Ritchie Boys

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The Ritchie Boys were a special collection of soldiers, with sizable numbers of German-Austrian recruits, of the U.S. Military Intelligence Service officers and enlisted men of World War II who were used primarily for interrogation of prisoners on the front lines and counter-intelligence in Europe because of their knowledge of the German language and culture. Trained at secret Camp Ritchie in Washington County, Maryland, many of the total 22,000 service men and women were German-speaking immigrants to the United States, often Jews, who fled Nazi persecution.[1][2] In addition to interrogation and counter-intelligence they were also trained in psychological warfare in order to study and demoralize the enemy, and served as prosecutors and translators in the Nuremberg trials.[3]

Camp Ritchie[edit]

The Ritchie Boys consisted of approximately 20,000 servicemen, and 200 Women's Army Corps members, who were trained for U.S. Army Intelligence during WWII at the secret Camp Ritchie training facility. 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 were sent to Camp Ritchie on secret orders.[citation needed] 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.

They were trained at the Military Intelligence Training Center at Camp Ritchie in Maryland, later officially known as Fort Ritchie (which was closed in 1998 under the 1995 Base Realignment and Closure Commission).[4] They were specially trained in methods of intelligence, counterintelligence, interrogation, investigation and psychological warfare.[5] Nine hundred of these men also attended special training at Camp Sharpe, Pennsylvania. 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.[6] The role of these soldiers was therefore to work in the front lines, 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.[7]

During the Battle of the Bulge, two Ritchie Boys were recognized due to their accents, after which German officer Curt Bruns ordered them both to be summarily executed, saying "The Jews have no right to live in Germany." He was captured on February 15, 1945, put on trial for these murders, and sentenced to death by firing squad. Bruns was executed on June 15, 1945, the first WWII war criminal to be executed by the US Army.[8]


After the German declaration of war against the United States on December 11, 1941, the Ritchie Boys became an important weapon for the Allies. Many of them entered Europe on D-Day, 6 June 1944.[9] 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.[10][11] 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.


Camp Ritchie also trained over five hundred Japanese Nisei for the PACMIRS program (Pacific Military Intelligence Research Service) to translate documents the U.S. Navy captured in Saipan in July 1944. Fifteen crates of documents were sent to Camp Ritchie for training purposes and were not considered to have any military intelligence. One Nisei, Kazuo Yamane, dug into a crate, retrieving what he believed to be a textbook, but soon discovered it to be meeting minutes from a gathering of all of Japan's armories. The notes contained locations of the armories, the number of weapons held by Imperial Japan, spare parts held, and indicated that Japan had half the number of weapons available to it in 1944 as it did in 1943. Yamane immediately contacted his superior, who contacted the War Department, which translated the text into English. The U.S. then located and destroyed the armories. Yamane called this act his "Proof of Loyalty" because he claimed he could have easily not reported the document to his superiors. A 2018 film, PROOF OF LOYALTY: Kazuo Yamane and the Nisei Soldiers of Hawaii detailed his time in the service and at Ritchie.


A classified postwar report by the U.S. Army found that nearly 60 percent of the credible intelligence gathered in Europe came from the Ritchie Boys.[1]

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.[12] Another reunion was held in June 2012 in Washington, D.C., and at Fort Ritchie, which by then had closed.[13]

In August 2021 the Ritchie Boys were honored in a congressional resolution.[14][15]

Following the sale of Fort Ritchie in April 2021, a museum and educational center was opened on June 9th, 2023 to continue commemorating the story of the Ritchie Boys in the location where they originally trained.[16] On April 25, 2022, Maryland State Senator Paul Corderman officially announced $400,000 of state funding for the creation of a museum at Camp Ritchie to honor the legacy of the Ritchie Boys and the history of the Army Post.[17][better source needed] Then museum director, Landon Grove, presented a number of talks and interviews, including several NPR discussions in Tulsa, Oklahoma, to spread the story of the soldiers.

The Ritchie Boys were honored by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum with the Elie Wiesel Award, the museum's highest honor to recognize "the unique role they played serving the United States and advancing our victory over Germany". Ritchie Boys Arno Mayer and Gideon Kantor were present to accept the award while a keynote speech was given by Mark Milley.[18][failed verification]

On October 31, 2022, a press conference was held at Fort Ritchie and Congressman David Trone announced he expected to introduce in Congress a bill to award the Ritchie Boys the Congressional Gold Medal.[19]

Notable Ritchie Boys[edit]

Anyone who attended Camp Ritchie is considered a Ritchie Boy for this list, whether or not they went on to serve in Europe.

