The Ghost Army of World War II

How One Top-Secret Unit Deceived the Enemy with Inflatable Tanks, Sound Effects, and Other Audacious Fakery

Rick Beyer, Elizabeth Sayles


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     9 × 10 in (22.9 × 25.4 cm)
256 pages
100 color illustrations, 200 b/w illustrations
Publication date: 04/28/2015
Rights: World
ISBN: 9781616893187

In the summer of 1944, a handpicked group of young GIs that included such future luminaries as Bill Blass, Ellsworth Kelly, Arthur Singer, Victor Dowd, Art Kane, and Jack Masey landed in France to conduct a secret mission. Armed with truckloads of inflatable tanks, a massive collection of sound-effects records, and more than a few tricks up their sleeves, their job was to create a traveling road show of deception on the battlefields of Europe, with the German Army as their audience. From Normandy to the Rhine, the 1,100 men of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, known as the Ghost Army, conjured up phony convoys, phantom divisions, and make-believe headquarters to fool the enemy about the strength and location of American units. Between missions the artists filled their duffel bags with drawings and paintings and dragged them across Europe. Every move they made was top secret and their story was hushed up for decades after the war's end. The Ghost Army of World War II is the first publication to tell the full story of how a traveling road show of artists wielding imagination, paint, and bravado saved thousands of American lives.
  • Lavishly illustrated with original paintings, sketches, maps, and photographs
  • Presents never-before-seen artwork by some of twentieth-century America's leading visual artists
  • Publication coincides with the seventieth anniversary year of the end of World War II
  • Bestselling author Rick Beyer's acclaimed documentary film about the Ghost Army premiered on PBS in 2013

Rick Beyer is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and bestselling author. He wrote The Greatest Stories Never Told book series and produced films for PBS, The History Channel, National Geographic Channel, and the Smithsonian Institution.

Elizabeth Sayles is an award-winning, best-selling children's book illustrator. Her father, William Sayles, was a member of the Ghost Army, and she grew up listening to his war stories.

Editorial Reviews

Martin King, author of Voices of the Bulge and The Tigers of Bastogne, consultant to the History Channel:

"The Ghost Army of World War II is a veritable hive of fascinating information based on sound research. It's apparent that Rick Beyer and Elizabeth Sayles enjoy the subject with a level of dedication and passion that warms the hearts of irascible military historians such as me. I heartily recommend this book."

Roy R. Behrens, author of False Colors: Art, Design and Modern Camouflage:

"This book is a complete delight. An engaging account of the battlefield sleights of American GI artists during WWII, it is unprecedented in the breadth and detail of its telling. The suspense of its text is enlivened by a wealth of on-scene photographs, artists' sketchbooks, diaries, and other compelling first-person accounts. This is the eyewitness story of the Ghost Army as told by the artists who made it succeed."

Gordon H. "Nick" Mueller, president and CEO, the National WWII Museum:

"Brings to life a whale of a tale of World War II innovation--one laced with brash creativity. The notion of a special Army unit using dummy equipment, mobile loudspeakers, officer impersonations, and foul rumors to deceive German forces seems outlandish, but the tactics worked. This theater-goes-to-war story is finely told and beautifully illustrated-an important contribution."


"What a story! In 1944, an American unit of 1,100 artists, designers, and sound engineers, known as 'The Ghost Army,' snuck around France, using inflatable tanks, fake street signs, sound-effects records, and other tricks in order to deceive the German army into believing the Allies were somewhere they weren't. The book is full of drawings, paintings, and sketches by the men of the unit. In the end, it's a book about this weird (and successful!) project, but it's also a personal visual record of the last year of the war, executed by soldiers who had been selected for their artistic talent."

Libby O'Connell, chief historian of the History Channel, author of The American Plate: A Culinary History in 100 Bites:

"A fascinating read, and a fun one as well. Audacious is the right word for this daring sideshow that protected Patton's flank and other American soldiers. The original art is superb and frequently humorous. A well-crafted account of the amazing combination of shenanigans and tremendous courage that characterized the Twenty-Third Headquarters Special Troops."

Tom Brokaw:

"World War II was the greatest event in the history of mankind, and although it has been the subject of countless books, documentaries, and academic courses, there is so much still to know. The Ghost Army of World War II describes a perfect example of a little-known, highly imaginative, and daring maneuver that helped open the way for the final drive to Germany. It is a riveting tale told through personal accounts and sketches along the way-ultimately, a story of success against great odds. I enjoyed it enormously."

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