Ben Affleck is making a movie about the secret Army unit that tricked Nazis into chasing ‘ghost armies’ during WWII

Ben Affleck will star and direct "Ghost Army" a new World War II movie about the artists and engineers who pulled off one of the greatest acts of deception in military history.

By James Clark | Published Apr 24, 2019 9:14 PM EDT

Army photo

Ben Affleck is gearing up to direct and star in Ghost Army , a new World War II movie about a secret U.S. Army unit made up of artists, actors, advertising agents, and engineers who had one mission: to dupe Hitler.

And that's exactly what they did.

Based on the historical non-fiction The Ghost Army of World War II by Rick Beyer and Elizabeth Sayles (and Beyer's 2013 documentary of the same name), the drama will tell the story of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, an unconventional unit comprised of artists, performers, and other creatives recruited out of ad agencies and art schools who were charged with deceiving Nazi forces across Europe.

They were soldiers, sure, but their preferred weapon wasn't a rifle — it was an abundance of imagination.

The 1,100-strong unit created inflatable tanks, trucks, artillery, and rubber planes, according to a May 22, 2013 review of Beyer's documentary in The Atlantic. They hooked loudspeakers to the back of military trucks and blasted pre-recorded soundtracks of tanks rumbling by and men-at-work, cussing and swearing. Radio messages were sent back and forth between members of the Ghost Army, discussing troop movements and units — all an elaborate ruse, with German code-crackers in mind, and designed to spread disinformation.

Army photo

An inflatable tank, one of many used by the Ghost Army to dupe Axis forces into thinking the Allies had a far larger force than actually existed.(National Archives via The Atlantic)

For the Axis forces, it was as if whole units had sprung up over night. The outcome: Utter chaos and confusion for the observers, spies, and intelligence officers tasked with tracking the Allies movements.

Between 1944 and 1945, the Ghost Army staged more than 20 deceptions, according to The Atlantic. They moved massive formations of fake tanks, and phony armor across Europe, with some real vehicles tossed in for good measure, like some kind of olive-drab traveling circus.

Army photo

An inflatable plane created by the Ghost Army. National Archives photo via The Atlantic

Though the film's production date is still up in the air, Affleck is expected to have a hand in writing the screenplay, and the latest iteration of the script was drafted by Nic Pizzolatto (HBO's True Detective), according to Variety.

With any luck, Affleck's Ghost Army will be a film that highlights the courage, imagination, and ballsy bravado of those soldiers who helped push back the Nazi regime and saved the lives of untold numbers of their fellow soldiers with little more than some inflatable tanks and a whole lot of paint.

SEE ALSO: The Guys Who Brought Us 'Saving Private Ryan' And 'Jarhead' Are Making A Wwi Movie

Watch next: a world war ii training video on how to 'crack a tank'.

James Clark

James Clark is the former Deputy Editor of Task & Purpose. He is an Afghanistan War veteran and served in the Marine Corps as a combat correspondent. Contact the author here.

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During World War II, a hand-picked group of American GI's undertook a bizarre mission: create a traveling road show of deception on the battlefields of Europe, with the German Army as their audience. The 23rd Headquarters Special Troops used inflatable rubber tanks, sound trucks, and dazzling performance art to bluff the enemy again and again, often right along the front lines. Many of the men picked to carry out these dangerous deception missions were artists. Some went on to become famous, including fashion designer Bill Blass. In their spare time, they painted and sketched their way across Europe, creating a unique and moving visual record of their war. Their secret mission was kept hushed up for nearly 50 years after the war's end.

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Ghost Army, a World War II Master of Deception, Finally Wins Recognition

President 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.

ghost army ww2 movie

By Vimal Patel

The Ghost Army had one goal: Deceive Hitler’s forces and their allies.

Credited with fine-tuning the ancient art of deceptive warfare, the American military units of the Ghost Army used inflatable tanks and trucks to cloak the true size and location of American forces. They played ear-piercingly loud recorded sounds to mimic troop movement. They sent out misleading radio communications to scramble German intelligence.

The objective was to trick the Germans into thinking the Allies were in the neighborhood in force, so that actual units elsewhere had time to maneuver.

The Ghost Army, described as “a traveling roadshow of deception,” was composed of engineers and artists, designers and architects, radio operators and truck drivers. The work was so secretive that group members, who are credited with saving thousands of Allied lives, were unsung heroes for several decades after the war. But a grassroots effort in recent years culminated this week in the ultimate recognition from the U.S. government.

On Tuesday, President Biden signed a bill that grants the Congressional Gold Medal — Congress’s equivalent of the Presidential Medal of Freedom — to members of the Ghost Army for “their unique and highly distinguished service in conducting deception operations” during World War II.

“Through their courageous, creative and innovative tactics, the top-secret Ghost Army outmaneuvered and deceived the Nazis, saving thousands of Allied lives during World War II,” Representative Annie Kuster, Democrat of New Hampshire, who sponsored the legislation, said in a statement . “More than 75 years after defeating fascism in Europe, it’s time these soldiers receive the highest honor we can award: the Congressional Gold Medal.”