Instructors at Camp Ritchie included Rex Applegate[43] and professional wrestler Man Mountain Dean.[44]

Film, TV, books[edit]

  • In 2015, the book "Immigrant Soldier: The Story of a Ritchie Boy" by K. Lang-Slattery was published. It is a fictionalized historical account based on the experiences of her uncle, Herman Lang, a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany who escaped to America via England, was trained at Camp Ritchie, returned to Germany as a US soldier specializing in prisoner interrogation and translation, and served under General Patton. [35]
  • On May 9, 2021, the story of the Ritchie Boys was presented in a forty-minute segment of the CBS news show 60 Minutes. Victor Brombert, 97, Paul Fairbrook, 98, and Guy Stern, 99, gave personal testimony.[39][38] On January 2, 2022, an expanded one hour version called "60 Minutes Presents" was shown.[46] The program re-aired on July 3, 2022, due to its popularity.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Henderson, Bruce (2017). Sons and Soldiers: The Untold Story of the Jews Who Escaped the Nazis and Returned with the U.S. Army to Fight Hitler. New York: William Morrow. ISBN 978-0062419095. OCLC 1014240736.
  2. ^ Foy, David A. (2 October 2017). "Intelligence in Literature and Media: Reviewed: Sons and Soldiers: The Untold Story of the Jews Who Escaped the Nazis and Returned with the US Army to Fight Hitler". Studies in Intelligence. 61 (3). Center for the Study of Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency. Archived from the original on 6 December 2017. Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  3. ^ "Ritchie Boys: The secret U.S. unit bolstered by German-born Jews who helped the Allies beat Hitler". www.cbsnews.com. Retrieved 7 January 2022.
  4. ^ "Fort Ritchie at Cascade". 5 July 2008. Archived from the original on 5 July 2008. Retrieved 12 May 2021. Fort Ritchie is a new mixed-use development on a 591-acre former Army post in Cascade, Maryland. Corporate Office Properties Trust
  5. ^ John Patrick Finnegan, Military Intelligence, Center of Military History United States Army, Washington, D.C., 1998.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ 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
  8. ^ "Ritchie Boys: The secret U.S. unit bolstered by German-born Jews who helped the Allies beat Hitler". www.cbsnews.com. Retrieved 27 January 2023.
  9. ^ 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
  10. ^ Fine, Sabrina (17 April 2020). "Holocaust refugee turned American Soldier never forgot the horrors he witnessed". 502nd Air Base Wing, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston. United States Air Force. Retrieved 12 May 2021. My friend and comrade Fred Howard found that the German soldiers were afraid beyond everything else of landing in Russian captivity," Stern said. "We played on that fear by telling the enemy soldiers that we had orders to turn them over to the Russians if they did not cooperate. We got vital info for our Air Force that way. I disguised myself as a Soviet commissar and liaison officer. I donned a Russian uniform for that purpose; Fred played a soft-hearted American.
  11. ^ a b Fox, Margalit (4 February 2010). "Hans L. Trefousse, Historian and author, Dies at 88". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
  12. ^ "Holocaust Memorial Center Hosts 'The Ritchie Boys' Exhibit". CBS Detroit. 23 July 2011. Retrieved 31 August 2019.
  13. ^ 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. 31 (2). National Military Intelligence Foundation: 139–142. JSTOR 26202086.
  14. ^ "Ritchie Boys Honored for WWII Service, Valor". AUSA. 11 August 2021. Retrieved 26 November 2021.
  15. ^ a b Cardin, Ben (9 August 2021). "Text – S.Res.349 – 117th Congress (2021–2022): A resolution honoring the contributions of the Ritchie Boys". www.congress.gov. Retrieved 26 November 2021.
  16. ^ "Segment on WWII Ritchie Boys from Washington County camp to air on '60 Minutes'". Herald Mail Media. 7 May 2021. Retrieved 13 May 2021.
  17. ^ "Senator Paul Corderman is at Fort Ritchie Community Center". Facebook. Retrieved 15 May 2022.
  18. ^ "Elie Wiesel Award is Museum's Highest Honor".
  19. ^ "Legislation To Honor The 'Ritchie Boys' To Be Introduced". WFMD. 31 October 2022. Retrieved 31 October 2022.
  20. ^ Traussnig, Florian; Lackner, Robert. "Austrian Graduates of the Military Intelligence Training Centers: Camp Ritchie & Camp Sharpe" (PDF). Austrian Center for Intelligence, Propaganda and Security Studies. Retrieved 8 September 2021.
  21. ^ Angress, Werner [in German]. "May he rot forever!". Jewish Museum Berlin. Google Arts & Culture. Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Lota, Jiesie. "Ritchie Boys". Katie Lang-Slattery. Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  23. ^ a b c d e f Dahlit, Brin (8 November 2005). "Appendix A: Andrè Kostolany (1906–1999)". Dissertation: How can Strategic People Networks (SPNs) be successful? – An inquiry into the causes and nature of social networks striving toward a mutual goal. Leuphana University of Lüneburg. p. 82. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 May 2021. I met a number of interesting men at Camp Ritchie who would intersect with my life later on: Phillip Johnson, then a junior architect who had already been involved with the Museum of Modern Art; John Kluge, who was born in Germany and later would found Metromedia; John Oakes, who later edited the 'New York Times' editorial page; and Fred Henderson, part Apache Indian and a regular Army officer who made a career with the CIA after the War.
