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The Ritchie Boys were the US special military intelligence officers and enlisted men of World War II who were trained at Camp Ritchie in Maryland. Many of them were German-speaking immigrants to the United States, often Jews who 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 15,200 servicemen who were trained for U.S. Army Intelligence during WWII at the secret Camp Ritchie training facility. Approximately 14%, or 2,200, of them were Jewish refugees born in Germany and Austria. Most of the men sent to Camp Ritchie for training were assigned there because of fluency in German, French, Italian, Polish, or other languages needed by the US Army during WWII. They had been drafted into or volunteered to join the United States Army and when their ability to speak the language of an enemy was discovered, they were sent to Camp Ritchie on secret orders. Some of the Jewish refugees who were part of this program had originally arrived in the US as children, many without their parents, and were also among the 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. (900 of these men also attended special training at Camp Sharpe, PA. The Jewish refugees were qualified for these tasks because they knew the German language and understood the German mentality and behavior 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 to study and demoralize the enemy. The majority of them went on to work as members of the US Counter Intelligence Corps;
After the German declaration of war against the United States on Dec 11, 1941, the Ritchie Boys became an important weapon for the Allies. Many of them entered Europe on D-Day, 6 June 1944. 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. A common interrogation tactic was to use the Germans' fear of transfer into Soviet custody. By means of targeted disinformation via newspaper announcements, flyers, radio broadcasts, and sound trucks, the German population and military were encouraged to cease their resistance to the Allied invasion.
After the war, many of the Ritchie Boys served as translators and interrogators, some during the Nuremberg Trials. Many of them went on to successful political, scientific, or business careers.
The first-ever reunion of the Ritchie Boys took place from 23–25 July 2011 at the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills, Michigan. Another reunion was held in June 2012 in Washington, DC, and at Fort Ritchie, which by then had closed.
Notable Ritchie Boys
The Ritchie Boys included several prominent men:
- Werner Angress
- Hanus Burger
- Gilbert de Goldschmidt
- Alfred de Grazia
- Gerald Geiger
- Hans Habe
- Stefan Heym
- George Mandler
- Klaus Mann
- Richard Schifter
- Walter Schwarz
- Oskar Seidlin
- Guy Stern
- Hans Trefousse
- Rolf Valtin
- Vernon A. Walters
- Hans Trefousse
- J.D. Salinger.
- Bruce Henderson, Sons and Soldiers: The Untold Story of the Jews Who Escaped the Nazis and Returned with the U.S. Army to Fight Hitler Harper Collins New York (2017). Review at the CIA Library.
- John Patrick Finnegan, Military Intelligence, Center of Military History United States Army Washington, D. C., 1998.
- "Sons and Soldiers: The Untold Story of the Jews Who Escaped the Nazis and Returned with the U.S. Army to Fight Hitler," by Bruce Henderson, New York HarperCollins, (2017) ISBN 9780062419118 The CIA presents a detailed review at [https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/csi-publications/csi-studies/studies/vol-61-no-3/sons-and-soldiers.html
- 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
- Fox, Margalit (4 February 2010). "Hans L. Trefousse, Historian and author, Dies at 88". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 April 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "Holocaust Memorial Center Hosts 'The Ritchie Boys' Exhibit". CBS Detroit. 23 July 2011. Retrieved 31 August 2019. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Spracher, William C.; Kramar, Mark (2013). "Just-in-Time Intelligence Training in World War II: The Legacy of the "Ritchie Boys" Seven Decades Later (Part I)". American Intelligence Journal. National Military Intelligence Foundation. 31 (2): 139–142. JSTOR 26202086.
- Thomsen, Paul A.; Spivak, Joshua (April 2002). "Through an Interrogator's Eyes". Military History. 19 (1): 58. Archived from the original on 18 January 2015. Retrieved 6 April 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- Bethune, Brian (20 July 2017). "The untold story of the Ritchie Boys". Macleans.
- "Official website for The Ritchie Boys". Retrieved 6 April 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- "The Ritchie Boys". Docurama. Retrieved 6 April 2015. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
- The Ritchie Boys Official website. Comprehensive website with history, media and contact information.
- The Ritchie Boys (in German), a book written by the film-maker; closely related to movie.
- (in 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).
- The Ritchie Boys - German Jews who fled Nazi Germany to become American GIs at WikiTree
- FortRitchie.com – Fort Ritchie at Cascade website
- Online-Exhibition about Werner Angress by the Jewish Museum Berlin at the Google Cultural Institute.