About a year before the end of World War II, an elite group of men pulled off some of the greatest military trickery perhaps since 1184 BC when the Greeks duped their way into Troy by hiding in a hollow wooden horse. Now through July 23, the Nevada Museum of Art is hosting Ghost Army: The Combat Con Artists of World War II, telling the tale of the U.S. Army’s top-secret unit, the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops.

Dubbed the Ghost Army, it consisted of more than 1,100 men who were trained to deceive Adolf Hitler’s armies in what the official Ghost Army historical website calls a “traveling roadshow of deception on the battlefields of Europe with the German Army as their audience.” The troops made landfall in Normandy, France, and tricked their way to the Rhine River in Germany, using conjured up phony convoys, phantom divisions, and make-believe headquarters to fool the enemy about the strength and location of American units. Together, this highly trained team — 82 officers and 1,023 men — created the illusion of being two individual divisions that would’ve totaled about 30,000 troops if they existed in reality. Under the command of Col. Harry L. Reeder, the unit used inflatable rubber tanks, vehicles, artillery, and airplanes, and often ensured they were poorly camouflaged. Sound trucks blasted simulated, previously recorded sound effects and radios broadcasted bogus traffic.

“Like actors in a repertory theater, they would mount an ever-changing multimedia show tailored to each operation tailored to each show,” according to the ghostarmy.org official website. “The men immersed themselves in their roles, even hanging out at local cafes and spinning their counterfeit stories for spies who might lurk in the shadows.”


In total, the unit staged 22 separate simulated operations. Through an exhibit of historical artifacts, sketches, and photographs, visitors at the Nevada Museum of Art can learn about the deception pulled off by the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops that helped liberate Europe from Hitler and the Nazis. There will even be life-sized recreations of inflatable military equipment used during the operations.

Ghost Army: The Combat Con Artists of World War II is exclusively sponsored by the E.L. Wiegand Foundation, which is also generously supporting free admission for active military members, their families, and veterans throughout the course of the exhibit. 

Additional education and programming sponsors include Carole Anderson, the Bretzlaff Foundation, the Thelma B. and Thomas P. Hart Foundation, the Jackie and Steve Kane Family Trust, McDonald Carano, The Private Bank by Nevada State Bank, and Whittier Trust Investment and Wealth Management.

Info: nevadaart.org

~ Juliana Demarest/Moonshine Ink    


  • Juliana Demarest

    Juliana Demarest is a Jersey girl with ink in her blood. She fell in love with print journalism at a young age in the '80s when her Uncle Tony would take her to "work" at his weekly paper. In 1997, she co-founded a weekly newspaper in North Jersey. One day, she went to photograph a local farmer for a news story. She ended up marrying him and leaving journalism to become a farmer's wife. In 2010, they packed up their two children and headed to Truckee in pursuit of the outdoor life. She didn't realize just how much she missed journalism until she joined Moonshine in 2018 after taking time off to be mom. Connect with Juliana juliana@moonshineink.com

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