Month: April 2019

The Ghost Army of WWII

This week, I return to an interview I did with historian Rick Beyer, who co-wrote, The Ghost Army of World War II, and produced and directed an award-winning PBS documentary, The Ghost Army. It was just announced that Ben Affleck will direct and star in a Ghost Army movie based on Rick’s book and documentary. The book follows a group of young GIs, including fashion designer Bill Blass, painter Ellsworth Kelly, artist Arthur Singer, photographer Art Kane, and others, who conduct a secret mission. Their job was to create a traveling road show of deception, armed with inflatable tanks and sound-effects records.

The film will tell the true story of this squadron of recruits from art schools, ad agencies and other creative businesses who were tasked with fooling the Nazis into thinking the U.S. had larger troop numbers than it actually did.

The Ghost Army was a little-known operation, and it was extremely secretive. Not even the soldiers, in close proximity on the front lines, knew anything about what the men of the 23rd were doing. They conducted twenty-one different deception operations as, with “stagecraft and sleight of hand.” Everything they did was top secret—certainly during and for decades after the war. Their operations called for creative imagination, and often artistic interpretation that worked in concert with the brute military force enacted by the armed units. The Allies absolutely needed military force, and success in the field of battle. The Ghost Army helped our advancing forces be successful.

To put it succinctly, “miltary deception is much like a successful magic trick. It is about fooling people into believing that something is happening that isn’t.”

This is the first of a two-part interview. In part two, as a writer and producer, Rick provides an excellent portrayal of the vital and technologically amazing work this unit produced in WWII. It sometimes bordered on WIZARDRY, and there is little wonder why the U.S. Army kept it secret for a long time after the war.

Listen to The Ghost Army of WWII Part II>>

Learn more about Rick Beyer>>

Travel with Rick Beyer on the Ghost Army Tour

Rick Beyer leads our sponsor, Stephen Ambrose Historical Tour’s Ghost Army of WWII: Secret War Tour. This is a special edition of their popular D-Day to the Rhine Tour. As you follow the path of the American boys who liberated Europe, you will also discover the top-secret story of the deception troops known as “the Ghost Army” who made their own important contribution to ultimate victory.

This “traveling road show of deception” used inflatable tanks, sound effects and illusion to fool the Germans more than 20 times from Normandy to the Rhine. Their very existence was a military secret until the 1990s, and a U.S. Army analysis categorized their exploits this way: “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 itinerary includes key sites in Great Britain, a channel crossing, the Normandy Beaches, the besieged city of Bastogne and much more.

Travel with Rick on the Ghost Army Tour>>

 

Garth Ennis: “The Night Witches”

Renown graphic novelist, Garth Ennis, visits with Mark to discuss his new book, The Night Witches, about the young women who flew night bombing raids for the Red Army in WWII.  As the German army smashes deep in to the Soviet Union and the Red Army retreats in disarray, teenager Anna Kharkhova quickly grows into a hardened combat veteran flying obsolete bi-planes. As death and destruction grows exponentially, she deals not only with the Nazi enemy, but the terrifying threat of her country’s secret police.

The Civil War in April

During the Civil War, April lived up to the moniker later bestowed by T.S. Eliot as the “Cruelest Month.” The start of hostilities at Fort Sumter in 1861 initiated the war that defined America and President Lincoln’s assassination in 1865 both occurred in April. The Battle of Shiloh and the Fall of New Orleans both in 1862, certainly proved to be cataclysmic events. Shiloh was so bloody and destructive that it set the stage for the terrible things to come. Later that month, the Fall of New Orleans proved to be a mortal blow for the Confederacy.

Photo: Shiloh Church at Shiloh National Military Park, 2006. The original church building did not survive the battle. The present-day structure is a reconstruction erected in 2003 on the historical site by the Tennessee Sons of Confederate Veterans organization.

Abraham Lincoln: Youth to Civil War

President Abraham Lincoln fell victim to an assassin’s bullet on Good Friday, 14 April 1865 and died the next morning. Mark and Professor Gerald J. Prokopowicz discuss Lincoln from his youth and early career to the presidency and Civil War. They delve into some of the popular questions readers ask about the sixteenth president and explore other facets of Lincoln’s life that may be more obscure.

 

Replica of Lincoln's birthplace near Hodgenville, Kentucky

Replica of Lincoln’s birthplace near Hodgenville, Kentucky