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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, 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 languages of the enemy were 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 suitable for these tasks because they knew the German language, and importantly 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 as members of the US Counter Intelligence Corps; and also to study and demoralize the enemy.
After the US declared war on Nazi Germany, 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 Ritchie Boys included several prominent men, such as Hans Habe, Klaus Mann, Oskar Seidlin, Stefan Heym, Hanus Burger, Gerald Geiger, George Mandler, Richard Schifter, Guy Stern, Werner Angress, Walter Schwarz, Hans Trefousse and David Robert Seymour.
- 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
- Fox, Margalit (4 February 2010). "Hans L. Trefousse, Historian and author, Dies at 88". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
- Thomsen, Paul A.; Spivak, Joshua (April 2002). "Through an Interrogator's Eyes". Military History. 19 (1): 58. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
- "Official website for The Ritchie Boys". Retrieved 6 April 2015.
- "The Ritchie Boys". Docurama. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
- "The Ritchie Boys". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved 6 April 2015.
- The Ritchie Boys Official web-site. Important and comprehensive website with history, media and contact information.
- The Ritchie Boys (in German), a book written by the film-maker; 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
- Online-Exhibition about Werner Angress by the Jewish Museum Berlin at the Google Cultural Institute.