Emily S. Whitten: The G.I. Film Festival and The Ghost Army

Emily S. Whitten

Emily S. Whitten writes everything from news, reviews, and interviews to how-tos, con round-ups, and opinion pieces for ComicMix and others; as well as comics featured on ComicMix, MTV.com, and Reelz.com; and occasionally even award-winning poetry and fiction. When she's not writing for fun or profit, she’s sharing geeky thoughts on the Fantastic Forum radio show and podcast Made of Fail. Emily is a convention organizer and consultant, and co-chair of the fourth North American Discworld Convention, which she co-founded. She has been Program Coordinator for Awesome Con and staff for several genre cons. Emily is a program moderator for Awesome Con and Fan2Sea; and you might also recognize her from her days of answering questions online as her alter-ego, Ask Deadpool. In her copious spare time, Emily enjoys crafting and cosplay, and looking after the cutest three-legged dwarf hamster in the world, ElliePuff. Oh, and when she's not doing all that, Emily is an active member of The National Press Club and holds down a 9-to-5 as a senior attorney for the federal government - although that may just be her superheroine cover identity.

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7 Responses

  1. Bill Spangler says:

    I’ll be watching Ghost Army tonight, but I can’t resist asking: does this have any connection with the work of Jasper Maskelynne ( I think that’s the spelling) during World War II? He was a British stage magician and was supposed to have performed similar battlefield illusions.

    • Emily S. Whitten says:

      Sorry for the delayed reply.

      Maskelyne was involved in the British version of this sort of thing, and there are some cool stories to be found in what the British did. The Ghost Army focuses on the American unit of that nickname, however.

  2. mike weber says:

    Maskelyne also wrote pamphlets/books for soldiers teaching them how to spot cheats at gambling.

    Geeze – there were three generations of Maskelyne magicians!

    Jasper (the one you asked about) was the third generation, son of Nevil and grandson of John Nevil (who also invented the pay toilet).

    Maskelyne was apparenly not involved with the unit the film is about; his service was mostly in Egypt. Wikipedia says

    A study by Richard Stokes argues that much of the story concerning the involvement of Maskelyne in counterintelligence operations, as described in the book “Magic: Top Secret” was pure invention, and that no unit called the “Magic Gang” ever existed. Maskelyne’s role in the deception war was marginal.

    Christian House, reviewing Rick Stroud’s book The Phantom Army of Alamein in The Independent, describes Maskelyne as “one of the more grandiose members” of the Second World War desert camouflage unit, and “a chancer tasked with experimental developments, who fogged his own reputation as much as any desert convoy”.

    David Hambling, writing on Wired, critiques David Fisher’s uncritical acceptance of Maskelyne’s stories: “A very colorful account of Maskelyne’s role is given in the book The War Magician – reading it you might think he won the war single-handed.” Hambling denies Maskelyne’s supposed concealment of the Suez Canal: “in spite of the book’s claims, the dazzle light[s] were never actually built (although a prototype was once tested).”

    In 2002 The Guardian wrote: “Maskelyne received no official recognition. For a vain man this was intolerable and he died an embittered drunk. It gives his story a poignancy without which it would be mere chest-beating.”

    • Emily S. Whitten says:

      I do find the Maskelyne family to be pretty fascinating. :) But yes, this documentary is about the American unit.

  3. I have never heard of the Ghost Army before this article, so thanks for that Emily. And the 23rd Headquarters Troops- skidoo!

    But they sound like COINTELPRO if used against an actual enemy, instead of citizens. I wonder if some modern incarnation lives on, maybe under the white hats of cyber-warfare now?

    • Emily S. Whitten says:

      I had never heard of it until several years ago when I came across some brief info about the unit and became fascinated. The documents were only declassified in 1996, which is why it’s not more well-known.

      Well, I know that the work of the Ghost Army certainly contributed to future developments in deception tactics…

  4. Christina says:

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