Second World War 'Ghost Army' helped Allies win war

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They were known as the 'Ghost Army', an eclectic group of actors, make-up artists and sound experts who together engineered one of the greatest deceptions in military history.

Using hundreds of inflatable tanks and artillery, deploying the latest sound technology and posing as drunken military officers in order to spread disinformation, the Ghost Army is credited with helping the Allies win the war in Europe and saving thousands of British and American lives.

Over the course of five major campaigns, the unit arranged 20 intricately-planned battlefield deceptions, from Normandy to the Rhine, in order to trick Hitler's armies into believing that Allied forces were in places they were not.

For decades the soldiers were not allowed to talk of their extraordinary war record and the existence of the unit was denied by the Pentagon.

But now, more than 65 years on, the extraordinary work of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops is being detailed in a documentary and an exhibition in the United States.

The top secret unit, which carried out its mission without firing a shot, consisted of around 1,100 make-up artists, actors, sound technicians, painters, photographers and press agents, many of them drawn from Hollywood.

Rick Beyer, 53, the documentary maker who has spent the past four years interviewing 21 surviving members of the unusual unit, explained that the original idea for the unit came after Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery deceived Rommel by building dummy tanks out of plywood during the Battle of El Alamein.

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