Cover Image: Spy on History: Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army

Spy on History: Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

The Spy on History books are a great way to engage young readers. With plenty of illustrations and a mystery for the readers to solve, the story will keep young readers interested.

I've been fascinated by the Ghost Army ever since I first learned of it. The 603rd Camouflage Engineers, better known as the Ghost Army, concocted elaborate ruses to fool the Germans, impersonating full divisions with fake tanks, artillery, and broadcast sounds of an army on the move or at rest. The Ghost Army helped pave the way for the invasion at Normandy and protected the troops as they battled towards Germany by misdirecting and distracting the Germans.
Was this review helpful?
Great book for kids to learn about our World history. We don't teach it enough and this is a good way to start.
Was this review helpful?
With all the books about World War II out there, you might think there's nothing left to learn. But how many of us have ever heard of the ghost army? The reader will learn about the origins of espionage, camouflage, code-breaking, and more. Framed as a narrative, this book is as readable as it is informative. And make no mistake: there's loads of information here.The language is fairly straightforward, making it accessible to even young readers.
Was this review helpful?
Not too many people know about the Ghost Army and what they did during the war, but they played an very important part in the Allied victory. In this second book in the Spy On History series, readers meet Sergeant Victor Dowd, a Brooklyn boy, was hand picked by the Army to become part of the 603rd Camouflage Engineers, a/k/a the Ghost Army.

Victor, along with the rest of the hand picked members of the Ghost Army, had been chosen because of their artistic talents. After basic training, the members of the 603rd had developed and tested inflatable guns, planes, tanks, and vehicles as well as figuring out how to disguise bomber planes and coastal defense to fool the enemy. Now, along with the 3132 Signal Service Company Special, they would get to test their deceptions for real.

After the successful Normandy invasion, Vic and his platoon arrived on Omaha Beach in France, along with their inflatable "equipment" and wasted no time setting up their inflatable howitzers. But would it fool the enemy?

That was the question the Ghost Army asked themselves each time they moved forward. Their job was to fool the enemy into thinking they were a fully armored division ready for battle, when in reality there was nothing but realistic inflatables and finely tuned sound effects imitating every possible sound typical of real division.

As the Ghost Army worked its way through France, Belgium all the way to the Rhine and their longest and greatest deception, readers can use the spy craft tools to try to solve the mystery of Victor's missing sketchbook.

Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army is a novel based on real events and and real people, 
including Vic. And all of the different incidents that are included in the novel also took place. For instance, Alberti includes the story of Christmas 1944, when Vic and the other Ghost Army soldiers put together boxes of goodies like candy, gum, and food from their own rations for some of the refugee children in France. One little boy never smiled, and Vic wonders what terrible things he had already been through. Vic even drew a picture of him.

To help them do that, there is a sealed Top Secret envelop included at the front of the book that contains the four spy craft tools to help readers will need to find the clues that are scattered throughout the book to help them solve the mystery of where to find Victor Dowd's missing sketchbook. The tools include a cipher wheel, a red acetate sheet, a WWII "poop sheet" containing information about specific units, as well as morse code, and a sheet of vellum featuring patches of the Ghost Army and the battalions they impersonated.

The Spy on History series is a great way for kids to add to their knowledge of history. This is a middle grade book and by then, most kids have learned about WWII, but this adds to that by providing a look an some of the more unusual aspects of that conflict. And at the same time, they get to use their problem solving skills as they try to solve the mystery.

When I was a classroom teacher, and even in homeschooling situations, Friday afternoon was always cool down time and the kids were allowed to play strategy games. This would be an ideal addition to the other games. 

Spy on History: Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army is a wonderful and fun way to learn about the important role the Ghost Army played in helping the Allies win the war.
Was this review helpful?
The 603rd Camouflage Engineers had a special mission--rather than fighting against the Germans in WWII, they were a group of artists whose job was to trick the Germans into thinking that they were real troops, drawing the attention away from the true movements of Allied troops. They used inflatable tanks and guns, recorded sounds of army life, and more, to make it seem like thousands of troops were ready to face the foe. 

