Bernard Harold Mason
2LT in 603rd Engineer Camouflage Bn : Co D
Born 1920 in PA, Died 2020
County of residence at enlistment: Philadelphia County, PA
Other residence(s): Philadelphia, PA in 1942; Wynnewood, PA in 2002
United States Army, European Theatre of Operations
Occupation before the war: semiskilled chauffeurs and drivers, bus, taxi, truck, and tractor
College education before the war: Drexel 1 year
College education after the war: Villanova
Bernie Mason was born on May 7, 1920 in Philadelphia, PA. He was the middle of three children; his father had been born in England, and all four of his grandparents were born in Russia. He was interested in art from an early age, winning a drawing contest in his teens.
He graduated from Overbrook High School, and went to work as a sign painter, and as a designer of display windows for a store in Philadelphia. He also got in a year of study at Drexel before the war intervened. He enlisted on October 29, 1941 and was called to duty on the day of the Pearl Harbor bombing, December 7, 1941.
He ended up in Officer's Candidate School and was commissioned a 2LT. He was eventually assigned to the 603rd Camouflage Engineers Battalion and led a 15-man task force into France eight days after D-Day, ahead of the bulk of the Ghost Army troops. He and his small company were assigned the task of setting up phantom artillery. "They wanted to see if the concept of deception would actually work under battlefield conditions," said Bernie. They were successful in inviting attacks from both artillery and aircraft, but happily there were no casualties.
Bernie was discharged from the Army with the rank of 1LT in December, 1945. After returning to Philadelphia, he married Dorothy Sacks, literally the girl next door. They would go on to have two children: Carl and Bobbi.
Bernie continued to pursue a career in art, serving as Corporate Creative Director of Rollins Outdoor Advertising for 27 years. He then ran his own graphic arts business.
When he was 70, he took up powerlifting, and won a national championship in the bench press at a US Powerlifting Federation event in the over-75 age category, pressing 192 3/4 pounds.
When he was 71, he he went back to school, studying geography at Villanova University; he graduated magna cum laude in 1995.
After Rick Beyer interviewed him for the Ghost Army documentary Bernie appeared at a number of Ghost Army events, and served on the Advisory Board of the Ghost Army Legacy Project.
His obituary reports that he enjoyed math and word puzzles, and that he always carried a camera to take photographs of people that he would then bring into his home art studio and use as the basis for portraits.
Bernie died on March 18, 2020, in Philadelphia.
1941 enlistment record
1946 marriage record
1950 Pennsylvania WW2 Veteran Compensation File
2000 article in The Philadelphia Inquirer about his powerlifting
2013 article in The Philadelphia Inquirer about his Ghost Army experience
2020 obituary in The Philadelphia Inquirer