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Davis Journal

Bipartisan legislation honors secret Ghost Army vets

Feb 11, 2021 11:26AM ● By Becky Ginos

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congressman Chris Stewart and Rep. Ann Kuster introduced the Ghost Army Congressional Gold Medal Act last week to honor members of two top-secret United States Army units that specialized in tactical deceptions during WWII.

“About a year and a half ago I was at the State Capitol and saw a young woman named Madeline Christianson holding a banner and speaking about her great grandfather Stanley Nance who was in the Ghost Army,” said Stewart. “That’s what started the effort to recognize those veterans with the Gold Medal. It was really because of meeting this young woman.”

The Ghost Army used things such as inflatable fakes of tanks and artillery to give the impression it was a massive army when it wasn’t, Stewart said. “They’d send out fake electronic messages too. Many of them spoke several languages so they’d dress in civilian clothes and sit in restaurants, acting like locals. They’d tell lies hoping those around them would hear.”

There were 1,110 members, he said. “Only 11 are still alive. Nance is one of them. He’s going to turn 103 in a couple of weeks and I got to meet him. He’s so engaging and has a lot of energy. The tactics were classified, so for 50 years he was not able to talk to his wife and his own family about what he did in the war.” 

They put themselves in danger by pretending to be a massive army, Stewart said. “Can you imagine trying to get the Germans to attack you because they think there’s a big army but there’s really only a few of you? It was a dangerous, dangerous job.”

Some of the important missions the Ghost Army completed that helped the Allied forces secure victory are:

• Operation Brittany, July 1944: Misled the Nazis about Patton’s intention as he raced across France to smash the German army.

• Operation Bettembourg, September 1944: Held dangerously undermanned part of Patton’s line as he attacked the fortress city of Metz.

• Operation Viersen, March 1945: Drew enemy attention away from the Ninth Army’s crossing of the Rhine River in their biggest deception of the war.

The Army estimates the Ghost Army may have saved up to 30,000 U.S. lives during WWII. The tactics helped win the war and built the foundation of some techniques and strategies that the Armed Forces use today, according to material provided.

“It’s really a remarkable story,” said Stewart. “One of the reasons we’re moving so quickly is many of them are growing older so time is drawing short. We want these individuals to get the recognition they deserve.”