Bernie Bluestein, of Schaumberg, Ill., is one of only 10 known surviving members of the Ghost Army, an unofficial term for the two U.S. Army units involved in the subterfuge. The 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, Mr. Bluestein’s unit, carried out more than 20 deception campaigns close to the front, including in France and Germany. A sister unit, the 3133rd Signal Company Special, executed two campaigns in Italy in 1945.

In an interview on Tuesday night, Mr. Bluestein, 98, said the award gave him an indescribable feeling of satisfaction, but he expressed sadness that so few veterans were alive to enjoy the honor with him. The other surviving members of the group range in age from 97 to 99.

“Something we did was appreciated by so many people and at the time we didn’t realize that,” Mr. Bluestein said. “It’s really a great feeling to have people acknowledge that I had a job to do in the service and it was helpful in our winning the war.”

In one of the 23rd’s most elaborate feats of trickery, during the critical Rhine River campaign to finally crush Germany, the unit set up 10 miles south of the spot where two American Ninth Army divisions were to cross the river. To draw attention away from the actual divisions, the Ghost Army conjured up a decoy force of inflated tanks, cannons, planes and trucks; sent out misleading radio messages about the American troops’ movements; and used loudspeakers to simulate the sound of soldiers building pontoon boats.

The Germans fell for the ruse. They fired on the 23rd’s divisions, while Ninth Army troops crossed the Rhine with nominal resistance.

During that campaign, Mr. Bluestein and other soldiers would visit bars and gathering spots and pretend to be senior officers to create scuttlebutt among the locals that the Americans were up to something. The hope was that German spies would eventually be misdirected.

But Mr. Bluestein was an artist at heart. Before the unit began using inflatable tanks, he would paint on cloth draped over wooden tanks to make them look authentic. He stenciled insignia for 23rd members, and he produced posters to distribute around towns — anything to create an authentic flourish.

“Like, Coca-Cola signs, so they’ll say, ‘Oh, yeah, the Americans are here,’” Mr. Bluestein said.

Mr. Bluestein had a long career after the war as an industrial designer for companies that made household appliances like refrigerators and toasters, but in retirement he found himself embracing art again. These days, his favorite objects to sculpt are pins and needles, a tribute to his father, a tailor, and his mother, a seamstress.

About half of the soldiers in Mr. Bluestein’s unit, the 603rd Camouflage Engineer Battalion, were artists, said Rick Beyer, a documentarian who has chronicled the story of the Ghost Army and pushed for the gold medal.

The Army took existing units and “mashed them together, Frankenstein style,” to create the 23rd, he said, but it also recruited from art schools like the Cleveland Institute of Art and the Cooper Union. Some members became famous after the war, like the fashion designer Bill Blass and the painter Ellsworth Kelly.

In addition to Mr. Bluestein, the other nine surviving members of the Ghost Army are Bill Anderson, 97, of Kent, Ohio; James T. Anderson, 99, of Dover, Del.; John Christman, 97, of Leesburg, N.J.; George Dramis, 97, of Raleigh, N.C.; Manny Frockt, 97, of West Palm Beach, Fla.; Nick Leo, 99, of Brentwood, N.Y.; Mark Mallardi, 98, of Edgewater, Fla.; Bill Nall, 97, of Dunellon, Fla.; and Seymour Nussenbaum, 98, of Monroe Township, N.J.

Mr. Beyer, who produced a 2013 documentary that aired on PBS about the Ghost Army and later co-wrote a book with Elizabeth Sayles, “The Ghost Army of World War II,” said the effort to bestow a Congressional Gold Medal on the group was the product of a grassroots campaign that required two-thirds of each congressional chamber to co-sponsor the legislation.

“We had to convince literally 350 congressional offices, one by one, of doing this,” Mr. Beyer said. The end result was a rare bipartisan feat at a time of intense partisan rancor. “Sometimes, it’s good to take a breath and say maybe there are some things we don’t have to be completely cynical about,” he said.

“The Ghost Army in some ways is still helping to keep our country safe,” Mr. Beyer said, “because people are still studying what they did and are learning from it and use it today.”

Although warfare has evolved since then, and advanced reconnaissance technology makes fooling enemy forces with inflatable tanks a bigger challenge, the principles and innovation of the Ghost Army live on today in the work of soldiers who practice psychological operations, Gen. Edward G. Burley, a retired Army brigadier general who commanded the Joint Psychological Operations Task Force in Iraq, said in an interview.

General Burley said soldiers today are taught about the imagination employed by the Ghost Army to “think outside the box” to make military deception more believable.

“These are giants, and we’re standing on their shoulders,” he said. “Their techniques are still being used today. We’re just adding additional elements to adjust for technology.”

ghost army ww2 movie

Ben Affleck to Star in and Direct World War II Caper ‘Ghost Army’

By Justin Kroll

Justin Kroll

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Ben Affleck

Ben Affleck will star in and direct the Universal Pictures caper “ Ghost Army ,” based on the book “The Ghost Army of World War II,” written by Rick Beyer and Elizabeth Sayles, as well as the documentary “Ghost Army.”

It’s unclear when the movie will go into production as it’s still in development and Affleck is expected to rework the screenplay. The latest script was written by Nic Pizzolatto (HBO’s “True Detective”), with an earlier draft by Henry Gayden (“Shazam!”).

