The US’ Secret Weapon to Beat the Nazis? Inflatable Tanks

Before used car lots were using inflatables as decoy salesmen, the US army was using inflatables as decoy military tanks to trick Hitler’s army. 

Yes, you read that correctly. These were not your typical blow-up kids’ party bouncy houses. These were realistic looking blow-ups that replicated military tanks and armored vehicles. Add in some fake radio sound effects and you’ve got the US’ greatest, most artistic asset to fight in WW2 – their “Ghost Army.”

While the idea of inflatable units sounds like it was created by the props department in a war movie, it was actually the brainchild of American military planners Colonel Billy Harris and Major Ralph Ingersoll. The team bringing this’ idea to life included engineers, artists, designers, architects, radio operators, and truck drivers. 

The Ghost Army began during the last year of the war in 1944, and made history as the “first mobile, multimedia, tactical deception unit.” The main goal was to use these units to trick the German soldiers into thinking they caught Allied troops, thus giving the US with the actual units time to move and attack. 

Image via National Archives

The decoy tanks allowed the US military to successfully navigate various missions throughout the war, including D-Day. These blowups were instrumental in distracting enemies, drawing fire away from soldiers, and saving thousands of lives. This group of unsung heros thankfully got some long-overdue recognition. President Biden signed a bill this year granting the Congressional Gold Medal to Ghost Army members for “their unique and highly distinguished service in conducting deception operations” during World War II. 

And hey – if typical inflatables aren’t doing it for you these days, don’t fret. You can cop one of these historical, inflatable tanks for yourself!

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