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'Ghost Army' Links Woonsocket Industry to Secret WWII Mission

Replica decoy M-4, video on City's role in mission showing through Jan. 31.

A replica M-4 decoy, unveiled at Stadium Theatre Nov. 7 CREDIT: Museum of Work and Culture
A replica M-4 decoy, unveiled at Stadium Theatre Nov. 7 CREDIT: Museum of Work and Culture
In June 1944, a secret US Army unit used art, ingenuity and the industry of US factories including Woonsocket's US Rubber Company to mislead German troops about the strength and location of American units.

The Ghost Army of WWII – Artists of Deception, an exhibit about the story, told in the PBS documentary Ghost Army by East Providence native Rick Beyer, is showing through Jan. 31 at the Museum of Work and Culture in Woonsocket.

The 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, known as the Ghost Army, assembled phony convoys, phantom divisions, and make-believe headquarters to fool the enemy. Part of their subterfuge involved full-sized inflatable rubber decoy M-4 tanks, some of which were produced in the Woonsocket factory, designed by Fred Patten, according to Ghostarmy.org.

Using the Woonsocket-made decoys along with those produced by Goodyear and the Scranton Lace Curtain Manufacturing Company in Scranton, PA, the Ghost Army deceived Axis forces on the battlefields of Europe. Their tricks included sound effects, phony radio broadcasts, and playacting. 

A replica M-4 decoy, unveiled at the RI theatrical premiere of the documentary at the Stadium Theatre Nov. 7, is on display as part of the exhibit detailing the men and mission, including a brief documentary on Woonsocket's role in the mission put together by Beyer.   

The exhibit, sponsored by Blackstone Valley Tourism, features rare deception artifacts, photographs, and reproduction of the art created by the soldiers of the 23rd. 

The Museum of Work and Culture, 42 S Main St, Woonsocket, RI is open Monday - Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday 1-4 p.m. Admission for adults is $8; Seniors/Students, $6; Children under 10 are admitted free with an adult. For more information, call the museum at 401-769-9675. 

The Ghost Army documentary will next show Feb. 16, 3 p.m. at Amazing Things Arts Center, Framingham, MA. Beyer will introduce the film and answer questions afterward. Tickets are $10.

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