On Feb. 1, President Joe Biden signed into law the “Ghost Army Congressional Gold Medal Act,” which awards the Congressional Gold Medal to members of the “‘Ghost Army,’ in recognition of their unique and highly distinguished service in conducting deception operations in Europe during World War II,” according to a White House statement.
— Rick Beyer (@GhostArmy23) February 2, 2022
The Ghost Army refers to two units that used inflatable equipment, sound effects, radio trickery, and other deceptions to draw enemy forces away from American units, saving an estimated 30,000 lives. Because of their secret classification, members were not recognized for their heroism.
The elite group, known officially as the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, risked their lives to draw fire away from fellow soldiers involved in the actual fighting, the Washington Times reported.
The unit was the first mobile, multimedia, tactical deception unit in United States Army history, according to the National World War II Museum website. The Ghost Army consisted of 82 officers and 1,023 men who were under the command of Army veteran Col. Harry L. Reeder.
The unit was created by Col. Billy Harris and Maj. Ralph Ingersoll, both American military planners, who put together a curated group of “artists, engineers, professional soldiers, and draftees. Many West Point graduates and former Army Specialized Training Program participants were assigned to the 23rd, and it was said to have one of the highest IQs in the Army with an average of 119.
The Ghost Army staged more than 20 deception operations in France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany, according to the Ghost Army Legacy Project website. Once the war was over, members of the Ghost Army were sworn to secrecy and records were kept classified up until the mid-1990s.
In 2016, two lawmakers said the Ghost Army’s battlefield exploits in the months after D-Day deserved recognition and introduced “The Ghost Army Gold Medal Act.”
The bill came after filmmaker Rick Beyer’s 2013 award-winning documentary, “The Ghost Army,” and 2015 book, “The Ghost Army of World War II,” brought attention to the little-known unit.
As of publication, nine reported surviving members of the Ghost Army include:
- Bill Anderson, 97, Kent, Ohio
- Bernie Bluestein, 98, Schaumberg, Illinois
- John Christman, 97, Leesburg, New Jersey
- George Dramis, 97, Raleigh, North Carolina
- Manny Frockt, 97, West Palm Beach, Florida
- Nick Leo, 99, Brentwood, New York
- Mark Mallardi, 98, Edgewater, Florida
- Bill Nall, 97, Dunellon, Florida
- Seymour Nussenbaum, 98, Monroe Township, New Jersey
Congressional Gold Medals have gone to previous unsung World War II units including The Doolittle Raiders, The Monuments Men, Women Air Service Pilots and the Native American Code Talkers.
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