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Ghost Army

October 30, 2013

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THE GHOST ARMY — A TRIBUTE
BY JOSEPH B. NADEAU jnadeau@woonsocketcall.com
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A film about a secret mission
WOONSOCKET – Rick Beyer’s “The Ghost Army of World War II” film project began with the chance meeting of an old warrior’s niece in Beverly, Mass., eight years ago. Martha Gavin told Beyer how her uncle, John Jarvie, had been a member of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, a mysterious group of artists and technicians with a top secret mission that only could only be talked about publicly decades after the war. Beyer, a film producer from Lexington, Mass. who has produced specials for the History Channel, National Geographic, the Smithsonian and Public Television, knew he had to pursue the story of the Ghost Army when he met Gavin in a coffee shop and she turned over three binders of her uncle’s art work from war. “She was just very passionate Photo/By Joseph B. Nadeau about the idea that someone should The Call and The Times Publisher Mary Lynn Bosiak with The Ghost Army film producer Rick Beyer. do something about the story as a documentary,” Beyer said. The mission of the 23rd was lishment from his role. form of a particular unit in public The Ghost Army’s job, it turned inspired by the likes of Ralph The 23rd’s methods might view at a location far from where it out, was one of camouflage, acting Ingersoll, a famous journalist of the include its troops wearing the uniwas actually based, or in the most and deception. The 23rd See MISSION, Page 4 time and the editor of the New Headquarters would eventually Yorker and publisher other publicainclude four units all charged with tions such as Fortune. Ingersoll, a a different mission. Overall, the U.S. Army staff officer, had been 23rd’s members were responsible working with British strategists on for making the enemy believe they large scale deceptions and sold a faced more U.S. troops than they similar concept to the U.S. planactually did in certain battles, creatners at the Pentagon. Other U.S. ing incorrect information on where officers were also reported involved a particular U.S. unit might be in the 23rd’s creation and Gen. heading, and showing the enemy 2000 MENDON ROAD Jake Devers, commander of the and its reconnaissance forces things CUMBERLAND, RI 02864 U.S. forces in England in 1943 was that didn’t actually exist. 401-333-9855 credited with supporting its estab-
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THE GHOST ARMY — A TRIBUTE
and Beyer was able to locate a number of the former 23rd Headquarters members, most young troops at the time of the war, to get the project rolling. “I interviewed 21 veterans of the unit, including John Jarvie, and I used 19 of the interviews in the film,” he said. It turns out that many of the World War II veterans he talked with had strong memories of their times in the war and they were able to effectively relate those experiences on film. “These guys were amazing storytellers,” Beyer said while explaining how his film subjects shared both funny stories about the people they served with and also sad moments of loss and the tragedies of war. They were also able to relate how the 23rd carried out its mission and the various techniques used by the four units to create deceptions aimed at confusing the enemy about the forces they faced or drawing in fire to the unit’s inflatable fake military equipment or sound trucks while hopefully saving actual units from attack. The 3132 Sonic Signal Company used recorded soundtracks to mimic the sounds tanks and equipment while drawing attention from real units or creating a military presence where it did not actually exist. The Signal Company Special created phony radio transmissions and signals to cloak the actual locations of real units and pass along bogus information. The 406 Engineer Combat Company conducted heavy equipment work for the 23rd including laying down phony tank tracks or constructing bases for ghost units that could inflate the strength of real forces. And a particularly important unit to Beyer’s project, the 603rd Engineer Battalion used art work to create its deceptions and left the few remaining pieces of evidence of the unit’s abilities with the sketches and personal drawings and paintings created during the artist-soldiers’ off hours. None of the inflatable tanks described in Beyer’s project survived the passage of time or need for secrecy, but he said it is known that the trick tank, which could be set up from materials stored on the back of a truck, included an inflatable frame for the body of the tank a painted canvas cover and also a
See MISSION, Page 5
Mission
bold of its deceptions-- set up inflatable tanks and other military hardware Jarvie’s works included sketches and watercolors of scenes he witnessed while making his way through Europe during the war, some of the devastation the troops encountered in their travels and others of the day-to-day routines of soldiers in the field. Beyer took on the project Gavin had in mind and set out on a twofold mission of his own to collection the information and interviews needed to make his film and also to raise the money needed to produce it and arrange for an outlet to show it. Collecting the needed information started early on in the effort
THE GHOST ARMY — A TRIBUTE
Mission
