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The Ritchie Boys were a US special military intelligence unit in World War II composed mainly of German-speaking immigrants to the United States. They were predominantly Jews, most of whom had fled Nazi persecution. They were primarily utilized for interrogation of prisoners on the front lines and counter-intelligence in Europe because of their knowledge of the German language and culture.
About the group
The Ritchie Boys consisted of approximately 9,000 young Germans and Austrians, who were mostly Jewish, and who had escaped from their countries of birth and immigrated to the US as refugees. Most had been drafted or volunteered into the United States Army. Some had originally arrived in the USA as children, many without their parents so that these were also One Thousand Children. (One such OTC was Ambassador Richard Schifter.)
They were trained at the Military Intelligence Training Center at Camp Ritchie in Maryland, now officially known as Fort Ritchie. They were specially trained in methods of intelligence, counterintelligence, interrogation, investigation and psychological warfare. They were suitable for these tasks because they knew the German language, and importantly the German mentality and life behaviours, better than most American-born soldiers. The role of these soldiers was therefore to work in the front lines (or even behind them), at strategic corps and army levels, at interrogation, analyzing German forces and plans; and also as members of the U.S. Counter Intelligence Corps; and also to study the enemy, and demoralize him in order to achieve an unconditional surrender.
After the US declared war on Germany, the Ritchie Boys became a decisive weapon for the Allied powers. Many of them entered Europe on D-Day on June 6, 1944 along with the other Allied troops. Others followed over time. Shortly after reaching land they left their units and pursued their special tasks. They were able to feed the Allies valuable information. Gen. Oscar Koch (Gen. Patton's G-2) acknowledged that the advance warning of the German Bulge offensive was made possible by information gathered by their MIS units. Moreover, the Ritchie Boys helped break German resistance by demoralizing them in both open and covert operations. They interrogated POWs and defectors to obtain information about German force levels, troop movements, and the physical and psychological state of the Germans. By means of targeted disinformation via newspaper announcements, flyers, radio broadcasts, and sound trucks, the German population and military was prompted to cease their resistance against the Allied invasion.
After the war, many of the Ritchie Boys served as translators and interrogators. Some had these roles during the Nuremberg Trials. Many of them went on to successful political, scientific, or business careers. The Ritchie Boys included several prominent men such as Hans Habe, Klaus Mann, Stefan Heym, Hanus Burger, George Mandler, Richard Schifter, Guy Stern, Werner Angress, Walter Schwarz ,Hans Trefousse and David Robert Seymour.
In 2004, the group and its work was the subject of the documentary movie "The Ritchie Boys" by film-maker Christian Bauer, featuring ten Ritchie Boys. (See external links below.)
The first-ever reunion of the Ritchie Boys took place from July 23-July 25, 2011, at the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills, Michigan.
- Jeffreys, Keith: Remembering the Ritchie Boys. Retrieved 2007-02-12
- Joshua Franklin: Victim Soldiers: German-Jewish Refugees in the American Armed Forces during World War II Honors thesis, Clark University.
- John Patrick Finnegan, Military Intelligence, Center of Military History United States Army Washington, D. C., 1998; p. 74.
- Kurt Frank Korf, quoted in Patricia Kollander, I Must be a Part of this War: A German American's Fight against Hitler and Nazism, Fordham University Press, 2005; ISBN 0-8232-2528-3; p. 109.
- Sayer, Ian, and Douglas Botting. America's Secret Army: The Untold Story of the Counter Intelligence Corps. Grafton Books, 1989. ISBN 0-246-12690-6
- Gilbert, James L., John P. Finnegan and Ann Bray. In the Shadow of the Sphynx: A History of Army Counterintelligence, History Office, Office of Strategic Management and Information, US Army Intelligence and Security Command, Fort Belvoir, Virginia, Dec 2005; p. 33. ISBN 1234461366
- The Ritchie Boys Official web-site. Important and comprehensive website with history, media and contact information.
- Movie "The Ritchie Boys" Official link of the movie, but currently only shows "poster."
- Movie "The Ritchie Boys" - full description of movie, and how to purchase it.
- Movie "The Ritchie Boys" - Briefest description of video film at the Internet Movie Data Base. (We give two similar links in case one is later removed from the web.)
- Book "The Ritchie Boys." (in German) Book written by movie-maker, and closely related to movie.
- (German) Baron, Ulrich: Wir waren nicht mehr wehrlos in Die Welt. Retrieved 2007-02-12. Long review article about the Ritchie Boys, and the German book (in Die Welt).
- FortRitchie.com - Fort Ritchie at Cascade website
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