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Congress Passes Bill to Honor Ghost Army
Bill to Award Congressional Gold Medal to Secretive Army Units Awaits President’s Signature
Wednesday, January 19, 2022
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The seven-year campaign to recognize the contributions of the Ghost Army reached its penultimate conclusion Wednesday with final passage of a bill (S.1404) to award the secretive WWII army units with a Congressional Gold Medal.
The bipartisan bill now goes to President Biden’s desk for his signature, which is expected within two weeks.
“What made the Ghost Army special was not just their extraordinary courage, but their creativity,” said Rep. Annie Kuster (D-NH), the House sponsor of the bill, speaking on the floor of the House Wednesday. “Their story reminds us that listening to unconventional ideas, like using visual and sound deception, can help us solve existential challenges like defeating tyranny.”
Other primary bill sponsors include Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT), and Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) in the Senate.
“What an honor,” said 98-year-old Ghost Army veteran Bernie Bluestein, from his home in suburban Chicago. “I never in my lifetime expected anything like this, it completely blasts me. I’m just sorry that there are not more of my fellow soldiers still alive that can be enjoying this as much as I do.” There are nine surviving Ghost Army veterans scattered throughout the U.S.: Florida, Illinois, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Utah.
Wednesday’s vote in the House of Representatives reconciles a Senate version of the bill passed earlier by the House. It caps an ambitious public awareness campaign by the Ghost Army Legacy Project, which worked for years to shed light on the Ghost Army’s critical role in numerous WWII battles.
“This has been a long but ultimately rewarding effort to bring attention and much overdue recognition to the Ghost Army,” said Rick Beyer, president of The Ghost Army Legacy Project. “ “So many have contributed to this moment — volunteers, members of the House and Senate from both parties, Ghost Army veterans and their families — with energy and devotion to seeing the valiant efforts of the Ghost Army properly honored.”
The existence of the Ghost Army was top secret for more than 50 years until it was declassified in 1996. That’s when the public first learned of the creative, daring techniques the Ghost Army employed to fool and distract the enemy about the strength and location of American troops, including the use of inflatable tanks, sound effects, radio trickery and impersonation.
The 23rd Headquarters Special Troops staged more than 20 deception operations, often dangerously close to the front, in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany. This “traveling road show of deception,” of only 1,100 troops appearing to be more than 20,000, are credited with saving an estimated 30,000 American lives. U.S. Army analyst Mark Kronman stated, “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.”A sister unit the 3133rd Signal Company Special, carried out two deceptions in Italy in 1945.
The Congressional Gold Medal is Congress's utmost expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions by individuals or institutions. Dating back to the American Revolution, The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest distinction Congress can bestow.
“Today’s vote was a big moment for us,” said Beyer. “But the real celebration will come when President Biden signs the bill and later when the Gold Medal is actually placed in the hands of the Ghost Army veterans.”
For more information see www.ghostarmylegacyproject.org
Rick Beyer, President
Ghost Army Legacy Project