Introduction, Written by Dan Gross
In any major military conflict, there will likely be both individual heroes and groups of heroes. A contribution made by a single individual, especially if one or more lives are saved, is generally recognized as truly heroic. In a different way, the contributions made by a small team or by a large group of individuals may also save lives and deserve to be called heroic. There are valid reasons to consider that “the Ritchie Boys” as a group made a unique and enormous contribution to our military success in World War II. They were heroes not necessarily or predominantly based on bravery but on their intelligence and deserving of the name Secret Heroes.
In trying to assess the contribution of a single participant to an endeavor as gigantic as World War II, the question is often asked “How much difference can one man make?” Considering how remarkable Ritchie Boys were as individuals, does it make sense to try to find just one or perhaps two Ritchie Boys whose individual contributions stand out in terms of the difference it made? Making such a distinction in this case is very difficult. One can readily point to the case of Ritchie Boy William R. Perl who outwitted Adolf Eichmann and saved an estimated 40,000 lives. One can also point to a Ritchie Boy who was given the opportunity to shape the critically important program of psychological warfare by training nearly all the 850 members of the Mobile Radio Broadcasting Companies. The case of Hans Habe stands out in my mind as the essence of the reason why the Ritchie Boys were able to use their intelligence (and motivation) to make an enormous difference. Although Ritchie Boy Private Henry Kolm did not have the opportunity to serve overseas, he was able to make a significant contribution as an interrogator at Fort Hunt and as the principal facilitator in the integration of German ‘Paperclip’ scientists and engineers such as Wernher von Braun into our society.
Other Ritchie Boys were able to express their motivation and accomplishments in memoirs with titles such as “I Must Be a Part of This War” and “A Few Who Made a Difference”. Since the story of the Ritchie Boys remained relatively unknown for a half-century or more, it was often left to their children and grandchildren to bring their accomplishments to light. Nina Wolff Feld told her father’s story in “Someday You Will Understand: My Father’s Private World War 2”. And it was not until a few years ago that the son of Italian-Jewish Ritchie Boy Alessandro Sabbadini told the story of his father’s motivation and bravery in the book “Unavoidable Hope”.
The intent of this web page, in addition to providing demographics and statistics not available elsewhere, will be to highlight individual secret heroes whose contributions were also singularly significant. We believe it will also recognize the value of a group as large as 20,000.
A significant number of people, even those with some knowledge of Camp Ritchie, appear to visualize a graduate of the Army’s Military Intelligence Training Center as follows: A physically-challenged man of the Jewish faith, who was born in Germany or Austria, joined the U. S. Army, and after being trained at Camp Ritchie served in the European Theater in World War II as an interrogator in relative safety behind the lines. We now know that this perception needs to be broadened. Readers may be amazed to learn that the Ritchie Boys included five Marines who died on Iwo Jima, including two who graduated with a specialty of Terrain Intelligence) and were killed in action on the day the Marines stormed Iwo Jima (19 February 1945). Individual Ritchie Boys were cited for their contributions by being awarded over 60 Silver Star Medals for bravery. One of these was Staff Sergeant Stephen (“Moose”) Mosbacher who was awarded a Silver Star medal posthumously for “gallantry beyond the call of duty”. Captain Harvey J. Cook served as the Intelligence Officer for the Second Ranger Battalion and was among those who scaled the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc at Omaha Beach on D-Day. Another was Private First Class Leonard C. Brostrom, a member of the Mormon faith, who was awarded the prestigious Medal of Honor posthumously for his heroic actions in the Battle of the Philippines
The story of Camp Ritchie and the men (and women) who came there is a story that needs to be broadcast more widely. It is a story of a remarkable synergy between a diverse group of well trained and motivated individuals. Fortunately, a book written by historian Beverley Eddy tells the story of Camp Ritchie and the Ritchie Boys in great detail and with professional skill. Additional valuable information on the Ritchie Boys may be found in a forum-type Facebook page, Ritchie Boys of WWII, ably managed with considerable devotion by Bernie Lubran, son of Ritchie Boy Walter Lubran, and by Josh Freeling, whose great uncle was Ritchie Boy Kurt Kugelmann. Already available are biographies and memoirs by and about individual Ritchie Boys as well as the book by the NYT best-selling author Bruce Henderson and books about Austrian-born Ritchie Boys by Robert Lackner and Florian Traussnig. So little was known about the Ritchie Boys until the excellent documentary film “The Ritchie Boys” came upon the scene in 2004. It was the viewing of that film that converted Dan into a “Ritchie Boy Wannabe” and launched him on a quest to help publicize this heroic group. We hope you find the data, stories, and images here of interest.