Armed Conflict

Chatter: The Ghost Army of World War II with Journalist Rick Beyer

Shane Harris, Rick Beyer
Thursday, December 14, 2023, 8:08 AM
What is the ghost army?

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In the summer of 1944, a group of artists, visual designers and sound engineers--all of them GIs--began a series of secret operations in occupied France. Their mission: to deceive German forces about the location and size of U.S. military units, using a combination of inflatable vehicles, sound recordings, and “actors” posing as officers. 

The ranks of the “Ghost Army” included future stars of the worlds of art and design, including Ellsworth Kelly, Bill Blass, Arthur Singer, Victor Dowd, Art Kane, and Jack Masey. Journalist Rick Beyer has chronicled their ingenious exploits in a book and a documentary. 

December marks the 80th anniversary of the order that created the unit, which remained secret for decades. Shane Harris talked with Beyer about its creation, its success, and the ghost army’s role in the storied history of intelligence deceptions. 

Among the works mentioned in this episode:

Shane Harris has written about intelligence, security and foreign policy for more than two decades. He is a staff writer with The Washington Post, covering U.S. intelligence agencies and national security. He was part of the team that won the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, for stories about the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol and efforts to overturn the presidential election. In 2019, he was part of the team that was a finalist for the Public Service award for coverage of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Shane has previously been a staff writer for the Wall Street Journal, the Daily Beast, and National Journal. He is the author of two books, "The Watchers: The Rise of America's Surveillance State" (Penguin Press, 2010) and "@War: The Rise of the Military-Internet Complex" (Eamon Dolan/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014). He frequently appears on national and international television and radio. He is also a co-host of the weekly podcast "Chatter." Shane graduated from Wake Forest University in 1998. He lives in Washington.
Rick Beyer is a New York Times best-selling author and documentary producer. His independent documentary, The Ghost Army, tells the story of an extraordinary WWII unit that used creativity and illusion to fool the Germans.

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