separate inflatable turret adding to its illusion of realism. The film includes humorous tales about the inflated tanks and also the sad memories of what occurred when they worked too well and drew enemy fire as intended. Many of the tanks were made by outlets of the U.S. Rubber Company including the plant located at the former Alice Mill in Woonsocket that burned down in a massive local fire in 2011. Beyer said it was the art work that still exists today that tie his project together with not only the work the members of the 23rd did to fight in World War II, but also what it tells of the artists themselves and how they viewed war from a very personal perspective. In addition to Jarvie, the 603rd artists included Bill Blass, who went home to become a famous fashion designer in New York, and Gil Selzer, age 96 when Beyer interviewed him and still at work as an architect at 99. Being able to talk with members of the 23rd and learn first hand what they had done during the war gave Beyer a strong sense of the importance of his project. “This is a story that needed to be remembered and it needed not to be lost in the trash heap of history,” Beyer said. It was fortunate for the project that Beyer started his interviews, many requiring him to travel around the country to meet the old veterans, early on. As his work on the project continued he would see some those he interviewed pass on as many other World War II veterans have done now 68 years after the end of the war in 1945. The second phase of his project, funding and producing the film, The Stadium Theatre in Woonsocket is the site of the special screening on Nov. 7. was actually what took most of the the help of illustrator Elizabeth Public Broadcasting Service staeight years he worked on it, accordSayles, the daughter of Ghost tions initially and will now be ing to Beyer. Army artist William Sayles and to debuting locally at the special He was able to raise some fundcreate museum displays that he has screening at the Stadium Theatre ing through online fundraising sites been able to put on at several loca- on Nov. 7 beginning at 5 p.m. that and also won support from the partions since completing is sponsored by The Call. ticipants in the project and their the film. families as production of the film The film itself was shown on continued. The benefactors behind “The Ghost Army” were essential in pushing the project along to completion and Beyer is thankful for that support getting him over the final hurdles of production. “I say I made the film but it not just me because without my support group I could not have done the film,” he said. The art work Beyer located during the project also allowed him to produce a companion book, with
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THE GHOST ARMY — A TRIBUTE
BY JOSEPH B. NADEAU jnadeau@woonsocketcall.com ing World War II with a short film to be shown as part of his documentary’s debut at the Stadium Theatre on Nov. 7. “They had different places where they produced the inflatables but Woonsocket is the central place because of Fred Patten,” Beyer said. Beyer will be including photographs of the U.S. Rubber Co. operations in Woonsocket in his short film and also information obtained from the collections of the city’s Museum of Work & Culture at Market Square. But the photographs may only show wartime images of the barrage balloons and inflatable rafts the company produced for different branches of the U.S. military. The inflatable tanks, after all, were secret and no one was supposed to know about them. The company did make veiled references to its wartime work apparently and Beyer said he found one newsletter highlighting the end of the war “and all the things” the U.S. Rubber Co. did for war production. Among the cluster of depicted items was a blank area and Beyer said that was described as being set aside “for all the things we can talk about.” “People who worked at the plant were told they were working
Woonsocket has connection to Army’s secret
WOONSOCKET — When Rick Beyer began work on his “The Ghost Army” documentary film about the U.S. Army’s secret World War II deception unit, he also learned of a connection his subject matter had to city industry. The 23rd Headquarters Special Troops wartime deception and camouflage work included the use of inflatable military hardware such as tanks to fool the enemy regarding the strength of a particular unit or place non-existent units in areas intended to draw the enemy away from real U.S. forces. Beyer, a film producer based in Lexington, Mass., and a native of East Providence, traced the 23rd’s Woonsocket connection to Fred Patten, the head of Production and Development for the U.S. Rubber Co. in Woonsocket, who held a role in designing the secret inflatable military replicas and coordinating their manufacture at U.S. Rubber Co. plants such as the former Alice Mill on Fairmount Street and other manufacturing operations in Lowell, Mass., and Scranton, Penn. Beyer plans to honor the local connection to the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops dur-
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on targets so that was part of the deception too,” Beyer said. The Call and The Times Publisher Mary Lynn Bosiak said the newspapers became a sponsor for the Rhode Island debut of The Ghost Army documentary because of its connection to the
city’s wartime industrial production and what it says about the nation’s veterans of World War II. “I think it is a great project and I am excited that we are bringing something so unique to the Stadium Theatre that has ties to
See SECRET, Page 7
THE GHOST ARMY — A TRIBUTE
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Secret
the Woonsocket community,” she said. The event will also include preand post showing receptions with Beyer that will benefit the Museum of Work & Culture’s programs. Tickets for the Theatrical Premiere at the Stadium are $30 with the reception and screening, and $10 for just the screening. Anne Conway, co-director of the Museum of Work & Culture with Raymond H. Bacon, is hosting the reception in the Stadium’s new event space with the help of local restaurants, Museum and Stadium volunteers. Following the documentary debut, Beyer will also be opening The Ghost Army exhibit at the Rhode Island Historical Society affiliated Museum of Work & Culture on Nov. 11 with the help of the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council. The exhibit, including artwork by the Ghost Army’s members and some special displays, will run through Jan. 31. For more information on The Ghost Army’s debut in the city, contact Anne Conway at 7699675 or through aconway@rihs.org.
