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The Boston Globe

Opinion

JULIETTE KAYYEM

The art of warfare

World War II’s Ghost Army knew how to keep secrets. Big ones.

Michael McGlynn, the long-serving mayor of Medford, thought he knew his father, Jack. But in 2005, he received a phone call from a reporter asking about Jack’s involvement in World War II’s Ghost Army, a unit of handpicked G.I.s whose sole function was to deceive the Germans about the strength of America’s military presence. Using rubber tanks, sound effects, and illusions of manpower, this group of young magicians tricked the Germans into believing they knew America’s true plans.

The junior McGlynn had never heard of the unit. He understood that his father had served in the war, but did not press him on specifics. When he asked his father what this was all about, the elder McGlynn initially wondered how his son found out. The unit’s existence had just been declassified; it had been kept a secret for over 65 years. Michael told me that his dad, who had also served as mayor and is now in his 90s, simply replied, “Those were my orders. I never wanted to let anyone know about our tactics that could be used against us in another war.”

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