  24. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Camp Ritchie and the Legacy of the Ritchie Boys". ritchieboys.com. Retrieved 10 January 2022.
  25. ^ a b Dolibois, John E. (2000). Pattern of Circles: An Ambassador's Story. Kent State University Press. p. 60. ISBN 9780873383899. OCLC 231054588. Camp Ritchie had been the Maryland National Guard Camp for years....There was a prince of Bourbon-Parma
  26. ^ Gilbert, Lori (28 May 2012). "San Joaquin man part of unique WWII band of brothers". The Record. Stockton, CA: Gannett. Archived from the original on 12 May 2021. Retrieved 12 May 2021. I was assigned to write the Red Book, the 'Order of Battle Book of the German Army'
  27. ^ Bies, Brandon; Santucci, Vincent (15 February 2008). "Interview with Paul Fairbrook" (PDF). P.O. Box 1142, Fort Hunt Oral History Project. Stockton, California: National Park Service. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 April 2021. Retrieved 12 May 2021. Paul Fairbrook...And it took a year and a half before it was finished. And, when it was finished, some of us – I mean, here's the order of battle book and I have it – and when it was finished I believe that – I mean it was dated 1st of March, 1945.
  28. ^ Creamer, Maggie (11 July 2012). "WWII veteran Paul Fairbrook recounts decoding German documents". Lodi News-Sentinel. Lodi, California: Central Valley News-Sentinel Inc. Archived from the original on 16 November 2015. Retrieved 13 May 2021. They had about 30 classes at Camp Richie, and Fairbrook was in the fourth class before the barracks were even built....He was then transferred to a secret camp called P.O. Box 1142, between Alexandria and Mount Vernon, Va....He worked on a book titled "The German Army Order of Battle 1942," writing the first chapter describing the various German army units.....He also prepared a study called "Political Introduction and Morale-Building in the German Army." ...He served as dean of the Culinary Institute of America. He also spent 20 years as the Director of Auxiliary Services at University of the Pacific, overseeing housing and food services.
  29. ^ Cooney, Jerry W., and Thomas L. Whigham. "Harris Gaylord Warren (1906–1988)." The Hispanic American Historical Review, 69, no. 3 (1989): 562–64. Accessed June 22, 2021
  30. ^ "Captain Alfred J. de Grazia" (PDF). soc.mili. Retrieved 9 January 2022.
  31. ^ "Interview with Adolf Grübaum" (PDF). United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. 31 March 2015. Retrieved 9 January 2022.
  32. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 6 September 2021. Retrieved 13 May 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  33. ^ "Biography Breakfast meeting will focus on musician, newspaperman". Waynesboro Record Herald. Retrieved 9 January 2022.
  34. ^ "William D. Krimer, Interpreter, Dies at 86". New York Times. 11 February 2001. Retrieved 8 September 2021.
  35. ^ a b "Author Talk: Kathryn Lang-Slattery – Immigrant Soldier: The Story of a Ritchie Boy". San Rafael Public Library. 24 October 2016. Retrieved 17 May 2024.
  36. ^ Sandomir, Richard (17 September 2022). "Maximilian Lerner, Whose Espionage Skills Helped Win a War, Dies at 98". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 September 2022.
  37. ^ Bies, Brandon; Santucci, Vincent. "Fort Hunt Oral History: Interview of Arno Mayer" (PDF). nps.gov. Retrieved 9 January 2022.
  38. ^ a b c Wertheim, Jon. "The secret U.S. unit that helped the Allies beat Hitler". WGHN. (Transcript) Produced by Katherine Davis. Associate producer, Jennifer Dozor. Broadcast associate, Elizabeth Germino. Edited by Stephanie Palewski Brumbach and Robert Zimet.
  39. ^ a b c "Ritchie Boys: The secret U.S. unit bolstered by German-born Jews that helped the Allies beat Hitler". CBS, "60 Minutes," Season 53, episode 34, first presented May 9, 2021.
  40. ^ Bethune, Brian (20 July 2017). "The untold story of the Ritchie Boys". Macleans.
  41. ^ "Rudolph Edward Schirmer '41". Princeton Alumni Weekly. Princeton University. 21 January 2016. Retrieved 12 May 2021. During WWII he was in military intelligence (Field Interrogation Unit).
  42. ^ 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.
  43. ^ Eddy, Beverley Driver (7 September 2021). Ritchie Boy Secrets: How a Force of Immigrants and Refugees Helped Win World War II. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 118. ISBN 978-0-8117-6997-6.
  44. ^ Eddy, Beverley Driver (7 September 2021). Ritchie Boy Secrets: How a Force of Immigrants and Refugees Helped Win World War II. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 44. ISBN 978-0-8117-6997-6.
  45. ^ "The Ritchie Boys". IMDb. 23 April 2004. Retrieved 12 May 2021.
  46. ^ ""60 Minutes Presents "The Ritchie Boys" ON Sunday, Jan. 2". ViacomCBS Press Express. Retrieved 3 January 2022.


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