Ghost Army

The Ghost Army played a vital role in WWII.

Bill Blass joined the army in 1942, and became a member of the 603rd Engineer Camouflage Battalion, which eventually became known as the Ghost Army. The battalion’s sole mission was to deceive the Germans about the location and strength of American troops on battlefields across Europe. Bill and his fellow soldiers designed and produced elaborate ploys, including inflatable tanks, trucks, jeeps, and airplanes, as well as sound trucks, phony radio transmissions, and temporary campsites. These deceptions provided critical support as the Allied front lines moved eastward after D-Day luring German forces away from the fighting units’ true locations.

Bill and his fellow soldiers designed and produced elaborate ploys that included inflatable tanks, trucks, jeeps, and airplanes along with sound trucks, phony radio transmissions and temporary camp sites. These deceptions lured German forces away from where fighting units were actually stationed and provided critical support as the front lines moved east after D-Day.

Bill’s fellow soldiers recall his positive attitude and sense of style including a close army friend who said Blass was always cheerful. You could be up day and night, night and day, but Blass never got grumpy, no matter how hard it got. He always had this big smile and these big white teeth.

The Ghost Army’s operations and contributions were never honored because their story remained classified for over 40 years. However, on February 1, 2022, legislation to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the Ghost Army received final signature from the President.

Rick Beyer, best-selling author, award-winning documentary filmmaker, and longtime history enthusiast, heard about the Ghost Army in 2005. He created a documentary which premiered on PBS in 2013, and a not-for-profit, the Ghost Army Legacy Project, to preserve the legacy of this unit.

Rick Beyer’s book, The Ghost Army of World War II, is a story of how one top-secret unit deceived the enemy with inflatable tanks, sound effects, and other audacious fakery. Activated on January 20, 1944, the 23rd Headquarters Special Troop, known as the “Ghost Army”, was the first mobile, multimedia, tactical deception unit in U.S. Army history. A cast of artists, designers, radio operators, and engineers equipped with battalions of rubber dummies, a world-class collection of sound-effects, records, and all the creativity the soldiers could muster, whose mission was to put on a show, with the Germany Army as their audience. They were plugging a hold in General George Patton’s line by pretending to be the Sixth Armored Division, with all its tanks and might. They understood their own lives depended on the quality of their performance and saved thousands of lives along the way.

Thanks in great part to the efforts of Rick Beyer’s Ghost Army Legacy Project, on February 2, 2022, President Joe Biden signed a bill that bestows the Congressional Gold Medal to the members of “a traveling roadshow of deception” that built inflatable tanks and trucks to trick the Germans. The Gold Medal honors the unique and distinguished service of the deserving and brave men, including Fort Wayne native, Bill Blass. The award ceremony was held in Washington D.C. on March 13, 2024.

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Ghost Army Commemorative Coin

In honor of the Bill Blass Celebration and the Ghost Army Unit he was part of, the Veterans National Memorial Shrine and Museum is offering a Ghost Army Challenge Coin. This full Color 2” diameter collectors coin has the Ghost Army on one side and the Veterans Memorial Shrine logo on the other and comes in a protective plastic sleeve. Available at the Museum or the History Center for just $15.00


Honoring America’s WWII “Ghost Army” from CBS News

Ghost Army Gold Medal Celebration

Ghost Army and Bill Blass Exhibit from WANE 15 News

I drew my first sketch of my corporate logo in 1944 while lying on a bunk in Luxembourg.