The Nevada Museum of Art in Reno opened a new exhibition, “Ghost Army: The Combat Con Artists of World War II.” Organized by The National WWII Museum in New Orleans and exclusively sponsored by E. L. Wiegand Foundation, the exhibition tells the story of the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops — the first mobile, multimedia, tactical deception unit in US Army history.

The Nevada Museum of Art is the only art museum in Nevada accredited by the American Alliance of Museums (AAM). A private, nonprofit organization founded in 1931, the statewide institution is supported by its membership as well as sponsorships, gifts and grants. Through its permanent collections, original exhibitions and programming, and E.L. Cord Museum School, the Nevada Museum of Art provides meaningful opportunities for people to engage with a range of art and education experiences.

The unit waged war with inflatable tanks and vehicles, fake radio traffic, sound effects and even phony generals, using imagination and illusion to trick the enemy while saving thousands of lives. Along with the 3133rd Signal Service Company in Italy, the unit helped liberate Europe from the grip of Nazi tyranny.

A companion exhibition, “Ellsworth Kelly: Prints from the Collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and His Family Foundation” illustrates the artistic career of one of the men who served in the ghost army.

All about the “Ghost Army”

The unique and top-secret “Ghost Army” unit — comprised of 82 officers and 1,023 men — was the brainchild of Colonel Billy Harris and Major Ralph Ingersoll. Activated on January 20, 1944, under the command of Army veteran Colonel Harry L. Reeder, the group was capable of simulating two whole divisions (approximately 30,000 troops) by using visual, sonic and radio deception to fool German forces during the final year of World War II. Armed with nothing heavier than .50-caliber machine guns, the 23rd took part in 22 large-scale deceptions in Europe from Normandy to the Rhine River.

“‘Ghost Army’ explores the bravery, heroics and tactical brilliance of a first-of-its kind military unit,” said Erin Clancey, Associate Vice President of Collections and Exhibits at The National WWII Museum. “Although their efforts were classified for over 50 years, the deceptive and groundbreaking strategies used on the battlefield saved lives and played a significant role in Allied victory. The National WWII Museum is proud to highlight their vital contributions that went unrecognized following the war.”

“Ghost Army” features inflatable military pieces, historical narrative text panels detailing unit operations, profiles of unit officers, archival photography and sketches and uniforms from unit officers. The exhibit presents exclusive, original content from The National WWII Museum archives along with a historical artifact collection curated and donated to the Museum by Ghost Army Legacy Project President and Exhibit Consultant Rick Beyer.

How to enjoy the exhibit

For the duration of the exhibition, March 4 – July 23, 2023, free admission to the Museum will be offered to Veterans, active military and their families.

B. Walker. “While the exhibition is on view the Museum will proudly offer free admission to active military members, their families, and Veterans due to generous support of the exclusive exhibition sponsor, the E. L. Wiegand Foundation.”

All other visits are $15 for general admission, $13 for students and seniors and free admission for members.

The museum will also host several events around the exhibit and WWII, including Rations and Fashions, Invisible Warriors and special talks. Check out the NMA calendar to learn more and plan your visit!

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