We’re all familiar with the story of The Trojan Horse and how it allowed soldiers to infiltrate enemy lines in secret. It’s a popular story - and for good reason.
However, my favorite war decoy story occurred much more recently and involved the US military.
During the final year of WWII, the US military secretly put together a ghost army.
According to The Ghost Army Legacy Project, “From Normandy to the Rhine, the 1,100 men of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, known as the Ghost Army, conjured up phony convoys, phantom divisions, and make-believe headquarters to fool the enemy about the strength and location of American units.”
Not only did this Ghost Army fool the Germans, but it also kept itself secret for decades.
It wasn’t until 1985 that the first public story was written about the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops.
Shortly thereafter, it was reclassified and kept secret until 1996.
Now, we can read firsthand accounts of the Ghost Army and even view traveling exhibits at history museums.
More importantly, we can learn a lot from these ghost troops by following their example of creating decoys to keep our homes – and ourselves – safe.
How the Ghost Army of WWII Saved Thousands of Lives
In 1943, the United States Army started looking for recruits for a new, non-combat unit.
For those who wanted to serve but didn’t want to be involved in combat, it seemed like an interesting way to help the country.
According to Smithsonian Magazine, “Drawing on members’ artistic talent and technological savvy, the Ghost Army created elaborate illusions featuring inflatable tanks, jeeps, and artillery; speakers that blasted prerecorded tracks of troops in action; and falsified radio dispatches. Their goal: to confuse and intimidate the Germans by offering a false sense of the Americans’ numbers and troop movements.”
It is believed that their elaborate decoys saved as many as 30,000 American servicemen.
With only 1,023 men and 82 officers, they tricked the Germans into believing they were a force of 40,000.
They did this by using creativity and imagination to fool their attackers.
Their decoys included things such as:
- Giant, inflatable tanks
- Loud recordings of troop training
- Fake radio messages
- Dummy planes and trucks made from wood
- Simulated sounds of construction
One classified Army report post-war declared, “Rarely, if ever, has there been a group of such a few men which had so great an influence on the outcome of a major military campaign.”
In 2022, the remaining soldiers of the Ghost Army received the Congressional Gold Medal for “unique and highly distinguished service in conducting deception operations.”
We’d be wise to follow their example when preparing for an attack or social unrest.
Here are just a few lessons we can gather from the Ghost Army of WWII.
Loose Lips, Loose Preps
You’ve likely heard, “Loose lips sink ships.”
When you share classified information, you put yourself and others in danger.
The Ghost Army was kept classified for decades after the war, and the men in the unit didn’t even share about it with friends and family back home.
Similarly, we shouldn’t share our prepping secrets.
Don’t tell your neighbors how much emergency food you have stored. Don’t share where it is hidden.
And, as tempting as it might be, don’t show off your collection of preparedness gear.
Good Fences Make Good Neighbors
In his poem “Mending Wall,” Robert Frost writes, “Good fences make good neighbors.”
The idea is that we all need a little privacy.
This is especially true when it comes to preparedness. You want to keep your land and home private.
If SHTF, looters will be less likely to break onto land with a fence than those without fences.
Hide in Plain Sight
The Ghost Army made giant decoy trucks out of wood and burlap. Up close, you could tell they were fake.
But from up in the air, they looked like actual trucks, which made the Germans believe the enemy troop was much larger than it really was.
Keep this idea in mind when you are hiding emergency food and prep gear.
Instead of keeping all your emergency gear in your tool shed, hide it in plain sight.
Use your planters as storage containers. Use #10 food cans to hide prepping gear. Place essential items in less-than-important boxes (for example, you can hide money in an empty laundry detergent bottle).
Keep Food out of Sight
While it is good to hide some things in plain sight, other things should be kept out of sight.
For example, do not plant a vegetable garden in your front yard right by the sidewalk.
If SHTF, people will scavenge for food. This includes scavenging gardens.
Build your garden in a spot that is harder to see.
Similarly, you should keep your long-term emergency food out of sight.
Hide it under your bed, in a fake wall, or inside your luggage.
Make Your Home Undesirable
Should SHTF, think like the Ghost Army when it comes to fooling potential looters. Make them think your home isn’t what it really is.
Give your home an appearance that it has already been looted.
Let the grass grow. Don’t clean outside. Add graffiti.
If your home looks lived-in and well-kept, it’s a sign that food and people are inside.
Home Alone Style Decoys
With Christmas approaching, I couldn’t help but think of Kevin Arnold’s decoys in the movie Home Alone.
Like the Ghost Army, he also utilizes recordings of sounds to deter unwelcome guests.
The Ghost Army used sound recordings of troops training and building. They played these noises constantly to give the impression of more people than there were.
In Home Alone, Kevin uses the sounds of an angry man yelling and gunfire to deter the criminals.
In addition to noises, use fake decoys like the Ghost Army and Kevin Arnold did.
Use cardboard stand-outs of people, put up inflatables, or sit out a dog dish to give the impression there is a dog at home.
Conceal Supplies Entering the Home
Do you have a nosy neighbor?
You want to be careful about the deliveries you receive and the shopping you do.
If they see you unloading bulk food items, they’ll know you have an emergency food stash.
If they see you receiving deliveries from certain companies, they’ll know what sort of emergency gear you’ve got.
Note – My Patriot Supply knows how important privacy and security are to you, which is why our boxes arrive unmarked, so no one knows what you’ve ordered and received.
Don’t Keep Your Eggs All in One Basket
It’s wise to scatter your resources around.
If you have all your emergency food and gear stored in the same place, you run the risk of looters taking everything you have at once.
Instead, spread your resources around.
Be prepared to sacrifice the goods stored out in the open, like those food items with nearing expiration dates.
Then, opt to hide the other supplies.
Don’t Shine Bright
You’ve likely been told to let your light shine bright at one time or another.
But when it comes to preparedness decoys, the opposite is true.
You do not want to use electricity, anything that lights up your home or makes noises, when those around you are without it.
This calls attention to your home and your supplies. Others will want access to this power source.
Keep the power off and use it only as needed.
Follow the Ghost Army’s example, friends.
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply