Right at Home Slidell chose to highlight one of our Veteran clients, in honor of Veterans Day 2019. We proudly present the story of Anderson Wilson.
Classified Mission: Serving in the Ghost Army
Greenwood, Mississippi is home of the Yazoo River, and Anderson Wilson. As an overachiever, he had enough credit to graduate High School early, so he took accounting courses during his Senior year. Then, at just 20 years old, Mr. Wilson became involved in one of the best kept secrets in the World.
In 1943, 19-year-old Anderson enlisted in the U.S. Army. Unbeknownst to him - he would be a member of a specialized unit, known today as the Ghost Army. “There was no other unit like it in the military,” said Mr. Wilson. During the last few weeks of 1943, President Roosevelt signed into action the specialized Army Unit, initially comprised of just 52 men – including Mr. Wilson. Eventually the unit grew to include 1,100 men. “We went overseas in the largest convoy that ever crossed the Atlantic,” said Mr. Wilson.
The mission of the Ghost Army was to create the perception of a real Army division. “We would move in at night, with our 1,100 men. We had a camouflaged battalion full of artists, and others, including Bill Blass [a well-known women’s fashion designer]…We had inflatable tanks, artillery, airplanes. It was all for show when the air reconnaissance flew over.” Record players were used to create sounds commonly associated with a division post. This deception was used to manipulate the German troop movements. In addition, it provided concealment for American troops and their allies, during navigation to more beneficial vantage points.
Fighting WWII Through the Art of Deception
The Ghost Army focused on staying under the radar, staying quiet and being discreet. “We didn’t have as many casualties as you’d think - for that kind of outfit; And we didn’t have any kind of artillery – we just had trucks to move the unit out in a hurry.” Mr. Wilson Advised. “Most operations were done within 100 – 300 yards of the front line,” he added. The Ghost Army was highly successful in their mission. So successful in fact, that their mission remained classified for 50 years.
Mr. Wilson returned home in June of 1945. He took an accounting job with a hardwood and steel company, reconnected with friends, and joined the local VFW. At the VFW, Mr. Wilson would listen to the stories of other Vets, but was never able to share his own, due to the secret classification of the mission. Unable to reciprocate storytelling with the others, Mr. Wilson decided it best to part ways with the VFW.
The following year, he met the future Mrs. Wilson on a blind date. “Neither of us wanted to go,” he laughed as he told the story. “We dated for about 6 months, and then we married. That was 73 years ago, and I’ve had her ever since.” Mr. and Mrs. Wilson had two children, and eventually moved to Shreveport for a job opportunity. Mr. and Mrs. Wilson lived there through retirement, and later moved to Slidell, Louisiana to live near family.
In 1996, the Ghost Army mission information was declassified. At last, Mr. Wilson was free to discuss his career with family, friends, and inquiring minds. He joined the local VFW, this time feeling proud to share his stories with fellow service members.