Faking Out The Führer

Susan Karlin previews an upcoming PBS documentary about the “artistic sleight-of-hand” that helped the US defeat the Germans in WWII:

This is the astonishing true story of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, nicknamed the Ghost Army, a group of 1,100 handpicked American G.I.s who tricked the German army with rubber artillery, sound effects, fake radio transmissions, and psychological illusions during the summer of 1944. Many of these young soldiers were art students who would go on to illustrious careers in art, design, and fashion–including fashion designer Bill Blass, painter Ellsworth Kelly, and photographer Art Kane. But during quiet moments, they would often sketch and paint their surroundings, offering a fine-art chronicling of the mission. …

The Ghost Army devised more than 20 deceptive operations, phony convoys, and phantom divisions–each impersonating a different (and vastly larger) U.S. unit–to fool the enemy about the strength and ubiquity of American units. Soldiers even hung out at local cafés, spinning yarns for eavesdropping spies. The effort culminated along the Rhine in the final days of the war, in which thousands of lives depended on a convincing performance.