World War IIs US Ghost Army

Overview of the Ghost Army During World War II the Ghost Army, a tactical deception unit which imitated prior British operations, was used by the US military.  Information on this unit remained undisclosed until 1996.  In fact, parts of it still remain classified.   The conception of the Ghost Army unit began in 1942 when the British used this deceptive technique during the battle of el Alamein.   The US Ghost Army was made up of 1,100 men.  Their mission was to deceive the enemy by impersonating other US Army units and luring German units away from the locations of larger Allied combat units.   The Ghost Army missions began just a few weeks following the D-Day invasions and continued on through to the end of the war.  In simple terms, these troops put on a ‘travelling side show’.  They used a number of pieces pioneered by the British including inflatable tanks and aircraft and sound tracks of men and artillery which played through giant speakers.  This fooled Germans into thinking they were facing a much larger force - in upwards of 30,000 men.  The Ghost Army also transmitted fake radio messages and used pretense with their operations.  Many of their assignments took them close to the front lines.   Most of the Ghost soldiers were recruited from schools that encouraged creativity – such as art schools or advertising agencies - as this particular soldier was encouraged to use his brain and talent in an effort to deceive, confuse and mislead the German Army.   Visual Tactics The 603rd Camouflage Engineers were in charge of the visual tactics portion of...

World War II Era – The Greatest Generation

People often refer to the World War II era United States citizens as the greatest generation.  This phrase was first coined by journalist and former NBC Nightly News anchor Tom Brokaw.  Brokaw, who wrote a book in 1998 entitled The Greatest Generation, reflected in the book on the incredible achievements and humble demeanor of the WWII generation.   Though everyone may not agree, no one can dispute the transformative events this generation experienced and how they were willing to step up to the plate and do whatever had to be done to ‘get the job done’.   The World War II generation was too young to remember the First World War and the modest experience of economic prosperity of the 1920s.  But by 1929, when the Great Depression occurred,  many had become of age.  Though they experienced the United States struggle to get back on its feet first hand, they also witnessed the transformation.   The United States Enters WWII World War II began in 1939. In the early years, the United States remained neutral.  However, all that changed on December 7, 1941 when Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese.  Not only did the United States enter the war, but the entire nation came together in an effort to win the war.  And the support from this generation began immediately after the bombing with hundreds of thousands of men voluntarily enlisting in the United States military.  But the efforts and support of this generation, by far, did not stop there.   At home, many jobs these young volunteers held were vacated.  But those at home stepped up to the...

The Role of Native American’s During World War II

For the most part, the role of Native American’s during World War II is greatly overlooked.  In fact, Native American’s made a greater per capita contribution to the war than any other group.     It is estimated that approximately one million Native Americans lived in what is now known as the United States when Christopher Columbus arrived.  Less than 400 years later, the population had dwindled down to around 250,000 Indians.  By 1940, that number had risen to around 350,000.  Of that 350,000, 44,000 of them saw military service during WWII.  The Native Americans were involved in all conflicts and received numerous medals, awards and citations.  Three even received the Congressional Medal of Honor – Lt. Ernest Childers from the Creek tribe, Lt. jack Montgomery, a Cherokee Indian and Lt. Van Barfoot a Choctaw.   The United States Enters the War and So Do the Native Americans After the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, many Native Americans either enlisted in the armed forces, or went to work in the war plants.  According to one survey, by 1942 the majority of the Native Americans in the service had enlisted voluntarily.   Back in 1917, the Iroquois Confederacy had declared war on Germany.  At the start of WWII, they still had not made peace and were more than ready to fight.  Other tribes were also ready as well.  Some were willing to wait for hours in bad weather in order to sign their draft cards.  Others showed up with their rifles, ready to fight.  It is estimated that about a quarter of the Mescalero Apaches enlisted voluntarily.  This was the same...

Youngest Serviceman in World War II – Calvin Graham

Calvin Graham – the youngest serviceman in World War II – was only 12 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.  He did not wait a year or two before joining the service; no by May of 1942, he had enlisted in the US Navy.   Some speculate the deaths of his cousins inspired him to join.  He began shaving at the age of 11 to assist with passing himself off as older and had some friends of his parents forge his parent’s signature.   Due to the need for enlisted men, the petty officers at boot camp were not concerned with anyone’s age.  Graham was therefore able to successfully complete the course.  A fellow seaman later told the Chicago Tribune that the Navy had already suffered a high number of casualties and were desperate to build up its crew.   Graham first served on the USS South Dakota (BB-57) where he experienced the intense fighting first hand.  He assisted in fire control during the Battle of Guadalcanal.  During that time, he suffered a number of wounds, including burns and having his front teeth were knocked out.  However, Graham didn’t let his injuries stop him.  The New York Times later reported that despite his injuries, he continued to assist the wounded.  The Smithsonian Magazine wrote that according to Graham, he would remove belts from the dead and use them as tourniquets for the wounded.  He is also reported to have given the wounded cigarettes and stayed up all night encouraging them.  As a result of his actions during this time, he received both the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart.  ...

Interesting Facts About World War II

Below is a list of interesting facts about World War II: 1.       World War II, to date, caused more destruction and cost more money than any other conflict.  Russia alone suffered more than 21 million casualties – more than any other country involved in the war. 2.       Four of every five German soldiers killed in the war, died on the Eastern Front. 3.       Only 20% of the males born in the Soviet Union in 1923 survived the war.  4.       An average of 27,700 tons of bombs was dropped per month by the Allies from 1939 to 1945 for a total of 3.4 million tons. 5.       Facts about Pearl Harbor: a.       At the time of the attack, 96 ships were anchored b.      18 of the ships were sunk or seriously damaged – this included eight battleships c.       A total of 2,402 American men were killed with another 1,280 being injured d.      A total of 350 aircraft were either damaged or destroyed e.      President Roosevelt used Al Capons’ bullet proof car (which had been seized by the US Treasury in 1931 and was the only bulletproof vehicle available) as a means of safe transportation to deliver his infamous Pearl Harbor speech. 6.       Back in 1942, the radio DJs in the United States were forbidden to accept listener requests as officials feared enemy spies could imbed secret messages. 7.       In World War II, the youngest serviceman in the United States military was Calvin Graham – age 12.  Graham lied about his age when he enlisted in the US Navy.   His real age was not discovered after he was wounded. 8.       A number...

World War II Navajo Code Talkers

The Navajo Code Talkers of World War II used the Native-American language as a basis for transmitting encrypted messages.  During the first few months of WWII, Japan was able to break every code the United States had devised.  This resulted in the Japanese ability to anticipate the action of the United States.   As a result, the codes became more complex and both sending and encrypting them took hours.  Messages sent to military leaders at Guadalcanal were taking as long as two and a half hours to decode.  Leaders complained, arguing the US military needed a better, more streamlined way to communicate.   A gentleman named Phillip Johnston, who was a civil engineer for the city of Los Angeles, learned of this problem.  Having grown up on a Navajo reservation, Johnston – one of the few outsiders fluent in the Navajo language – had a solution.  This Nataive-American language does not have an alphabet and Johnston realized that without early exposure to it, the Navajo language was almost impossible to master, making it a potential basis for an indecipherable code.    Johnston came up with a plan and was able to demonstrate it to a number of top commanders, who were impressed with his presentation.  They granted him permission to begin a trial program.   It was early in 1942 when Johnston recruited the first of the Code Talkers.  The 29 Navajos – often referred to as the ‘original 29’ - who participated are credited with conceiving the code – though it was changed and expanded on throughout the war.   Some of the boys recruited were as young as 15 and...