War and Sound
The other night I watched a new documentary on PBS about the 23rd HQ Special Troops, also known as The Ghost Army. This top secret unit was comprised of 1,100 U.S. soldiers whose job it was to deceive the German forces into thinking that various Allied forces were in locations where they weren’t. They built inflatable tanks, trucks, artillery, jeeps – and then placed them, under camouflage, and sometimes out in the open, in order to make the Germans think the Allies had more troops and more equipment than they really did. (The Allies had done the same sort of thing in England during the lead up to D-Day, in order to trick German spies into reporting inaccurate information back to Germany. Hollywood Tangent: this plan was central to the plot in the Ken Follett novel “Eye of the Needle”, later made into a movie starring Donald Sutherland and Kate Nelligan. In case you care.)
German aerial observations planes would fly overhead, and report back on the locations of Allied troops. German HQ would then have to shift troops and supplies to deal with these new Allied forces – which of course did not exist. (Here is a link to the trailer for the documentary; and here is a link to the documentary’s home page.)
The aspect of this Ghost Army that most caught my eye, and which is pertinent to this blog, is its Sonic Unit. This unit spent hundreds of hours piecing together a huge library of “soundscape” recordings. They had recordings of tanks moving into position, of army engineers building pontoon bridges, of trucks full of troops being moved, of commands being shouted, etc. Here is a link to a clip about how they made these recordings. The technology they had to work with! They were still dealing with wire recordings; only after the war was over would the Allied forces get their hands on the reel-to-reel tape recorders that the Germans had invented several years earlier. (This invention would change the face of recording and of the music industry forever! More on this another day.)
The men of the sonic unit would then move their sound trucks into place and play these recordings through huge, 500 pound speaker systems. The sounds could be heard for miles and were extremely effective in misleading the Germans.
Here is a link to a clip from the documentary that provides more information about the sonic unit.
So just like Joshua, and just like drones, and just like LRADs (see previous postings), sound was used in WW II to defeat the opposition. I wonder what happened to the record library that you can see in the second video link above. Do you think it still exists somewhere? Does anyone know of its whereabouts? How might we track it down?