When World War II veteran George Dramis returned home, he didn’t say much about the war. If anyone asked him what he was doing there, he would tell him the truth: he was a radio operator.
But there is much, much more to his story.
Dramis, 97, was one of 1,100 Special Troops soldiers at the US Army’s 23rd Headquarters. Now called the Shadow Army, they formed in 1944 with one key job: to trick the German army into the location of army divisions. This was after the D-Day invasion of Normandy, as Allied forces fought to liberate Europe from the Nazis.
“We were coming in at night,” Dramis told The News & Observer, explaining how the Shadow Army works.
“[An Army division] would slip away, quietly. We were entering and simulating their radio transmissions. We had huge half tracks with huge speakers on them that you could hear 15 miles away. These were recordings of actual troop movements – tanks, trucks, guys swearing, shouting “Come here!” “, did he declare.
A half-track was an armored personnel carrier. Those speakers that carried sound 15 miles weighed 500 pounds, Dramis said, and it sounded like a real split was coming. The Ghost Army used inflatable tanks, trucks and other equipment that appeared to be camouflaged, and the soldiers even wore fake division patches. .
These 1,100 soldiers used visual and audio deception to make it look like 15,000 soldiers. And as Dramis told people after the war when his job was still classified, he was a radio operator. He kept it a secret until 1996, when the Shadow Army’s efforts were declassified.
There are only nine Phantom Army veterans still alive. With a bill co-sponsored by U.S. Representative from North Carolina Deborah Ross and signed into law by President Joe Biden in February, these men will receive a Congressional Gold Medal. Ross, a Democrat, and Republican Senator Thom Tillis’ staffer Trey Lewis were among those who attended a ceremony Saturday at the Waltonwood Lake Boone assisted living community in Raleigh.
One of Dramis’ modern counterparts was also present at the ceremony.
Army Colonel Chris Stangle is the commander of the 4th Psychological Operations Group, 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne), at Fort Bragg. Stangle told Dramis that Special Ops was built off of what the Shadow Army started. Stangle told The N&O that Dramis’ work drew on techniques used by what are now called PSYOPS.
As at other ceremonies in recent years honoring World War II veterans, speakers often call them heroes, including Dramis on Saturday.
“They keep talking about this hero part all the time. Well, I’m not so sure about this hero thing,” Dramis told those gathered.
“The 18-, 19-, 20-year-old guys who – Dramis paused and took a deep breath – “may have lasted a minute or two minutes or three minutes, and they never made it. have ever been able to grow up and have a life…these guys are the heroes.
After the war, Dramis was a factory worker and eventually president of an industrial supply company before retiring in 1990, according to the Ghost Army Legacy Project. He and his late wife had four children, and Dramis’ two living sons attended the ceremony on Saturday, along with two of Dramis’ grandsons.
Saturday, July 23, 2022 was also proclaimed George Dramis Day by Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin.
Dramis’ son, Jim Dramis, of Raleigh, wrote in The Charlotte Observer last year about the Ghost Army Legacy Project’s years-long effort to get the bill passed so his father and others be awarded a Congressional Gold Medal. While the medal is still being minted, ceremonies for George Dramis and other Shadow Army veterans are already taking place.
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This story was originally published July 23, 2022 4:18 p.m.