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


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.


Circassia News

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