A Photo from a ritchie boy reunion held in washington d.c.
Wannabe Ritchie Boy Daniel Gross joined the Ritchie Boys for the photo.
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 scientists and engineers such as Wernher von Braun into our society. Individual Ritchie Boys were cited for their contributions by being awarded over 60 Silver Star Medals. One of these was S/Sgt Stephen (“Moose”) Mosbacher who received his Silver Star medal posthumously.
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”. Throughout these web page, we will highlight other secret heroes whose contributions were also singularly significant and I believe we 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 some revision. They may be amazed to learn that the Ritchie Boys included five Marines who died on Iwo Jima, including two who graduated with Class 14 (Terrain Intelligence) and who were killed in action on the day the Marines stormed Iwo Jima (19 February 1945).
The story of Camp Ritchie and the men (and women) who came there is a story that needs to be told. It is a story of a remarkable synergy between a diverse group of motivated individuals. So a “Ritchie Boy Wannabe” is making the attempt to help publicize this heroic group. I hope you find the data, stories and images here of interest. -- Daniel Gross