Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Spy on History: Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army by Enigma Alberti, illustrated by Scott Wegener

Not too many people know about the Ghost Army and what they did during the war, but they played an very important part in the Allied victory. In this second book in the Spy On History series, readers meet Sergeant Victor Dowd, a Brooklyn boy, was hand picked by the Army to become part of the 603rd Camouflage Engineers, a/k/a the Ghost Army.

Victor, along with the rest of the hand picked members of the Ghost Army, had been chosen because of their artistic talents. After basic training, the members of the 603rd had developed and tested inflatable guns, planes, tanks, and vehicles as well as figuring out how to disguise bomber planes and coastal defense to fool the enemy. Now, along with the 3132 Signal Service Company Special, they would get to test their deceptions for real.

After the successful Normandy invasion, Vic and his platoon arrived on Omaha Beach in France, along with their inflatable "equipment" and wasted no time setting up their inflatable howitzers. But would it fool the enemy?

That was the question the Ghost Army asked themselves each time they moved forward. Their job was to fool the enemy into thinking they were a fully armored division ready for battle, when in reality there was nothing but realistic inflatables and finely tuned sound effects imitating every possible sound typical of real division.

As the Ghost Army worked its way through France, Belgium all the way to the Rhine and their longest and greatest deception, readers can use the spy craft tools to try to solve the mystery of Victor's missing sketchbook.

Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army is a novel based on real events and and real people,
including Vic. And all of the different incidents that are included in the novel also took place. For instance, Alberti includes the story of Christmas 1944, when Vic and the other Ghost Army soldiers put together boxes of goodies like candy, gum, and food from their own rations for some of the refugee children in France. One little boy never smiled, and Vic wonders what terrible things he had already been through. Vic even drew a picture of him:
To help them do that, there is a sealed Top Secret envelop included at the front of the book that contains the four spy craft tools to help readers will need to find the clues that are scattered throughout the book to help them solve the mystery of where to find Victor Dowd's missing sketchbook. The tools include a cipher wheel, a red acetate sheet, a WWII "poop sheet" containing information about specific units, as well as morse code, and a sheet of vellum featuring patches of the Ghost Army and the battalions they impersonated.
The Spy on History series is a great way for kids to add to their knowledge of history. This is a middle grade book and by then, most kids have learned about WWII, but this adds to that by providing a look an some of the more unusual aspects of that conflict. And at the same time, they get to use their problem solving skills as they try to solve the mystery.

When I was a classroom teacher, and even in homeschooling situations, Friday afternoon was always cool down time and the kids were allowed to play strategy games. This would be an ideal addition to the other games. 

Here's a question you can give the kids to think about while they read Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army:
If you were a member of the Ghost Army, which of your creative skills would you utilize to deceive the German troops?
Personally, I'm not very artistic, but I'm a good problem solver, so the only thing I would be good for are idea about how to go about deceiving the enemy.

Spy on History: Victor Dowd and the World War II Ghost Army is a wonderful and fun way to learn about the important role the Ghost Army played in helping the Allies win the war.

This book is recommended for readers age 10+
This book was provided by the publisher, Workman Publishing


  1. Very clever way of approaching the topic! I wrote an article about the Ghost Army for a local news magazine. It generated lots of interest among adult readers as well.

    1. There was also a documentary on PBS a few years ago and hopefully they will run it again. It was very interesting.

  2. I am really looking forward to checking out this series. I don't recall ever learning about the Ghost Army. I am also intrigued by the envelope included. Thanks for sharing. :)