Courtesy of Rick Beyer and Elizabeth Sayles
About The Ghost Army:
— The 1,100-man unit was given a unique mission within the U.S Army which was to impersonate other U.S. Army units to deceive the enemy. — The idea most likely came from journalist Ralph Ingersoll who was stationed in London in 1943 who was working with the British on deception tactics. — The 23rd Headquarters Special Troops was the mysterious group of artists and technicians with a top secret mission that could only be talked about publicly decades after the war. The unit used dummy tanks and artillery, fake aircraft and broadcast the sounds of men and artillery to make the Germans think it was a large division of troops.
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THE GHOST ARMY — A TRIBUTE
Did you know? Many famous names are associated with The Ghost Army and this time in world history including designer Bill Blass, actor Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and artists such as Alvin Bier who designed the packaging for Chiclets and Dentyne and comic book artists Ray Harford, Bob Boyajian and Victor Dowd who worked on “Captain Marvel” and “Golden Arrow.”
Information courtesy of Rick Beyer and Elizabeth Sayles
The Woonsocket connection:
Many of the tanks were made by outlets of the U.S. Rubber Company including the plant located at the former Alice Mill in Woonsocket that burned down in a massive local fire in 2011.
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About The Ghost Army Documentary: The film is the winner of the Audience Award at the 2013 Salem Film Festival. It also won the Audience Appeal Award at the Moab International Film Festival. It was the official selection at the GI Film Festival and has received critical acclaim.
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THE GHOST ARMY — A TRIBUTE
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A salute to veterans
Google is mapping Arlington National Cemetery
By CECILIA KANG ARLINGTON, Va. — The walk through Arlington National Cemetery on a beautiful October day was being captured by Google for anyone to experience with a few keystrokes or the swipe of a smartphone screen. Google on Sunday began its project to map the cemetery by collecting millions of photos and stitching them together to re-create the feeling of strolling the iconic burial ground of presidents and soldiers. Online users will be able to zoom in close enough to read some grave markers. Or zoom out for panoramas of rolling hills dotted with thousands of white headstones. Or experience a 360-degree view of the resting place of America's service members. Google's hired walker moved briskly among a light stream of visitors, carrying a backpack supporting 15 cameras encased in a green metal sphere the size of a basketball hovering above his head — a contraption known as a Trekker. As he strolled by Section 27, where the first soldier was buried at Arlington in 1864, he stood out, a high-tech intruder among the neatly lined burial rows, where change is seen only in the new gravestones and the passing of the seasons. "It's the Google guys again," said Bill Rose, visiting with his wife and 17-year-old daughter from North Salt Lake City, Utah. He said he wasn't surprised to see someone wearing the company's logos mapping a treasured landmark. Cemetery officials hope the project will draw greater attention to one of the nation's most-visited destinations, particularly the areas of the cemetery that are often overlooked. "It's great for people who may not be able to visit in person," Rose said. "Being at Arlington gives you the whole perspective of why we are Americans." The effort is part of Google's quest to map every nook and cranny of the Earth, an endeavor that feeds the company's online advertising cash machine. With its carmounted cameras, Google has captured images of just about every developed nation. It has gone to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and used a tricycle-mounted camera to navigate the stalls of Boston's Faneuil Hall market. Its global picture-snapping frenzy has brought charges of privacy violations in some countries. Google said it will edit out or blur the faces of people captured in photos at the cemetery. The images will be available to the public in May for the cemetery's 150th anniversary, honoring the day when Pvt. William Christman became the first soldier buried there, in Section 27. "This is a tool to explore the cemetery from your home. It's not the same as being here, of course, but for so many who can't afford or are physically incapable of visiting, this is a great tool to get a feel for Arlington and explore its rich history," said Jennifer Lynch, a spokeswoman for the cemetery. Arlington National Cemetery provides online access to photos of its 400,000 above- and belowground burial sites. Google's images will be less granular and will capture only the gravestones close to where its Trekker passes, the company said. With 27 to 30 burials a day at the cemetery, Google won't be able to display new burials and seasonal changes. Lynch said cemetery officials will work with Google on updates. But combined with the images already used in its Street View software and those from a car that snapped photos along with the
