PBS’ latest WWII documentary, The Ghost Army is another of this year’s best documentaries. While it will not be available until next Tuesday, June 18th, its release was still quite well timed with the recent passing of last week’s 68th anniversary of D-Day. There are so many stories that have been told about the members of “The Greatest Generation” as they were so properly termed by former broadcaster Tom Brokaw. Sadly, as each year passes, there are fewer and fewer members of said generation left to share the stories of WWII. One can only wonder how many stories will never be told because of this. Thankfully though, PBS has managed to recover what is perhaps one of the least told stories of WWII with this new release. It is one that regardless of whether one has an interest in war history, art history, or history in general, will appeal to so many audiences.
The Ghost Army is on the surface one more story of WWII. What makes it so special is that while there are so many stories that have been told, the story of the Ghost Army has not been told nearly as much as others. That is because as members of the then secret military outfit noted, their operations were kept classified for some four decades after the war ended. So while some books have been written on the group of soldiers, little else has been created or even published about this group of men. That being noted, the stories shared by those that served with the Ghost Army will amaze any viewer. It’s incredible to believe that this group of soldiers was able to outsmart so many Nazi divisions with just speakers and a bunch of inflatable weaponry and vehicles. It’s so incredible in that for decades mankind has marveled at how advanced the Nazi forces were in terms of their military technology in comparison to the United States. The Ghost Army didn’t need all of the high tech rockets and other tech to hold off the Nazi forces. It’s a true statement to American know-how and creativity.
Speaking of the creativity of the Ghost Army, art lovers will appreciate this program as it notes that many of the men that staffed the Ghost Army were in fact artists. It was because of their talent as artists that the Ghost Army was able to pull such acts of deception over not just the Nazi forces, but their own forces, too. At one point, narrator Peter Coyote notes that an airfield built by the Ghost Army was so convincing that an American recon plane landed and was summarily told to get out of there, so as to not blow their cover. That is a tribute to the talents of all involved from brainchild to reality. And as viewers will learn in the show’s closing minutes, many of those same men came to be some of America’s best known and respected individuals in the worlds of art and fashion. On a side note, it should be noted here that some of the unit’s men had some real talent with a pencil and pen. That’s revealed through drawings and etchings crafted by the men during trips to Paris. Parents should note that these drawings in question do contain at least some slight nudity. One drawing does reveal a woman’s breasts under a very sheer negligee. It’s just one of a handful of drawings that some older audiences might not think appropriate for younger viewers to see. So parents and teachers should use their discretion here. Sure the stories connected to the drawings will have viewers laughing. But the drawings themselves might be a bit much for some viewers.
The stories shared by the members of the Ghost Army are quite eye opening and impressive to say the least. Just as impressive is the understanding that the simple use of theatrics was able to hold off so much of the German army. And to learn that certain members of the Ghost Army went on to become highly successful in their art and fashion related careers is even more incredible. There is one more factor in The Ghost Army that makes it an impressive documentary. That factor is the original footage taped through operations conducted by the once top secret military outfit. The footage helps to fully illustrate what the Ghost Army did and the impact of its operations. It helps to pass on what is perhaps one of the most incredible stories of the Greatest Generation for a whole new generation (and generations to come). All of these stories and revelations shared in The Ghost Army prove even more, the value and importance of public broadcasting. The program will be available next Tuesday, June 18th. It can be ordered online direct via the PBS online store at
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