Can you believe this is the last day of November? If you are an American, chances are that you have just finished celebrating Thanksgiving and are busy preparing for December’s festivities. It’s a busy time of year. For our family, it’s a touch busier than normal as we are in the middle of purchasing a house. We have outgrown our current home but will keep it as a rental because, someday, our nest will be empty, and it’s a perfect size for a family of two.
What does this mean for Austen Authors? It means I’ve been so busy looking at homes, learning the ins and outs of being a landlord, addressing any upgrades needed before finding renters, and crunching our budget, that I haven’t been very focused on writing. Thus, I have nothing of great interest to share with you in that regard. I have, however, recently read about several interesting historical events and thought I might relay one to you.
Have you ever heard of the ghost army? The name is reminiscent of Halloween, but the story begins in the summer of 1944. The man behind the army, Ralph Ingersoll, was an accomplished writer, chief editor of Fortune, and general manager of the publication’s parent company, Life, Inc. After being drafted into the army, he put his creative mind to use. His inspiration came from Operation Bertram.
What was Operation Bertram, you ask? It was a clever ruse by the British army that occurred in Egypt in 1942. Preparing for a significant attack, British forces needed to get their tanks and artillery to the front lines. Unfortunately, there isn’t a great deal of coverage in the Egyptian desert, so as soon as they attempted to move the equipment, their enemies, who were watching them from a distance, could calculate where and when the Allies would attack.
To address this problem, the British brought over trucks and pretended to construct a water pipeline, all the while leaving their tanks and equipment in plain sight at the rear of their lines, well out of range of attack. Every day, the trucks would drive up to the front lines, away from the fighting, but since they posed no threat, the Axis forces ignored them, focusing their resources where the fighting was. Once the Axis forces were lulled into a sense of security, the Allies waited for the cover of darkness. Then, they covered their tanks in costumes that made them look like trucks and built decoy tanks out of palm fronds and other materials. The next day, they drove the tanks and artillery to the front lines, but the Axis forces saw nothing out of the ordinary. The Germans believed the British were waiting to finish constructing that water pipeline, and it wouldn’t be done for several more days. In this way, the British could get their equipment to the front lines without alerting their enemy to the timing or location of their attack.
Ingersoll gathered 1100 men, mostly artists, architects, set designers, and engineers, to establish a special unit that would focus on such trickery. This compact unit would set up camp and trick the enemy into believing they were a unit with 30,000 men. They employed several techniques: inflatable tanks and planes; state-of-the-art sound equipment that would broadcast the sounds of many men setting up camp; driving around trucks that were nearly empty save for a few soldiers seated within view so that the vehicles appeared to be filled with personnel, etc. Faced with such an enormous threat, the Axis forces would often shift their resources away from the real threat to pursue the ghost army. The ghost army, being smaller than believed, could then slip away to play their shenanigans elsewhere.
The ghost army carried out over twenty missions of distraction and deception during World War II, but because they were classified as top secret, the world had to wait forty years to learn about them.
Anyway, I hope you found this as interesting as I did. More importantly, I hope you had a joyous Thanksgiving with your families and have a lovely December, however you celebrate it. Until next time.