See CEMETERY, Page 10
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THE GHOST ARMY — A TRIBUTE
A salute to veterans
Cemetery
Trekker carried by Patrick Fennie on Sunday, users will eventually be able to feel as if they are walking to the Tomb of the Unknowns and up the stairs to the grave site of President John F. Kennedy. "We want it to be a consistent and immersive experience so that it feels like you are there," said Deanna Yick, a Google spokeswoman. For relatives and friends of service members buried there, visiting the cemetery can be an important part of grieving, experts say. After Ami Neiberger-Miller's brother died in Iraq in 2007, she went to visit his grave in Section 60 every week. Now, the Purcellville, Va., resident visits every two months. "When you talk to bereavement experts, they say that the people who are able to incorporate their lost ones in their lives in some way helps them to move forward. For some people it can be visiting the burial sites," said Neiberger-Miller, a spokeswoman for Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, an organization that assists the families who have lost a member in the military. Some family members worry that the sites of relatives are neglected, with few visitors. So project staff members regularly check on the sites of service members whose families can't visit Arlington but want someone to deliver flowers or just physically be there. "Google is only capturing a moment in time, so it's not like a family member can see how the site looks like on a given day," Neiberger-Miller said. "But it sounds like a great way for the many people who can't visit to get some sense of what it's like there."
VetCorps holds clothing drive
WOONSOCKET — This Veterans Day, give back to those who have served our country. The Woonsocket Prevention Coalition’s VetCorps Program is holding a clothing drive to benefit the city’s veteran’s homes and shelters. We are looking for old coats, sweaters, and other warm winter clothing. For information, contact Jackie Cole: (401) 439-7893 •Donation boxes will be at the following locations until Nov. 8. Woonsocket High School: 777 Cass Ave. Oakland Grove Healthcare Center: 560 Cumberland Hill Road WNRI Radio: 786 Diamond Hill Road Harvest Community Church: 60 North Main St. Senior Services, Inc: 84 Social St. Woonsocket Rotary Club: Thursdays, noon, Riverfalls Restaurant • Final opportunity to donate will be at the Veterans Day Ceremony at the Museum of Work and Culture on Nov. 11.
Did you know? The Department of Veterans Affairs' National Cemetery Administration maintains 131 national cemeteries in 39 states (and Puerto Rico) as well as 33 soldier's lots and monument sites, according to its website.
Call file photo
Navy veteran Frank Lightowler of North Smithfield at the rededication ceremony at the Place Jolicoeur Veterans Memorial.
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THE GHOST ARMY — A TRIBUTE
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A salute to veterans
About Veterans Day:
Veterans Day is a federal holiday that is marked on Nov. 11 and honors those who served in the armed services. President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed Armistice Day for Nov. 11, 1919. The United States Congress passed a concurrent resolution seven years later on June 4, 1926, requesting that President Calvin Coolidge issue another proclamation to observe Nov. 11 with ceremonies. According to most historical accounts, in 1945, World War II veteran Raymond Weeks from Alabama, wanted to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans. Weeks led a delegation to Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, who backed the idea of a national Veterans Day.
Call file photo
John Donahue of Woonsocket, a Marine Corps veteran, stands with other members of the Patriot Guard Riders of Rhode Island during a veterans ceremony.
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