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Aug 8, 2015


You know me, I love looking outside the genealogy box to discover strategies and inspirational stories that can help us be better family historians. In today’s episode, we’re heading back to World War II, and event that in some way touched the lives of every genealogist’s family, and we’re going to hear an incredible tale deception while at the same time gather research strategies, interview techniques, and compelling story telling methods that I know you’ll love and be able to apply to your own family history.

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In the summer of 1944, a handpicked group of young GIs landed in France to conduct a secret mission. They were to create an elaborate façade of military might for an audience, the German army. These 1100 men had one goal: to fool the enemy into believing they were an American army thousands strong, and draw their attention away from the actual fighting troops.  Get ready to go behind the curtain of Twenty-third Headquarters Special Troops known as the Ghost Army with my special guest Rick Beyer, author of the book The Ghost Army of World War II: How One Top-Secret Unit Deceived the Enemy with Inflatable Tanks, Sound Effects, and Other Audacious Fakery

Rick Beyer, is not only a best-selling author, but he’s also an award-winning filmmaker, and popular speaker. He wrote and directed the acclaimed documentary film Ghost Army, which premiered on PBS in 2013, and is currently available here.

(Photo above:  Rick Beyer. Photo by Brian Smith) 

Please click images below for the book or DVD. Thank you for using our links to Amazon - you are helping us produce the free Genealogy Gems Podcast.


Watch the trailer for The Ghost Army:


The Interview:

Rick explains the three divisions of the Ghost Army, and the deception they were responsible for. Radio, Visual:











(Photo above: Dummy M4 Sherman Tank of the type used by the Ghost Army. 93 pounds fully inflated. Credit: National Archives) 

and Sonic:























(Photo above:  Uncovering the Speakers of a Sonic Half-Track. Credit: National Archives)  


We discuss the power of imagination and how these brave soldiers took advantage of that to defeat the enemy.

Rick shares a story featured both in the book and the documentary film The Ghost Army where some men in France spotted some pretty bizarre things.
















(Photo above:  The Americans are very strong by Arthur Shilstone. Credit: Arthur Shilstone) 

Then Rick takes us behind the scenes of the book to explore research strategies and in particular, effective interviewing techniques.








(Photo above:  Rick Beyer interviewing Ghost Army Veteran Jack McGlynn in 2007. Credit: Rick Beyer) 

The book is compelling on many levels: the storytelling, the integration of all the art, photos and documents, and fantastic catchy chapter titles that make you want to read, and Rick shares the secret behind his success, particularly those catch chapter titles!














(Photo above:  "Near Metz" by Sgt. George Vander Sluis, 603rd Camouflage Engineers, 1944. Credit: Jeff Vander Sluis) 


Telling family history stories in a way that captivates non-genealogists can be a tough job. Rick shares his tips for telling great stories, particularly in a book format.























(Photo above:  Photo montage featuring some of the eleven hundred men of the Ghost Army. From the book The Ghost Army of World War II. Credit: Photos contributed by William Sayles, Dick Syracuse, Nathaniel Dahl, Jack McGlynn, Bob Boyajian) 

A Very Special Gem: A Plate of Peas by Rick Beyer
Attention Genealogy Gems App Users:  Watch Rick tell this heartwarming story. The video is part of your episode Bonus Content. Get the App here


Visit Rick at

Get the book here and support the free podcast

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Rent the film here and support the free podcast



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"In the end, we may search with our computers, but we never want to stop searching with our hearts." Lisa Louise Cooke