The film tells the true story of a squadron of recruits from art schools, ad agencies and other creative businesses who were tasked with fooling the Nazis into thinking the U.S. had larger troop numbers than it actually did. The book follows a group of young GIs, including fashion designer Bill Blass, painter Ellsworth Kelly, artist Arthur Singer, photographer Art Kane, and others, who conduct a secret mission. Their job was to create a traveling road show of deception, armed with inflatable tanks and sound-effects records.

Affleck will also produce for his Pearl Street Films alongside Andrew Lazar (“American Sniper,” “Get Smart”), who will produce for his Mad Chance Productions. Pearl Street Films’ Madison Ainley will executive produce. Exec VP of production Mark Sourian will oversee the project for Universal.

Affleck had been eyeing the movie for some time, but a busy schedule shooting the basketball drama “Torrance” at Warner Bros. and the Netflix pic “The Last Thing He Wanted” prevented him from committing.

He was most recently seen in the action-thriller “Triple Frontier.” Affleck is repped by WME and Ziffren Brittenham.

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New ben affleck movie will highlight the ghost army of wwii.

Photo: Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA 2.0

The book The Ghost Army of World War II, written by Rick Beyer, has been adapted for the movies. Ben Affleck is set to direct.

The book details the work undertaken by the Ghost Army, a troop of American artists and actors who saved thousands of Allied lives by duping the enemy.

When the Axis intelligence community saw the data collected by Nazi reconnaissance planes when they flew over the United States Army’s 23rd Headquarters Special Troops base, they were convinced that this base housed 30,000 men who were ready for action.

Ben Affleck speaking at the 2016 San Diego Comic Con. International. Photo: Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA 2.0

They saw military trucks, battalions of tanks, and washing lines crisscrossing the airfield which were laden with the clothes of the men stationed there. Along the edge of the airfield, they saw crates of ammunition as well as canons and camouflage jeeps just ready to be airlifted into service.

They even heard chatter on the radio waves. What they did not know was that this was all an elaborate ruse.

The military hardware that they saw were large inflatable decoys explicitly designed to dupe the enemy. These decoys were the work of a top-secret project that had recruited 1,100 men whose sole aim was to cause confusion within the ranks of the Axis powers.

An inflatable dummy tank, modeled after the M4 Sherman

This troop became known as the Ghost Army, and it is estimated that they saved between 15,000 and 30,000 lives with their fabulous fabrications.

The Ghost Army drew skilled fabricators, actors, architects, and sound engineers who were all specially selected for their unique skills and their ability to mislead the Nazis.

The Army used the art of illusion to create full-size inflatable tanks and aircraft that were placed alongside crudely built wooden structures that looked like military bases from the air.

Ghost Army Insignia circa 1944

The sole aim of the Ghost Army was to draw Axis forces away from where the Allied troops were really stationed and force them to spread their troops very thinly.

They effectively tricked Hitler’s army into believing that the Americans were massing forces for a significant military operation, when in fact, the actual troops were many miles away.

A favorite trick was to mount a huge amplifier and speaker on top of a vehicle and drive it through the forest just out of sight of the German troops. The recording played over the speaker gave the impression of a large force moving towards them, so the German troops were intimidated into retreating.

The recordings used were made at Fort Knox and included the sounds of tank engines, gunshots, and artillery practice. These noises were then skilfully mixed into other sounds all designed to create the illusion that an active military force was very nearby. The recording could be heard up to 15 miles away.

Fort Knox

In addition to creating sound recordings, the sound specialists created fake intelligence messages that were sent over the airwaves. The messages were accurate right down to the correct cadence to match the Morse Code cadence of the regular radio operators.

The bogus Mustang P51s, tanks, jeeps and other military hardware could be inflated in minutes. When they were lined up around a fake airfield, the Germans were fooled into thinking that a large military base had been set up, housing thousands of men. In reality, the base consisted of flat pack buildings and blow-up figures.

P-51 Mustang

The unit worked mostly at night and under cover of darkness to create their fabulous illusions. Bulldozers were used to create fake tank tracks before rubber and air props were put in place. The artists made sure to paint the correct insignia onto the props.

During the day, the mobile tactical unit of the Ghost Army would use conventional theatrical tricks, such as having men dressed as military policemen stand at crossroads to conduct checkpoints. Actors dressed as officers walked openly through villages to ensure they were seen by enemy agents.

Bulldozers were used to create fake tank tracks

Military trucks would run along the road with two men seated right at the tailgate to give the impression that the truck was packed with men.

In a manner much like the Trojan Horse, the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops lived to deceive. Some of the veterans of this force are still alive today.

Bernie Bluestein was just 19 years old when he responded to an art course sponsored by the Army, only to discover that he had been recruited into the Ghost Army. He related how he was told that he would not be fighting like the infantry but would be using his artistic skills.

Gilbert Seltzer was a newly-minted architect when he was recruited into the Ghost Army as an officer. In an interview with NBC, Seltzer, now 103 years old, said that they were very proud of the work that they had done.

In addition, he had many amusing tales to tell of his time in the Army. He recalled that once two Frenchmen watched in amazement as a tank was lifted by two men. Seltzer said to them that Americans were very strong.

Other famous names recruited into the Army were Bill Blass the fashion designer, modern artist Ellsworth Kelly, and renowned wildlife artist Arthur Singer.

