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How inflatable tanks and other trickery saved thousands of soldiers' lives in WWII Europe

River to River, hosted by Ben Kieffer

The Congressional Gold Medal was recently awarded to living and deceased members of the Ghost Army, a World War II deception unit that was kept secret for half a century after the war.

Many of the Ghost soldiers were artists, recruited to use their creativity in deceiving and befuddling the German army during the latter years of WWII.

Tactics included inflatable tanks, phony radio transmissions, and sonic deception. The unit was kept secret until records were declassified in 1996, and its existence has since been amplified by books and documentaries, and the Ghost Army Legacy Project, which lobbied for seven years for a Congressional Gold Medal, which was signed into law in 2022.

River to River host Ben Kieffer talks with author and filmmaker Rick Beyer about the Ghost Army, and his nearly two decades of work preserving and honoring its history.

Iowa high school student Caleb Sinnwell and his teacher Suzan Turner join the conversation to share how he won Senator Charles Grassley's support for the gold medal which led to bipartisan Congressional approval. It then took two years for the U.S. Mint to craft the custom gold medal, which was bestowed in person to three living members of the unit on March 21 at the U.S. Capitol.

Then the son of an Iowan who served in the Ghost Army details how he uncovered his father John Cantrell's history.


  • Rick Beyer, author and filmmaker
  • Caleb Sinnwell, junior, Nashua-Plainfield Jr-Sr High School
  • Suzan Turner, 6-12th grade Talented and Gifted teacher and National History Day advisor, Nashua-Plainfield Jr-Sr High School
  • David Cantrell, Iowa native, son of John Cantrell
Ben Kieffer is the host of IPR's River to River
Samantha McIntosh is a talk show producer at Iowa Public Radio. Prior to IPR, Samantha worked as a reporter for radio stations in southeast and west central Iowa under M&H Broadcasting, and before that she was a weekend music host for GO 96.3 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.