Monday, July 21, 2008

Review: GHOSTS OF THE ETO: American Tactical Deception Units in the European Theater, 1944 - 1945 by Jonathan Gawne

Ghosts is one of interesting books that reveal a lesser know side of World War 2, in this case tactical deception. Tactical deception is the art of deceiving the enemy as to the strength, location, or intent of a combat unit, as opposed to strategic deception which can be considered to be misleading the enemy as to actions that might affect an entire theater of war, for instance fooling the enemy into thinking that you are going to land at the Pas de Calais rather than Normandy.

Ghosts primarily deals with a single unit, the US 23rd Special Troops. This unit, or parts of it, was assigned to various commands of the US Army in Europe in 1944-45. It's role was to deceive the enemy into thinking that a real combat unit was someplace it wasn't, or to mask the movement of a combat unit by misleading the enemy into thinking it had gone to somewhere else. There were also other tasks undertaken by the unit. These deceptions were accomplished by using explosives and speakers to mimic artillery fire, phantom radios to simulate the normal wireless traffic of a real combat unit, trucks or half-tracks mounting large speakers to replicate the sound of a large unit moving, and many others.

The book contains a wealth of information concerning these deception techniques and their employment, but sadly the author spends many chapters covering operations that are repetitious to ones previously described. He does carefully include maps to cover the operations, but they aren't all that useful to illuminate the hows and whys of the operations, just where and whens. As I read the book I found myself skimming over chapters once I had determined that it contained nothing new of interest to me. As a unit history this book has much to commend it, but as a study of tactical deception it does tend to get boring after a while.

LibraryThing link to this book

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