The Ghost Army designed and executed 21 wartime deceptions in the years between 1944 and 1945, starting a couple of weeks after D-Day and ending in the Rhine river valley.

A dummy aircraft, modelled after the Douglas A-20 Havoc, October 1943 Photo by The National Archives

Perhaps their greatest illusion was carried out on the Rhine where they successfully distracted the enemy by building fake, inflatable aircraft transport ships that focussed the attention of the Germans while allowing the Allied forces to cross the river unmolested and in safety.

Read another story from us: The Ghost Army Of WWII – The Real-Life “Phantom Menace”

This magnificent unit operated in complete obscurity, and the members were warned to not speak of it to anyone. The military hierarchy did not want the Russians to know that the Americans had duped the German forces. It was not until 1996 that the true story of these brave men came out.

While carrying out their distractions, the men of this unit were not heavily armed and stood meters from the German forces. These men may not have fitted the general Hollywood idea of heroes, but they were some of the unsung heroes of WWII.

ghost army ww2 movie

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The Top-Secret WWII Unit That Fooled the Nazis

By: Christopher Klein

Published: March 3, 2022

An inflatable dummy tank, modeled after the M4 Sherman, on the field during Operation Fortitude in southern England, 1944. It was used to confuse German intelligence in two ways: first, by making it seem that the Allies had more tanks than they did; and second, to hide and downplay the importance of the location of their real tanks in order to make it seem that the invasion would not occur at Normandy.

Its artillery couldn’t fire, its tanks couldn’t move and its members were more adept at wielding paintbrushes than guns. Yet, a top-secret unit of 1,100 American artists, designers and sound engineers unofficially known as the “Ghost Army” helped to win World War II by staging elaborate ruses that fooled the forces of Nazi Germany about the location and size of Allied forces. 

Members of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops and 3133rd Signal Company Special who literally practiced the art of war saved the lives of thousands of American servicemen and earned one of the country’s highest civilian honors.

Employing inflatable decoys, fake radio chatter and loudspeakers that blared sound effects, the Ghost Army could simulate a force 30 times its size as it operated as close as a quarter mile from the front lines. “Rarely, if ever, has there been a group of such a few men which had so great an influence on the outcome of a major military campaign,” declared a U.S. Army report.

ghost army ww2 movie

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Ghost Army: A 'Traveling Road Show'

A rubber decoy tank designed to deceive German forces in World War II, shown in England, circa 1939.

Ghost Army member Freddy Fox described his unit as “a traveling road show that went up and down the front lines impersonating the real fighting outfits.” From D-Day to the Battle of the Bulge , the Ghost Army performed more than 20 missions throughout the European theater of war in 1944 and 1945.

Inspired by the success of British subterfuge in North Africa earlier in the war, the U.S. Army created the Ghost Army in January 1944 as a self-contained unit designed specifically to carry out visual, sonic and radio deception in time for D-Day. Fashion designer Bill Blass and painter Ellsworth Kelly were among the artists, ad men, radio broadcasters, sound experts, actors, architects and set designers handpicked for the Ghost Army, which reportedly had one of the Army’s highest collective IQs with a 119 average.

Befitting its name, the Ghost Army worked under the cloak of night. Camouflage experts used gasoline-fueled air compressors to inflate rubber tanks, jeeps, trucks, artillery and aircraft that artists painted with details authentic enough to deceive Nazi aerial reconnaissance, according to a December 6, 1945 report in The Meriden Daily Journal . Radio specialists sent misleading communications and even mimicked operators’ unique styles to add authenticity to their fake reports. Sound engineers blared pre-recorded sounds of military drills and movements on enormous speakers that, in some instances, could be heard 15 miles away.

Ghost Army Deploys at D-Day

A fake artillery piece in the field, circa 1942. The fake weapon was designed to serve as a deterrent to enemy forces.

Most of the Ghost Army arrived in England in May 1944 as D-Day preparations were being finalized. Four members joined the D-Day landing at Normandy, and a 17-man platoon came ashore on Omaha Beach eight days later to create dummy artillery placements that drew fire from the Germans.

The Ghost Army engaged in its first large-scale deceptions in the summer of 1944 as it deployed 50 dummy tanks and positioned sound trucks within a few hundred yards of the front line during the siege of the French port of Brest. As part of Operation Brittany, the Ghost Army deceived the Germans about the location of General George Patton’s 3rd Army, which eluded the enemy and raced eastward across France.

When a yawning gap opened in Patton’s line during his attack of the fortified French city of Metz in September 1944, the Ghost Army again aided the general. Until a division arrived to plug the gap, the illusionists held the precarious line for seven days with their inflatables and loudspeakers that played the sounds of rumbling tanks, shouting troops and even sergeants barking out orders for soldiers to put out their cigarettes. The Ghost Army’s radio deception also drew the Germans away from Patton’s relief of the Belgian town of Bastogne during the Battle of the Bulge .

Rick Beyer, co-author of The Ghost Army of World War II and producer and director of a 2013 documentary about the outfit, said the Ghost Army found Patton to be among the easiest generals they worked with. “Patton was extremely helpful and welcoming and made suggestions to make the deception better. He totally embraced their ideas,” he says.

