H-ton Teenagers Screen Ghost Army Documentary at VA

Andrew Knowles, Julien Rentsch, Julia Frangione, Ronald Worrell and Matthew Gennarelli.

October 11, 2017

An intriguing film documentary developed by four current Huntington High School sophomores is continuing to dazzle local audiences. Two members of the group recently presentated the work at the Breakfast for Veterans at the VA Medical Center in Northport.

The teenagers originally created the documentary for the 2017 National History Day competition. The Ghost Army: “Pretending” to Take a Stand earned Paul Katigbak, Matthew Gennarelli, Andrew Knowles and Julien Rentsch the Cradle of Aviation Museum’s Military History Award at the Long Island regional NHD finals at Hofstra University in March.

It has also been screened by audiences at the Town of Huntington’s Senior Center and the town’s adult day care program. The Huntington High School teenagers have impressed crowds during their appearances, proving to be articulate, well informed and able to think quickly on their feet when questions have been fired their way.

The Ghost Army was a tactical mobile visual deception unit that “fought” for the United States during World War II. They inflated rubber tanks, planes, jeeps, trucks and field artillery pieces, projected sounds that impersonated a real army and sent out fake radio messages in order to fool the Nazis on the location of the real U.S. armed forces. About 1,000 soldiers comprised the Ghost Army, but it successfully impersonated armored divisions amounting to 15,000-20,000 troops.

“Our group came up with the idea shortly after we were assigned the project in school,” Mr. Rentsch said. “The theme for last year’s National History Day ‘Taking a Stand in History,’ and to be perfectly honest, we found our topic by googling ‘unknown people who took a stand in history’ and it was one of the first things that came up. Turns out, it was a topic that we found really interesting and were motivated to pursue.”

The four teenagers devoted an enormous number of hours to creating the documentary. “Altogether, we worked for about four months on the project,” Mr. Rentsch said. “We felt a documentary was the best way to capture and convey the impact of the Ghost Army to a general audience, so we pursued that path. To put our documentary together, we first had to write a script, which may have been the hardest part. After that, we recorded the narrations and put in the visuals and music, and it was complete.”

At the VA Medical Center last week, Messrs. Rentsch and Katigbak quickly introduced themselves and then proceeded to discuss the documentary before showing it to the large crowd. The screening was followed by a lengthy question and answer session. The assembled group was fascinated with the work and quite impressed by the presentation itself.

During their visit to the VA Medical Center they met the sprawling facility’s Director Scott Guermonprez, who retired as an Air Force colonel after more than 30 years on active duty and Huntington Town Councilwoman Tracey A. Edwards.

Although it was a lot of hard work, the four collaborators thoroughly enjoyed the process of developing the Ghost Army documentary and seeing it through to completion.

“For me, the coolest experience that I got out of the project was meeting Seymour Nussenbaum, a veteran who was in the Ghost Army,” Mr. Rentsch said. “We traveled to West Orange, New Jersey to interview him. He recounted to us countless stories and experiences from the war and went through two huge scrapbooks filled with his photos from the war and newspaper articles from the time along with some of his sketches.”

The crowd at last week’s breakfast at the VA Medical Center might not be the last to get a glimpse of the film. “We have now screened our documentary at three different events and may even do a few more showings,” Mr. Rentsch said. “For the coming year, the National History Day theme will be ‘Conflict and Compromise in History.’ We are planning on doing another documentary, but we aren’t sure of the topic yet.”

Visit to view the Ghost Army documentary.

Two honored veterans with Paul Katigbak and Julien Rentsch at the Northport VA Medical Center.
Two honored veterans with Paul Katigbak and Julien Rentsch at the Northport VA Medical Center.
Huntington duo presented the group's documentary
The Huntington duo presented the group's documentary at the Northport VA Medical Center last week.
An inflatable tank
An inflatable tank was so light it could be picked up.
Giant speakers could project fake Army sounds as far as 15 miles
Giant speakers could project fake Army sounds as far as 15 miles. (Courtesy of Rick Beyer.)