This book was awesome! I love learning about WWII, and I had never heard of the Ghost Army before. It almost sounds like it should be fiction rather than nonfiction because it's such a crazy idea; it was really neat to see all of the details that they had to consider and recreate. I highly recommend this book and think it would be a great addition to a WWII unit in school.

I read a copy of the ebook and because of that, I can't evaluate the mystery aspect of the book--but it sounds cool enough that I'm going to have to get my hands on a print copy so I can look at that, too!

I received a copy via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
Was this review helpful?
I can't say enough good things about the Spy on History series (first book was on Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring)--I wish it had been around sooner. I often do library/teacher convention talks on how to reach reluctant readers, and this is a perfect example of a non-fiction title that would bridge the gap between fiction and non-fiction for kids who may not like to read. 
The story is one of those footnote-in-history ones, about engineers tasked with deceiving the Germans in WWII. We follow soldier Victor Dowd and the Ghost Army as their missions are challenging, and seemingly too difficult to accomplish. 
I love how there are graphic novel-style illustration throughout, plus excerpts in bold, so the story visually moves along. The author does a brilliant job at building the arc of the Ghost Army's achievement, finding the thriller-like story in history, while not trivializing the sacrifice made by the people the Ghost Army was fighting for.  
There's a historical note in the back, plus a code for kids to crack, which is fun. This book, and the series, is an exciting addition for MG readers. I'll look forward to the next book. 

**NetGalley provided e-copy for review**
Was this review helpful?
Book received from NetGalley.

I sat and read this eArc from cover to cover, in one setting, while on vacation.  i even made my husband read parts of it whether he liked it or not.  I really loved this book, I'm a huge history geek and this book pushed all of my buttons, in a good way.  I knew nothing about this part of World War II history and I was fascinated by it, I definitely have to read more about it.  I think this is a great subject for a children's history book, fighting a war with inflatables is definitely something that will make kids stop and go what, how did that work?  Since it was an eArc it didn't have the extra stuff to try to find Dowd's sketchbook, but I think it's a great addition to help keep younger kids attention.  I need to find the first book in this series and read it as well.
Was this review helpful?
I really liked this story about Vic Dowd and the Ghost Patrol that helped the American soldiers camouflage their real numbers.  This will be a great book to have for kids who like codes and puzzles as well as American history.
Was this review helpful?
Wow!  Great story for any age.  The history of World War 2 told in this book is amazing.  I  enjoyed the details and the drawings that went along with the story.  I appreciated the authors leaving in details about the darker side of war like death and the affect it had on civilians in Europe.  Parts of the story made me so proud I had goosebumps.  I think overall this book does a great job of telling a story not often learned about in school and making it interesting.
Was this review helpful?
I really enjoyed reading this book, it was interesting to read a side of the 2nd world war that I had never heard of before. I liked the idea of solving the mystery code at the end of the book, it would be a fun activity for a child to do at the end of the book.
It would be a good book to use during a 2nd world war topic in a key stage 2 class, showcasing real events from the war and adding a new perspective to the unit of work.
Was this review helpful?
We read and loved "Spy on History: Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring", and were excited to see another book in the series!

"Spy on History: Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army" tells a story about Sergeant Vic Dowd, an Allied soldier helping to push the Nazis out of France just after D-Day. The Ghost Army was tasked with drawing German fire away from the main invasion force, as a diversion.  

The Ghost Army is a true story - although it's existence wasn't declassified until 1996, so many may not have heard of it.  This team had a real impact on the outcome of the war, and would be a great addition to a study of WWII.