The Ghost Army pulled off its most elaborate hoax in March 1945 as part of Operation Viersen. As the 9th Army prepared to make the dangerous crossing of the Rhine River , the Ghost Army positioned itself 10 miles south of the intended landing spot to re-direct German attention. The Ghost Army inflated both 600 dummies and their own size by impersonating two divisions and 40,000 troops .

To give the impression that the 30th and 79th infantry divisions were amassing, radio chatter spread false reports about their intended movements and sonic trucks blasted a soundtrack of pontoon bridge construction, artillery fire and even officers swearing. The Ghost Army stenciled fabricated division numbers and insignias onto their vehicles and erected phony headquarters and command posts manned by fake commanders and generals. They sewed counterfeit shoulder patches onto their uniforms and boisterously discussed their false intelligence in local bars and cafes to ensure their disinformation would be overheard by any lurking German spies.

The ruse worked . While the Nazis attacked the Ghost Army, the 9th Army crossed the Rhine with little resistance.

Weeks later, the Ghost Army’s mission came to an end along with World War II. The soldiers may have trafficked in falsehoods, but their heroism was all too real. While three of its members were killed and approximately 30 were wounded, the Ghost Army saved the lives of between 15,000 and 30,000 American servicemen, according to military estimates.

Ghost Army Recognized With Belated Congressional Gold Medal

Following the war, Ghost Army members returned home and settled into careers in advertising, architecture, design, theater, art, fashion and radio. For decades, their exploits remained little-known as members followed strict orders to not even tell their families about the Ghost Army, lest a similar unit needed to be deployed against a new enemy in the Cold War—the Soviet Union.

While a few articles about the Ghost Army slipped through the censors in the immediate aftermath of the war, the military did not officially declassify information about the outfit until 1996 .

Seeking to gain official recognition of the Ghost Army, Beyer launched the nonprofit Ghost Army Legacy Project as well as a grassroots campaign for the Ghost Army to receive the Congressional Gold Medal. “I was very conscious of the fact that because of secrecy these guys had not received any recognition and thought that was something due to them,” Beyer says. “I thought what they did was remarkable, and I was amazed at the degree they were not part of the World War II pantheon.”

In February 2022, the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops and the 3133rd Signal Company Special, which undertook a pair of sonic deception operations against the Nazis in Italy, were awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for “their unique and highly distinguished service in conducting deception operations.”

“Performance and art are not just things we do as recreation, they are a critical part of human endeavor,” Beyer says. “The Ghost Army used creativity and illusion to save lives.”

ghost army ww2 movie

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Bradley Cooper's new movie tells the crazy-but-true story behind inflatable artillery used to trick the Nazis

On the heels of his Oscar-nominated performance as Navy SEAL Chris Kyle in last year’s hit, “ American Sniper, ” Bradley Cooper looks to be returning to the war-drama genre.

Deadline reports that 22 & Green, Cooper and his "The Hangover" director Todd Phillips ' production company, has teamed with Warner Bros. to adapt the book “ The Ghost Army Of World War II: How One Top-Secret Unit Deceived The Enemy with Inflatable Tanks, Sound Effects, And Other Audacious Fakery. ”

The book title kind of says it all.

In World War II, the US Army recruited artists to make up the secret 23rd Headquarters Special Troops with the mission to fool the Nazis in thinking the US Army was larger than it actually was.

They would become known as the “Ghost Army.”

To pull this off the unit created inflatable tanks and rubber airplanes and delivered phony radio messages to make Nazi forces think there were US forces in the area (when, in fact, they were not). 

Ghost Army members who went on to have glowing careers in the arts included painter/sculptor Ellsworth Kelly , wildlife artist Arthur B. Singer , and fashion designer Bill Blass . 

The film will also use the 2013 documentary “Ghost Army” (directed by coauthor of "The Ghost Army" book, Rick Beyer) as resource material.

There’s no word yet if Cooper will also star in the film.

See the elaborate creations made by the Ghost Army in this trailer for the doc below:

ghost army ww2 movie

ghost army ww2 movie

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The Ghost Army of World War II: How One Top-Secret Unit Deceived the Enemy with Inflatable Tanks, Sound Effects, and Other Au

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During World War II, a hand-picked group of American GI's undertook a bizarre mission: create a traveling road show of deception on the battlefields of Europe, with the Nazi German Army as their audience. The U.S. 23rd Headquarters Special Troops used inflatable rubber tanks, sound trucks, and dazzling performance art to bluff the enemy again and again, often right along the front lines. This little-known unit's knack for trickery was crucial to Allied success in World War II, but their top-secret mission was kept quiet for nearly 50 years after the war's end. Using archival footage and dozens of still photographs, paintings, and sketches created by soldiers, the Ghost Army tells the extraordinary story of these incredible battlefield illusions and the talented young men, many recruited from art schools across the country, who used their creativity to ultimately save lives.

