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Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

Deceiving Hitler: The Ghost Army of WWII

Evening Program with Book Signing

Wednesday, January 18, 2017 - 6:45 p.m.
Code: 1H0195
A dummy M4 inflatable tank

In the summer of 1944, a handpicked group of young American GIs landed in France to conduct a secret mission. Armed with rubber tanks, fake artillery, 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. Recruits including future fashion designer Bill Blass and painter Ellsworth Kelly were taken right out of art and fashion design schools.

Author and documentary filmmaker Rick Beyer tells the hard-to-believe story of the most curious group of soldiers deployed in the western theater of war. Operating dangerously close to the front lines, their deceptions saved thousands of lives.

Beyer’s book co-authored with Elizabeth Sayles, The Ghost Army of World War II (Princeton Architectural Press), is available for sale and signing.

Other Connections

In their off hours, members of the Ghost Army used their skills as artists to document the military camps, towns, and refugees of the war-ravaged Europe that served as the backdrop for their deceptions—or to escape from it. Take a look at some of their personal drawings and paintings, including a page from young Bill Blass’s fashion sketchbook.



S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)