A week ago the U.S. Senate unanimously voted to award the Congressional Gold Medal to a top secret World War II unit, national recognition that was inspired by the work of an Iowa student.
Caleb Sinnwell , a ninth grader in the Nashua-Plainfield School District, won a 2021 National History Day award for creating a website about the Ghost Army.
“It used a wide array of deceptive tactics and over 20 military operations, which we all successful, by the way,” he said during an interview with Radio Iowa.
The mere existence of the Ghost Army was classified for more than 40 years. The unit of 1100 men used inflatable tanks, sound effects and other tricks, convincing the Germans far larger groups of U.S. soldiers were in position or planning to attack. Sinnwell said his interest in the group was sparked by family.
“My great-great grandpa was in World War I. My great grandpa was in World War II and my current grandpa right now, he was in Vietnam,” Sinnwell said. “…We always talk about Vietnam and it’s very interesting. I find the military a very interesting topic.”
The teenager is a veteran of the National History Day competition. Sinnwell’s first entry was in 2020. It was about the Iowans involved in a humanitarian mission after two typhoons devastated an agricultural area in Japan.
“I love pigs. I really wanted to do a topic about pigs,” Sinnwell said, “so when I heard about the 1960 Iowa Hog Lift, I thought it was a great fit right away.”
Sinnwell’s project mentioned the Iowa soldier who had the hog lift idea as well as the eventual flight of 36 Iowa pigs to an area northwest of Tokyo.
Sinnwell is entering the 2022 National History Day competition, but he’s not ready to reveal the topic. “That’s actually classified at the moment,” Sinnwell told Radio Iowa.
Sinnwell is hoping his next entry does as well as his last, since some National History Day activities were cancelled this past year due to teh pandemic. “I’m excited for this year now,” he said, “that I can hopefully get my trip to Washington, D.C.”
Sinnwell’s long term goals are to join his family’s farming operation, work as a utility lineman and be a volunteer fire fighter, too.