Product details

  • MPAA rating ‏ : ‎ NR (Not Rated)
  • Product Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 0.7 x 7.5 x 5.4 inches; 2.72 Ounces
  • Item model number ‏ : ‎ 26925232
  • Media Format ‏ : ‎ Color, Multiple Formats, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Run time ‏ : ‎ 1 hour and 8 minutes
  • Release date ‏ : ‎ June 18, 2013
  • Subtitles: ‏ : ‎ English
  • Studio ‏ : ‎ PBS (Direct)
  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B00C12ZIN4
  • Country of Origin ‏ : ‎ USA
  • Number of discs ‏ : ‎ 1
  • #602 in Military & War (Movies & TV)

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Ghost Army Header

Ghost Army: The Combat Con Artists of World War II

Activated on January 20, 1944, the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, known as the “Ghost Army,” was the first mobile, multimedia, tactical deception unit in US Army history. Consisting of an authorized strength of 82 officers and 1,023 men under the command of Army veteran Colonel Harry L. Reeder, this unique and top-secret unit was capable of simulating two whole divisions—approximately 30,000 men—and used visual, sonic, and radio deception to fool German forces during World War II’s final year. Now, through The National WWII Museum’s newest special exhibit, Ghost Army: The Combat Con Artists of World War II, visitors can learn the story of the 23rd and their role in Allied victory through featured artifacts such as artwork, uniforms, an inflatable tank, and more.

Armed with nothing heavier than .50 caliber machine guns, the 23rd took part in 22 large-scale deceptions in Europe from Normandy to the Rhine River, the bulk of the unit arriving in England in May 1944, shortly before D-Day. The brainchild of Colonel Billy Harris and Major Ralph Ingersoll, both American military planners based in London, the unit consisted of a carefully selected group of artists, engineers, professional soldiers, and draftees, including famed artists such as fashion designer Bill Blass, painter Ellsworth Kelly, and photographer Art Kane. 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 unit waged war with inflatable tanks and vehicles, fake radio traffic, sound effects, and even phony generals, using imagination and illusion to trick the enemy while saving thousands of lives along the way. The 23rd, along with the 3133rd Signal Service Company in Italy, helped liberate Europe from the grip of Nazi tyranny.

Following the war, the unit’s soldiers were sworn to secrecy, records were classified, and equipment packed away. Except for a newspaper article right after the war, no one spoke publicly about the deceivers until a 1985 Smithsonian article. Though knowledge of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops was then public, it was still officially classified until the mid-1990s.

In Ghost Army , the unique story of the 23rd’s more than 1,100 men who deceived, sketched, and painted across Europe to manipulate Hitler’s armies is told through multiple elements including historical narrative text panels detailing unit operations, profiles of unit officers, archival photography, and even sketches and uniforms from unit officers. In addition, a robust schedule of public programming and educational initiatives, free to the public and students, will further explore the exhibit’s themes.

After its run on the Museum campus, Ghost Army will be available for booking at institutions across the country including museums and local history centers.

Ghost Army: The Combat Con Artists of World War II is exclusively sponsored by E. L. Wiegand Foundation.

ghost army ww2 movie

Available for Booking

  • September 2021 – May 2022
  • August 2023 – December 2023
  • January 2024 – December 2024

Booking Terms

Travel Schedule

Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center Skokie, IL Display Dates: June 16, 2022 – January 2, 2023

Nevada Museum of Art Reno, NV Display Dates: March 4, 2023 to July 23, 2023

Installation Logistics

Installation Requirements

  • Minimum of 4,000 square feet
  • Secure Exhibit Space that is staffed during hours
  • Minimum of two-person installation crew
  • Certificate of Insurance

Exhibit Components

  • 3 inflatables (optionals based on square feet)
  • 1 mock headquarters
  • 2 oral history stations
  • 2 interactive deception stations (audio and Morse Code stations)

Program Offers Included in the booking fee are:

  • Installation and packing guidelines
  • Layout and installation support
  • Educational brochure, which includes exhibit themes, lesson plans, and additional resources
  • Consultation with The National WWII Museum’s Assistant Director of Public Engagement for programming ideas
  • Marketing guide that provides instructions and templates for designing a rack card, poster, banner, advertisement and press releases

Application and Forms

Are you interested in bringing this exhibit to your institution? Please review our current schedule/availability, installation logistics page, and the forms below and contact us by phone or email if you need more information. Once you have reviewed all the information, please submit all materials and we will review and inform you of any concerns regarding a potential exhibit presentation. If you are approved as a host venue, we will contact you and proceed with contracting. 

Submit by mail to:

Traveling Exhibits Manager The National WWII Museum 945 Magazine Street, New Orleans, 70130

Submit by email to:

[email protected]

Pre-Host Forms Download, fill out, and scan or mail the Host Application and Facility Report below. The Facility Report provides a record of the latest information about an institution's physical specifications and staff practices, and will help us better serve your institution's needs. Traveling exhibit application Facility Report 

Post-Host Form Please fill out the following report when the exhibit closes at your institution. It will help us improve host institutions' experiences and learn visitation patterns, as well as information regarding associated educational programs and events. Final Report

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The Ghost Army

2013, Documentary, 1h 8m

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The ghost army   photos.

During World War II, American soldiers bluff the enemy using inflatable tanks and elaborate light shows.

