Susan Collins

Address at the Congressional Gold Medal Award Ceremony for Ghost Army Veterans

delivered 21 March 2024, Washington, D.C.

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Thank you. What an extraordinary honor it is to participate in this Congressional Gold Medal ceremony for the soldiers of the Ghost Army.

Today, we finally will give long overdue recognition to these extraordinary soldiers for their brave and resourceful service during World War II. And isn't it wonderful that three of them are here with us today.

More than a thousand soldiers from the 23rd Headquarters Special Troops and the 3133rd Signal Service Company volunteered for a perilous mission to outwit and confound the forces of Nazi Germany.

Among these soldiers was Private First Class Gardner Stone of Poland, Maine. I'm delighted that his daughter, Carol Allen, her husband Clarence, and their son Craig are among the families with us today for this much deserved and long overdue recognition.

I also want to recognize Justice Andrew Mead of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court and his wife Kelly [ph], who have also traveled to Washington to join us.

I want to give full credit to Justice Mead: He was the one who first contacted me and educated me about the Ghost Army. I'm so grateful that he did.

His father was just a sophomore at the University of Maine when he enlisted in the army at the recruiting center in Bangor, Maine. He was a member of the Signal Service Company and was deployed to Italy in early 1995.

Also with us here today is Melinda Skelton McKinney from Windham, Maine, who honors her father, William Skelton's service in the Ghost Army. William served as a captain in the Camouflage Engineers Unit. He received the Bronze Star for meritorious service for five battle engagements.

These veterans were among the hand picked soldiers who volunteered for the Ghost Army's remarkable assignment on the front lines in Europe. Using visual deceptions like inflatable tanks, aircraft and artillery, loudspeakers and fake radio transmissions, this unit outmaneuvered and deceived the Nazis. At great personal risk, these soldiers successfully diverted enemy resources and, as we have heard today, saved tens of thousands of American lives.

The courage and ingenuity of these top secret units were pivotal across the European Theatre in World War II. And like Annie Kuster, my father also was a veteran of the Battle of the Bulge, where he was wounded twice and -- and secured two Purple Hearts.

The ingenuity and contributions of the Ghost Army were classified for decades without its members receiving the recognition that they deserved. It was not until 1996 that their heroic actions were declassified and the American public began to learn the full scope of their contributions to achieving our allied victory.

I was so proud to cosponsor in the Senate with Senator Markey the bipartisan, bicameral legislation to honor these unsung heroes with Congress's highest civilian award. And today, finally, today Congress will bestow this long awaited honor on these deserving veterans.

May God bless these heroes and their families.

And may God bless the United States of America.

Thank you.

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