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Ghost Army Highlights Military Film Festival at Branson Veterans Week

A combination of visual, sonic and radio deception is what helped an Army unit save thousands of lives and combat the enemy during World War II. A documentary depicting the Ghost Army is now showing as part of Branson’s annual Veterans Week celebration.

The story of this secret unit of over 1,100 troops wasn’t declassified until more than 40 years after the war. The Ghost Army was tasked with impersonating other Army units using various tools to deceive the enemy, as described in the opening of the film:

All signs suggest the attack will come here. But the tanks spotted from the air are 93-pound inflatable dummies. The sounds come from loudspeakers. The radio transmissions from a script.

The documentary was presented on Thursday before two packed theatres at Branson’s IMAX Entertainment Complex. The film, which premiered on PBS in 2013, was the result of 8 years of work by director Rick Beyer.

“It began just as an interesting story – I’m a filmmaker and a writer – I wanted to tell an interesting story that I’d heard about. And it really became a quest. It became a quest to make sure that what this particular group of veterans did is not forgotten,” Beyer said.

In attendance Thursday were Harold Flinn and Gazo Nemeth, members of the Ghost Army’s sonic deception and radio deception divisions, respectively. Afterward, the two exchanged warm greetings with their fellow veterans while signing autographs and posing for pictures in front of a replica inflatable tank.

Flinn, who is seen in the film, recalls the bitter cold in Bastogne, where the Ghost Army was stationed ahead of one of the more recognized battles during the war.

“We got to the Battle of the Bulge and that snow and the cold and everything – it [the film] brought that back to me. You wonder how… I don’t know how I could live in it now. It was just so cold and we were sleeping on the ground,” Flinn said.

Despite completing dozens of missions, Ghost Army fatalities were few.

All signs suggest the attack will come here. But the tanks spotted from the air are 93-pound inflatable dummies. The sounds come from loudspeakers. The radio transmissions from a script.

Nemeth, who said he knew very little about Branson prior to his arrival, credited the city for its service to veterans; a message he plans to pass on to the veterans groups with which he’s associated.

“And I guarantee you that every one of them will know that Branson is the most patriotic city that I’ve ever seen, and I’m going to promote this town,” Nemeth said.

Tom Forster is the director of marketing and sales at the IMAX. He notes that Branson celebrates veterans every day, but Veterans Week allows these individuals to “come out of their humbleness” and take the credit that they deserve.

“It’s opportunities and events like we’re having today and like Branson pulls together that breaks that barrier and allows you guys to really open up and  visit

with your family members and your friends about the experiences that you had,” Forster said.

Credit Becky Blair / Branson IMAX
Branson IMAX
Branson Economic Development Director Garrett Anderson presents a proclamation to Harold and Gazo.

Herbert Johns has traveled from his home in Winnie, Texas for Veterans Week for the past several years, noting his appreciation for Branson’s patriotism. A member of the Air Force in the late 60s, Johns said he was unaware of the Ghost Army prior to Thursday’s showing, but was fascinated by the history.

“It’s unbelievable what they did and with the technology we have today and they did all that without the technology,” said Johns.

Upon the conclusion of the documentary Thursday, a proclamation honoring Flinn and Nemeth was presented to the two Ghost Army veterans.

Branson’s Veterans Week continues through November 11. Ghost Army will air again Saturday morning at the Branson IMAX Entertainment Complex at 8:30 a.m.