Genre: Documentary

Original Language: English

Director: Rick Beyer

Producer: Rick Beyer , Jacqueline Sheridan

Writer: Rick Beyer

Release Date (Streaming): Jul 2, 2016

Runtime: 1h 8m

Production Co: Plate of Peas Productions

Cast & Crew

Peter Coyote


Jacqueline Sheridan

Matt Mariano

Original Music

Dillard Morrison


Jon Neuburger

Film Editing

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ghost army ww2 movie

The Ghost Army

ghost army ww2 movie

-T om Brokaw, NBC Special Correspondent, author of The Greatest Generation . Order the new edition today! The Documentary Film

theghostarmy 227

This award-winning film premiered on PBS in 2013, and has been seen in more than 25 countries. It is available on Amazon and other home video outlets. "Fascinating, detailed and oddly delightful" -LA Times

theghostarmy 227

The Ghost Army Legacy Project

A non-profit dedicated to honoring and preserving the legacy of The Ghost Army by building a Ghost Army archive, encouraging exhibit development, and seeking official recognition for the unit.

theghostarmy 227

The Exhibit

theghostarmy 227

The National World War II Museum in New Orleans has put together a new exhibit, Ghost Army: The Combat Con Artists of World War II. Created in conjunction with the Ghost Army Legacy Project, it is the largest and most ambitious exhibit on the unit ever created. The exhibit was originally displayed at the World War II Museum. It has since been displayed at the Illinois Holocaust Memorial in Skokie, Il, and the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, NV. The exhibit moves to the National Veterans Memorial and Museum in Ohio from May 25 to September 5 2024. Then it goes to the Missouri History Museum in St. Louis from September 23 2024 to January 12 2025.

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A list of Military Horror Films

Military horror films combine two greatly entertaining genres of military action and traditional/nontraditional horror elements. It is a small subgenre where the emphasis shifts from action to building an all-around sense of foreboding and impending doom. This can take the form of a tightly knit group of individuals pitted against some external paranormal force or intrinsic forces inside the human mind. The rigid discipline of the group, bleak and fatalistic settings, and military action all combine to provide stimulating entertainment. Here is a list of what I have seen and liked. The list should only be seen as a collection of personal favorites. Note: The listing is not as per ranking.

  • Movies or TV
  • IMDb Rating
  • In Theaters
  • Release Year

1. Dead of Night (1974)

PG | 88 min | Drama, Horror, Thriller

A young soldier killed in the Vietnam War inexplicably shows up at his family home on the night of his death.

Director: Bob Clark | Stars: John Marley , Lynn Carlin , Richard Backus , Henderson Forsythe

Votes: 5,903 | Gross: $0.03M

Homecoming from nam with more than PTSD! A B-movie classic.

2. Predator (1987)

R | 107 min | Action, Adventure, Horror

A team of commandos on a mission in a Central American jungle find themselves hunted by an extraterrestrial warrior.

Director: John McTiernan | Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger , Carl Weathers , Kevin Peter Hall , Elpidia Carrillo

Votes: 447,138 | Gross: $59.74M

Instant and enduring classic.

3. Jacob's Ladder (I) (1990)

R | 113 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery

Mourning his dead child, a haunted Vietnam War veteran attempts to uncover his past while suffering from a severe case of dissociation. To do so, he must decipher reality and life from his own dreams, delusions, and perceptions of death.

Director: Adrian Lyne | Stars: Tim Robbins , Elizabeth Peña , Danny Aiello , Matt Craven

Votes: 116,501 | Gross: $26.12M

One of the very best Psychological thriller/horror ever.

4. The Bunker (2001)

R | 88 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery

Germany, 1944. The forests of the Ardennes. A platoon of battle weary German soldiers, forced into confusion and retreat by advancing Allied forces, take refuge in an isolated Siegfried Line bunker.

Director: Rob Green | Stars: Jason Flemyng , Andrew Tiernan , Christopher Fairbank , Simon Kunz

Votes: 6,153

Nice psychological thriller.

5. Dog Soldiers (2002)

R | 105 min | Action, Horror, Thriller

A routine military exercise turns into a nightmare in the Scottish wilderness.

Director: Neil Marshall | Stars: Sean Pertwee , Kevin McKidd , Emma Cleasby , Liam Cunningham

Votes: 64,933

Good entertainment value.

6. Below (2002)

R | 105 min | Action, Horror, Mystery

Strange happenings occur on a WW II submarine.

Director: David Twohy | Stars: Bruce Greenwood , David Crow , Matthew Davis , Holt McCallany

Votes: 23,888 | Gross: $0.61M

Has a TV movie feel but interesting premise. Olivia Williams is an eye tonic.

7. Deathwatch (2002)

R | 94 min | Drama, Horror, War

In the middle of World War I, nine British soldiers caught behind enemy lines seek refuge in a complex network of German trenches. What they soon discover is that they aren't alone - and it isn't a German soldier that's hunting them down.

Director: M.J. Bassett | Stars: Jamie Bell , Rúaidhrí Conroy , Mike Downey , Laurence Fox

Votes: 13,149

8. R-Point (2004)

R | 107 min | Action, Horror, War

During the Vietnam War, a South Korean base receives a radio transmission from a missing squad, presumed dead, and sends a platoon to rescue the lost squad from the R-Point.

