New exhibit at Illinois Holocaust Museum reveals untold story of World War II: the “Ghost Army”

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CHICAGO (CBS) — It’s an incredible part of World War II history that many people don’t know; a group known as the “Ghost Army,” setting up elaborate ruses to fool the Nazis about the location and size of Allied forces.

CBS 2’s Shardaa Gray shows how you can learn all about these well-regarded con artists at the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie. 

“‘Ghost Army: the Combat Con Artists of World War II’ tells the story of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops of the U.S. Army, which was the first mobile, multi-media tactical deception unit in U.S. Army history,” said Kelley Szany, the museum’s vice president of education and exhibitions.

The exhibit details 22 large-scale deceptions launched by the Ghost Army, from Normandy to the Rhine River, between D-Day and the end of the war.

“Here, you can come to the exhibit, and you can play the different sound effects. For instance, what the tanks might sound like rolling in,” Szany said.

When you come to the Ghost Army exhibit at the Holocaust Museum, you’ll see inflatable replicas, such as an M7 Priest tank, which is about 80 percent in size of the actual tank that was used in World War II.

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

“Ultimately, the liberation of Europe, and thereby the end of Holocaust, the liberation of the camps, and other places that were occupied by the Nazis, wouldn’t have come without the men that were part of this unit,” Szany said.

President Joe Biden signed a bill in February that awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to the members of “a traveling roadshow of deception” that built inflatable tanks and trucks to trick the Germans.

“It took well over 40, 50 years for this story to be recognized,” Szany said.

The Ghost Army exhibition opens Thursday and closes on Jan. 2, 2023.



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