Inflatable dummy Sherman tank of the Ghost Army. U.S. Army photo.

On Thursday, March 21, 2024, a long-overdue recognition was bestowed upon a group of World War II veterans known as the Ghost Army. After decades of secrecy and years of lobbying, the Ghost Army was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor Congress can bestow.

The Ghost Army: A Secret Mission

The Ghost Army was a top-secret military unit credited with saving thousands of American lives during World War II. It was officially known as the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops. Their mission was unique and highly classified. With inflatable tanks, trucks, and planes, combined with sound effects, radio trickery, costume uniforms, and acting, the American military units that became known as the Ghost Army helped outwit the enemy.

The Ghost Army’s mission was to deceive the enemy, to put on a big act. In some cases, people impersonated generals, putting on a general’s uniform and walking around the streets. The Ghost Army was made up of more than 1,000 troops and could simulate two units totaling some 30,000 service members.

Ghost Army patch, not used by the actual unit, but associated with the unit after the war. U.S. Dept of Defense – Dept of the Army – Institute of Heraldry.

Recognition and Honor

The Ghost Army’s operations remained classified until 1996, as military leaders wanted to keep the scheme secret in case it was needed during the Cold War. Legislation was passed and signed into law in 2022 to honor the Ghost Amry with a Congressional Gold Medal.

On the day of the ceremony, three of the seven known surviving members attended the event at the U.S. Capitol. They were 100-year-old Bernard Bluestein, who joined the visual deception unit from the Cleveland Institute of Art; 99-year-old John Christman, a demolition specialist; and 100-year-old Seymour Nussenbaum, an avid stamp collector who joined the Army from the Pratt Institute. Relatives of the late members were also present.

In Conclusion

The Ghost Army’s story is a testament to the power of creativity and innovation in the face of adversity. Their unique approach to warfare saved countless lives and played a crucial role in the Allied victory in World War II. The Congressional Gold Medal is a fitting tribute to these unsung heroes, whose contributions remained hidden for decades but will now be remembered for generations to come.


By Eugene Nielsen

Eugene Nielsen provides intelligence and security consulting services. He has a bachelor's degree in political science from the University of California. His byline has appeared in numerous national and international journals and magazines.

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