Director: Su-chang Kong | Stars: Kam Woo-seong , Son Byung-ho , Lee Sun-kyun , Park Won-sang

Votes: 5,777

A well made Korean Horror film, unfolds against the backdrop of Vietnam conflict. Eerie and bleak a quality addition to the genre.

10. The Objective (2008)

Not Rated | 90 min | Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller

A military special operations team, led by a CIA case officer, are on a mission in the harsh and hostile terrain of Afghanistan where they find themselves in a Middle Eastern "Bermuda Triangle" of ancient evil.

Director: Daniel Myrick | Stars: Jonas Ball , Matthew R. Anderson , Jon Huertas , Michael C. Williams

Votes: 8,440 | Gross: $2.25M

From a maker of "Blair Witch Project". Runs more like an episode of the "X Files".

11. The Guard Post (2008)

121 min | Horror, Mystery, Thriller

A group of GP506 soldiers have been brutally massacred, leaving only one alive but comatose. A military police investigator has only that night to uncover the facts, but ends up discovering a terrifying truth.

Director: Su-chang Kong | Stars: Chun Ho-jin , Hyun-jae Cho , Young-hoon Lee , Kim Byeong-cheol

Votes: 1,882

An impressive follow on by the director of R-Point

12. Dead Snow (2009)

Not Rated | 91 min | Comedy, Fantasy, Horror

A ski vacation turns horrific for a group of medical students, as they find themselves confronted by an unimaginable menace: Nazi zombies.

Director: Tommy Wirkola | Stars: Jeppe Beck Laursen , Charlotte Frogner , Jenny Skavlan , Geir Vegar Hoel

Votes: 69,514 | Gross: $0.04M

Nazi Zombie Comedy Horror with makings of a cult classic

13. The Squad (2011)

Not Rated | 108 min | Horror, Thriller

After losing contact with a military base, a high mountain unit is sent to investigate. Upon arrival, they find only a woman in chains. Isolation and the impossibility of escape serve to undermine the soldiers' judgment.

Director: Jaime Osorio Marquez | Stars: Juan Pablo Barragán , Alejandro Aguilar , Mauricio Navas , Juan David Restrepo

Votes: 1,712

A slow building, brooding psychological thriller, with good atmospherics.

14. War of the Dead (I) (2011)

Not Rated | 86 min | Action, Adventure, Horror

A platoon of American and Finnish soldiers is driven deep into a Russian forest where its Captain discovers a terrifying secret.

Director: Marko Mäkilaakso | Stars: Andrew Tiernan , Jouko Ahola , Samuli Vauramo , Mikko Leppilampi

Votes: 2,783

world war II based low budget zombie movie

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    The Ghost Army 2013 TV-PG 1h 8m IMDb RATING 7.6 /10 600 YOUR RATING Rate Documentary History During World War II, a hand-picked group of American GI's undertook a bizarre mission: create a traveling road show of deception on the battlefields of Europe, with the German Army as their audience.

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    The documentary tells the history of the secret U.S. Army unit of 1,100 troops that was set up in 1944 and operated until 1945 in the final stages of World War II in the fight against German army units in various parts of Europe.

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    The Ghost Army The Ghost Army was officially known as the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops. From June 1944 to March 1945 it staged 20 battlefield deceptions, beginning in Normandy and ending at the Rhine River.

  4. Ghost Army

    The Ghost Army was a United States Army tactical deception unit during World War II officially known as the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops. [1] [2] The 1,100-man unit was given a unique mission: to deceive Hitler's forces and mislead them as to the size and location of Allied forces, while giving the actual units elsewhere time to maneuver. [3]

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  7. The Ghost Army streaming: where to watch online?

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  8. Ghost Army, a World War II Master of Deception, Finally Wins

    Ghost Army, a World War II Master of Deception, Finally Wins Recognition President Biden signed a bill that bestows the Congressional Gold Medal to the members of "a traveling roadshow of...

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  13. about

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  14. The Top-Secret WWII Unit That Fooled the Nazis

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  18. Ben Affleck will bring WW2 'Ghost Army' to the big screen

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    Ghost Army: The Combat Con Artists of World War II Exclusively Sponsored by E. L. Wiegand Foundation Activated on January 20, 1944, the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, known as the "Ghost Army," was the first mobile, multimedia, tactical deception unit in US Army history.

  20. The Ghost Army

    During World War II, American soldiers bluff the enemy using inflatable tanks and elaborate light shows.

  21. home

    The Ghost Army of World War II, by Rick Beyer and Elizabeth Sayles, details the fascinating story of this top-secret WWII unit that used inflatable tanks, sound effects, and illusions to fool the Germans on the battlefields of Europe. This updated edition was published by Princeton Architectural Press in October 2023.

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    IMDb is the world's most popular and authoritative source for movie, TV and celebrity content. Find ratings and reviews for the newest movie and TV shows. Get personalized recommendations, and learn where to watch across hundreds of streaming providers.

  23. A list of Military Horror Films

    1. Dead of Night (1974) PG | 88 min | Drama, Horror, Thriller 6.6 Rate A young soldier killed in the Vietnam War inexplicably shows up at his family home on the night of his death. Director: Bob Clark | Stars: John Marley, Lynn Carlin, Richard Backus, Henderson Forsythe Votes: 5,889 | Gross: $0.03M Homecoming from nam with more than PTSD!