Ghost Army

A Legacy of Creative Service.

Colonel Schmidt smiled broadly and pulled on his cigarette.  He envisioned the Fuhrer promoting him to General and pinning a medal on his chest in the main square of Berlin. It would be the proudest day of his life.

But then something was wrong. Where were the battalions he expected to meet on the other side of the forest? All the messages they had intercepted indicated the presence of troops there. He had seen many tanks in the area with his own eyes! He had heard the advancing trucks. When a shell landed near the Colonel, his smile left for good, and he scurried for cover.

So, what is that vignette all about? The German officer had been duped by the Ghost Army, an undercover unit during WW II whose mission was to deceive the enemy and trick them into chasing the nonexistent American troops. The Ghost Army used dummy weapons like rubber tanks and trucks, allowed the Germans to intercept manufactured radio messages, and used powerful loudspeakers to convince the Germans that they were hearing troop movements.

Did these tricks work? Yes, they did. The 23RD Headquarters Special Troops saved thousands of American lives. Local psychologist Bert Edelstein’s father fought with the Ghost Army, but Bert never knew of his involvement until after his passing in 1965. Why? The troops were told by their superiors to never speak of their unit and its mission if their services would be needed in future wars. 

This situation changed when psychologist Rick Beyer decided to make a documentary about the unit. In the process, he realized the men who made up the Ghost Soldiers were unsung heroes, and he set out to obtain congressional recognition for their service. Bert and others lobbied Senators and Congressmen, and finally, President Biden signed legislation authorizing the Congressional Gold Medal for the soldiers. A ceremony recently took place in Washington, D.C., which Bert and his wife Karen Helrich attended.

Most of the Ghost Soldiers have left us, but their legacy lives on due to the efforts of seniors like Bert Edelstein and Rick Beyer.