This book gives a lot of information about World War II in an interesting, engaging manner.  It's also both a reader and an activity book.  At the end of the story is a coded letter written by Victor - you can use clues and codes within the story to figure out where Victor hid a secret sketchbook.  The story is well-written, and there are illustrations throughout that add to the story. 

This would be an excellent addition to a study of World War II, and I hope there will be additional volumes relating to other parts of history - after all we can definitely trace spies back to the Trojan War, and likely there were many well before that! I'd say it's an upper elementary reading level, so use as a read-aloud through about 3rd grade, independent thereafter.

The book itself is hard cover, and includes an envelope of spy materials in the front, and has a seal on the final pages which give the solution to the mystery.
Was this review helpful?
This story seemed vaguely familiar to me. I'm pretty sure we watched a documentary about this division at some point. Anyway, this is a cool book. I originally got a pdf from Workman and then at ALA snagged an ARC. It didn't have the extra's in the envelope yet- (if you remember the first of the Spy on History series about Mary Bowser you'll know that this is a story and a hands on mystery book. I would link to my review, but it somehow didn't make it over here to this new blog, I bet it is on Goodreads. Ok, it wasn't, but now it is. Anyway, I was looking forward to reading more history in this fun, unusual way. 

The "Ghost Army" of the Allies in World War Two was not declassified until 1996. Imagine those guys keeping a secret like that for some long. I"m not sure that would be possible today.... This ghost army was a huge decoy army to keep the Germans' attention away from the real army! The military found guys in art schools around the country and these artists made huge inflatable tanks and other camouflage to trick the Germans into thinking that there were armored divisions in places that they were not. The whole book is exciting and I know we'll be buying a copy for ourselves so that we can solve the mystery.

Spy on History: Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army By Enigma Alberti

Enigma Alberti is the nom de plume of a secret cadre of writers who are each writing a book in the Spy on History series.
Was this review helpful?
My 11 and 13 year old kids are vocal fans of this new series and love the format.  A page turning addictive read that evokes curiousity, conversation and a greater grasp of history!
Was this review helpful?
Enigma Alberti's Spy on History: Victor Down and the World War II Ghost Story is an incredible, almost unbelievable bit of WW II history that wasn't declassified until 1996. Specially trained artists and sound engineers used inflatable tanks, camouflage, recordings of troops and trucks on the march, fake radio transmissions, and their sheer wits to convince the Germans that a mass of American troops were setting up camp. The knew they were successful if they were shelled by the enemy! Their missions and movements were top secret, and they lived with the constant threat of having their ruse discovered by townspeople and the Nazis. This book doubles as a cipher to solve. 

Libraries might not carry the Spy on History titles because they contain pieces of paper and a small sheet of colored plastic, but don't miss out on this unique way to experience history. You will have to step over kids plopped down in the middle of bookstore aisles to reach a copy. 

I am reading the first title (Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring) with one of my tutoring students and she loves it. Buy this for kids who want a hands-on challenge to go with a fascinating glimpse into history. (NetGalley provided an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.)
Was this review helpful?
This book is a great read for any kid who loves a good spy story. It reminds me of "Hogan's Heroes" the tv show, but is even better since it's based on real WW2 history. The puzzles throughout the book also add an extra layer of secerts and subterfuge fun. A good read to introduce kids to the underground and grit of WW2.
Was this review helpful?
Very interesting. It kept my attention. I read it in one sitting.
Was this review helpful?
This book was ok, but I can see kids loving it due to the interactive aspect (which wasn't available in the ARC) as well as the size.
Was this review helpful?
Fast paced book with illustations featuring the 'ghost army' during ww2.
Was this review helpful?
Fascinating piece of history that I hadn't known about before, the "Ghost Army" of the Allies in World War Two... basically a huge decoy army to keep the Germans' attention away from the real army! 

I read this on my laptop so was unable to join in the fun of decoding Vic's secret message, but in a real copy of the book that'd be awesome fun. Reminded me of The Eleventh Hour's secret message :)
Was this review helpful?