Secret Soldiers: How the U.S. Twenty-Third Special Troops Fooled the Nazis

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 16 Dec 2019

Member Reviews

Fascinating to learn the story of the US Twenty-Third, which was kept secret for almost 50 years after WWII.  For someone who loves military history, this is a great book.  For someone like me, just interested in the general history, it was a bit too detailed.  Still, definitely recommended for readers age 12 and up who want to know about the deceptions carried out by the unit and the men who made those deceptions work.
Review based on an ARC received through NetGalley.
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The Twenty-Third Special Troops or Ghost Army was created to perfect and deploy deception techniques that would misled the Nazis and give the Allies the advantage of surprise. It was a unit made up of artists, actors, sound engineers, and set designers. They pulled off their deceptions by employing inflatable dummy tanks and guns, phony radio messages, sonic deception, and good acting. One of the first missions of the Twenty-Third was to convince the Nazis that D-Day would occur at Calais rather than Normandy and at a much later date. Once the invasion was underway the troops came to the continent to execute many other deceptions.

I think the Ghost Army is a really fascinating aspect of military history, and I've enjoyed the other books that I've read on the subject. This book is a very detailed look into the role the Twenty-Third Special Troops played, and I think it got bogged down in the details. The book became very repetitive as it recounted every single mission and all the missions were executed in pretty much the same way. Also, for me, this book was too heavy on the military aspect and too light on the human stories. I think the book really would have been a lot better if we, as readers, got to know more of the individuals who served in the Ghost Army. That said, I liked that the book had information boxes about some of the key weapons and tactics of WWII. I found these to be very helpful, and some of them filled holes in my WWII knowledge. I also really liked the artist notebooks that featured prominent members of the troop. I wish there had been more of them.

I would recommend this book to a young reader who is on the older side or to a reader who really likes military history.
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I am happy to see so many odd features about WW2 coming to light in recent years. Some has truly been sad, but other times these quirky little facts come to light and make for entertaining read. In a million years I would never have thought that sets could be used to thwart the enemy! Genius! What an amazing bluff! History and war buffs should enjoy this book.

I received a Kindle Arc from Netgalley in exchange for a fair review.
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During WWII, there were dozens and dozens of departments and units doing things that 95% of the population still has no clue about. Whether it was the art units or African-American women sorting mail, the Fly Girls, or the Candy Bombers, I am always amazed by the things I read about WWII that most of the history buffs I know aren't even aware of! Certainly, very few people know about the Twenty-Third Headquarters Special Troops, also known as the Ghost Army. Their job was to go in, with about 1,100 members, and impersonate troops of up to 50,000 soldiers or sailors. They were also instrumental in throwing off the enemy by making it look like there were tanks, encampments, and even troop transport ships when they were merely inflatable items and scores of dummies! Even better, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. was instrumental in the idea! It was sort of like a covert USO, made up of artists, sound technicians, and other special effects experts. My favorite was when they staged a naval attack to try to siphon troops away from the area where an actual attack was planned-- they had the fake ships, threw up a smoke screen, played sound effects, and sent in a few bombs! And it actually worked. Tactics like this would probably not work today, but how intriguing that they did. 

This followed the group from their inception through the many different activities in which they were involved in a very orderly fashion, and there were lots of good pictures of people, equipment, and areas. There were so many fascinating details that I wanted to share with someone: did you know that Quonset huts were called Nissen huts in the UK? That the Beach Jumpers were named that because they wanted other words to fit the acronym for be-jesus? And... Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.! 

Here's the thing: I have zero interest in WWII. None. And yet, my students love to read about it, so I have acquired enough of a background knowledge that I could, say, hold up my end of the conversation if I were on a date with a WWII buff. This book was so well-researched; where would you even get pictures of the fake tanks? Surely, there was some kind of security that would have made this difficult to sneak back home after the war. 

This is an essential addition to a middle school or high school library, and will probably be my nominee for the Cybils middle grade nonfiction award for 2019.
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