CCAC approves designs for Ghost Army congressional gold medal
- Published: Nov 18, 2022, 8 AM
The Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee approved proposed designs by teleconference Nov. 15 for a congressional gold medal recognizing the Ghost Army, tactical deception soldiers comprising two U.S. Army units that deceived the German army on the battlefields of Europe during World War II.
CCAC members reviewed seven proposed obverse designs and nine reverse designs rendered by members of the U.S. Mint’s Artistic Infusion Program and the bureau’s engraving staff.
The CCAC concurred with the obverse and reverse design preferences recommended by liaisons for the medal. Recommendations from the CCAC and the Commission of Fine Arts — which was scheduled to review the same proposed medal designs Nov. 17 — will be sent to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen for final approval.
Whatever designs are approved for the gold medal will also be used by the U.S. Mint to strike for sale to the public in 1.5-inch and 3-inch bronze medal formats. Current medal prices for such size medals are $20 and $160, respectively, subject to change.
The Ghost Army comprised 1,300 members combined from the U.S. Army’s 23rd Headquarters Special Troops and the 3133rd Signal Service Company.
It was noted during the CCAC teleconference that just 10 members total from the two units still survive.
One of the three liaisons for the medal, Roy Eichhorn — a founding board member of the Ghost Army Legacy Project Inc. and a career U.S. Army civilian employee— explained that the exploits of the Ghost Army were kept classified for 51 years before being declassified in 1996.
Eichhorn noted that the Ghost Army members were “civilian” soldiers brought into the ranks for their special tactical deception talents.
The CCAC-recommended obverse design illustrates elements reflecting the four main methods of subterfuge practiced by the Ghost Army — visual, sonic, radio and other special effects.
A telegrapher is shown keying a message in Morse code together with a soldier sewing a phony unit patch onto his uniform. In the background, a soldier stands alongside a half-track with a loudspeaker attached to it, and behind it a group of soldiers carry an inflatable tank. The inscriptions are THE GHOST ARMY at the top and WORLD WAR II at the bottom. The CCAC recommended adding to the obverse design the inscription ACT OF CONGRESS 2022, which Chief Engraver Joseph F. Menna indicated could be accomplished near the top of the design during the sculpting process.
The CCAC-recommended reverse design depicts the unit emblems of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops and the 3133rd Signal Service Company. A narrative inscription fills the field, presenting the information like a telegraph transmission, the treatment of the text reinforcing the secretive nature of the Ghost Army’s mission.
The Ghost Army carried out, according to U.S. Mint design narratives:
Visual Deception: The 603rd Camouflage Engineers deployed an array of inflatable rubber tanks, trucks, artillery, and other vehicles, as well as pyrotechnic displays, to create convincing deceptive tableaus for enemy observers; the 406th Combat Engineers assisted by using bulldozers to create phony tank tracks — they also handled the 23rd’s security.
Sonic Deception: The 3132nd Signal Service company (sister unit to the 3133rd) played sound effects from powerful speakers mounted on halftracks to simulate the sounds of units moving and operating at night.
Radio Deception: The Signal Company Special created phony traffic networks and sent fake messages to fool enemy intelligence officers listening in. They mastered the art of mimicking a real operator’s method of sending Morse code, so that the enemy would never catch on that the real unit and its radio operator were long gone.
Special Effects: Soldiers carried out theatrics for the benefit of enemy spies left behind by the retreating Germans. They wore fake shoulder patches, rode in vehicles with fake bumper markings, pretended to “talk loose” at cafes, and even impersonated generals to make their deceptions more convincing. The members of the 23rd staged phony convoys, phantom divisions, and make-believe headquarters to fool Adolf Hitler’s legions about the strength and location of American units.
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