Who were the Ritchie Boys in World War II?
The Ritchie Boys were a United States special German-Austrian unit of Military Intelligence Service that included officers and enlisted men who served in World War II, trained at Camp Ritchie in Washington County Maryland. Many of the men were German-speaking immigrants to the U.S., often Jews who fled Nazi Germany, some sent as children in the 1930s by their parents to a relative already living in the U.S.
They were used primarily for interrogation of prisoners on the front lines and for counter-intelligence in Europe because of their knowledge of the language and German culture.
Approximately 15,200 servicemen were trained at Camp Ritchie, a secret location with an estimated 14% or 2,200 of them, being Jewish refugees. Many also spoke multiple languages including German, French, Italian, Polish or other languages needed by the U.S. Army during the war.
Some of the Ritchie Boys were members of the Allied forces that landed in Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. With their unique set of skills, they were able to provide valuable information to the Allies based on interrogation of Prisoners of War and defectors. A common interrogation tactic was to use the Germans’ fear of transfer into Soviet custody.
A classified postwar report by the U.S. Army found that nearly 60 % of the credible intelligence gathered in Europe came from the Ritchie Boys.
After the war, many of the Ritchie Boys served as translators and interrogators, some during the Nuremberg Trials.