold Medal is Congress's highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions by individuals or institutions. Dating back to the American Revolution, The Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom are the highest civilian awards in the United States.
“Today, we would call what the Ghost Army did ‘psy-ops,’ or an early form of ‘deep fakes’,” Beyer said. “Their deception techniques were incredibly creative and effective, but because
their involvement was secret for so long, they haven’t got the recognition they deserve. The legislation to award the Ghost Army the Congressional Gold Medal will finally change that.”
Surviving Ghost Army veterans are scattered throughout the U.S., in Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Utah. For more information see www.ghostarmylegacyproject.org.
Ghost Army Legacy Project