The inspiring story of the “Ritchie Boys” and their unique contribution to the Allied victory in World War II.
The Ritchie Boys, named for Maryland’s Camp Ritchie, where they trained, were primarily Jewish refugees from Hitler’s Germany, chosen for their language skills and knowledge of German culture. In a highly readable, often thrilling narrative, prolific nonfiction author Henderson (Rescue at Los Baños: The Most Daring Prison Camp Raid of World War II, 2015) focuses on the members of this elite, 2,000-man unit who escaped from Europe and by one means or another made it to the United States. Enlisting for military service, they were given specially designed intelligence training at Camp Ritchie. After their training, they went back to Europe as intelligence specialists and interrogators and performed a vital function on the front lines for the 82nd Airborne and Patton’s 3rd Army, among many others. Trained specifically in the details of the Nazi military’s order of battle, the Ritchie Boys had the skills to provide Allied forces with detailed knowledge of what they would encounter as they moved forward in the advance across Europe. While Henderson acknowledges the contributions of all the Ritchie Boys his researcher could identify, his account focuses on about a dozen men. He tells the individual stories of how these youngsters’ families were split up, especially after Kristallnacht in 1938, and they came here to make a new start, some with just a few dollars in their pockets. Some of the standouts from this impressive group were Werner Angress, who, without proper parachute training, jumped into Normandy with the 82nd Airborne on D-Day; and Victor Brombert, who provided intelligence for the counterattack in the Battle of the Bulge. Others were among the first into some of the most notorious death camps in Germany, and many went on to make equally significant postwar contributions to their adopted country.
A gripping addition to the literature of the period and an overdue tribute to these unique Americans.