Dummy tanks saw their widest use in World War II and were a critical element of deception tactics for both sides.
A secret unit of the U.S. Army composed of artists, illustrators, radio operators and sound experts known as the “Ghost Army” used inflatable decoy tanks, huge loudspeakers and phony radio transmissions to project the appearance of a massive force throughout the war, diverting German attention away from the landings at Normandy and the Ninth Army’s crossing of the Rhine, among other operations.
In the Pacific Theater, the Japanese made use of dummy tanks, crafting them out of wood and available materials, even sculpting one out of Iwo Jima’s volcanic sands.
Dummy tanks are still used today. The U.S. Army has developed an inflatable tank that mimics the heat signature of a real one and can be deployed from a package the size of a duffel bag, while ISIS fighters regularly use dummy vehicles to draw fire from enemies relying on aerial reconnaissance.