Ghost Army Using Illusions in WWII

Lifting a Rubber Tank Optical IllusionI’ve stumbled upon an interesting WWII article about “Ghost Army“, an invisible army, operating in obscurity, mastering the arts of illusion, deception, and disinformation to defeat the Nazis in World War II. Something very similar you’ve already seen in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Bastardz.

This top-secret unit, so highly classified that its very existence was denied by the Pentagon for 50 years, is finally being not just exposed, but placed in the spotlight by a Michigan Library and an award-winning documentary filmmaker.

If this interests you, I recommend going through the original article, published on Seattle PI yesterday. Anyway, The Ghost Army was an elite unit made up of artists, designers, sound technicians, press agents, makeup artists, and professional photographers. This may sound weird, but if we remember how US forces, Soviet Army and even Nazis had a paranormal unit at their service, then this shouldn’t surprise us as much. The unit’s mission was to deceive the German Army into believing that the Allies possessed more troops and material than they actually did and, even more heroically, to draw enemy fire on themselves, allowing regular combat units to advance with fewer casualties. They ussed every theatrical tool at their command. A few sound trucks armed with nothing more than loud speakers could “impersonate” a battalion of tanks or an entire infantry division.

Another tool of trickery involved visual deceptions, created using life-size mock-ups of artillery, trucks, planes, tanks, and even buildings. There was a Frenchman coming down the road, and when he saw the scene pictured in above photo, he thought he was hallucinating to see four men pick up a tank. Once again, head over to the original article for more descriptions, and testimonials…

Ghost Army in WWII - Convoy of Rubber Optical Illusion
A "Dummy Convoy": Every Vehicle And Weapon In This Photo Is Made From Rubber.

37 Replies to “Ghost Army Using Illusions in WWII”

  1. This sounds like the stuff that Jasper Meskelyne did during WWI and WWII. I would suspect you are looking at his handiwork. There’s a great domcumentary about his tour of WWII that talks about some of the amazing things he did for the British Army during that time. It’s on one of the History/Discovery Channels.

  2. WoW… that was a very interesting, detailed article about the Ghost Army written in Seattle PI. I think I’ve read of these Ghost Army soldiers mentioned in some parts of an Ambrose’s book also. Thanks for sharing, Vurdlak.

  3. People don’t realize that the ‘bounce houses’ that they rent for their kids’ parties use the technology developed by the US military to make the rubber tanks etc. Soldiers discovered that it was fun to bounce on them, and that became the ‘moon bouncer’ that you see today.

  4. Some may say, “Not really an optical illusion.” You’ve missed the whole point. this was a bigger there life mega-optical illusion. The article stated, “the Germans thought they were up against a 30,000-man phantom army: “Sometimes a huge German unit would surrender to them.” The entire Ghost Army was never more than 1,100 men.” The illusion was so real that the secret lasted over 50 years.

  5. Similar things were happening in the UK as well. I forget the whole story but Dick Strawbridge did a documentary episode on a group of men who mocked up the lights of airstrips and even whole cities miles away from their real location. From the air it was perfectly reasonable to assume that bombers had simply flown slightly off course. Great stuff.


  7. Must admit had heard of this before. It was of great use in the build up to D-Day in convincing the Germans that the attack was to be at the Pas-de-Calais and not the real taget of Normandy.

  8. I’ve got your widget on my macbook and have been browsing your stuff for quite some time. Never commented though, until now. I must admit this ode to the masters of WWII illusion was simply fascinating. :D

  9. The Nazis did this too. They disguised an airstrip in Giebelstadt Germany with cardboard sheep. It worked until one sunny day when Allied pilots could see that the sheep had no shadows, and successfully bombed the airstrip.

  10. In the UK they set up minitures versions on ports, with ponds and street lamps etc., a few miles closer to germany/france than the ral ports, to draw enemy fire before they got real ports.

  11. In the UK they set up miniture versions of ports, with ponds and street lamps etc., a few miles closer to germany/france than the real ports, to draw enemy fire before they got real ports.

    he used them as dummys so the german army thought they had there targets, and apparently they send loads of troops to flank them, and they was sat at a bridge for about a day waiting for this ‘convoy’ to come.


  13. A British engineer during the German charge towards Alexandria in northern Africa WW2,used the same method to drive away the frightful Panser regiment from unprotected fuel depots causing them to surrender to a handful of British soldiars,and later on to caused the German bombers to mistakenly bombard a dummy city some 20miles to the west of Alexandria instead of bombing the real city . all that is mentioned in a fantastic book called “The War Magician “… I invite you all to read it,,, sorry but I forgot the name of the author , I guarantee you will not put the book down till the end feeling sorry that there is no more…

  14. I knew a little about this already. but I hadn’t realized just how widely it was used.

    Kitty Kool, it’s straightforward. At a point when Britain couldn’t defend its skies because it had so few fighters left, they built a zillion fake aircraft and placed them at airfields in plain view of Luftwaffe reconnaisance-spy aircraft. The German high command was completely deceived, not to mention befuddled. Another example came in the runup to D-Day. The Allies made up all sorts of stuff so the Germans wouldn’t know just when and where the invasion of the European mainland would come. They even created an entire fictitious army commanded General George S. Patton, of whom the Germans were terrified, complete with fake radio traffic, fake supply and personnel movements, etc.

    Trickery is a crucial tool of the trade for any military leader. And it has been taught at least back to the great Chinese strategist Sun Tzu (author of “The Art of War,” studied reverently in virtually every military academy in the world). Trickery is every bit as important — sometimes more so — as superior firepower.

  15. This is fantastic! My great uncle was a “Desert Rat” under Montgomery at Tabruk and El Alamein. He said a famous British magician/illusionist who’d been drafted into the unit came up with the idea of creating cardboard tanks, trucks and armoured vehicles etc to fool the enemy. I saw something about it on the History Channel too. Apparently it turned the tide of the battle since the Germans thought the allies were far more heavily armoured than they really were. Really enjoyed reading your article!

  16. There’s a great book out there, sadly out of print, called The War Magician. It chronicles Maskelyne’s group of square pegs who, among other things transported an entire bay city out of harm’s way before a bombing run – including the lighthouse! It’s an awesome book – pity that my dog destroyed the one copy I owned. :-(

  17. Ignorance of your own european History! You will commit the same mistakes in the future, today you are preparing the path to it…
    Sorry for you all.

  18. >The unit’s mission was to deceive the
    >German Army into believing that the
    >Allies possessed more troops and
    >material than they actually did

    The correct word is “matériel,” not “material.”

  19. I don’t believe that it helped a lot. Such rubber vehicle immitations can’t move and Germans were (and are) not that stupid.

  20. The Defense Department used this rubber technique to create our current President. The mockup seemed more real than the original.

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