How the Ritchie Boys Took On the Nazis

During World War II, the U.S. Army recruited and trained a secret army of nearly 20,000 intelligence officers at a site called Camp Ritchie in rural Maryland. The “Ritchie Boys,” as they were known, weren’t your average American soldiers. They represented 70 different nationalities and spoke many different languages. The best known Ritchie Boys were 2,800 Jewish refugees from Germany and Austria, who fled the Holocaust and then heroically returned to Europe as American soldiers to defeat Hitler. The Ritchie Boys had been trained to extract information from captured POWs, write propaganda pamphlets to drop behind enemy lines, analyze reconnaissance photos, and kill the enemy in hand-to-hand combat, if necessary. In fighting the Nazis, the Ritchie Boys conducted tens of thousands of interrogations of both enemy soldiers and civilians. According to U.S. Army reports, the Ritchie Boys were responsible for gathering 60% of all actionable battlefield intelligence in World War II. Of the nearly 20,000 Ritchie Boys who served during World War II, around 140 were killed in action. Ritchie Boys earned more than 65 Star Medals and countless Bronze Star Medals for their heroic service. In 2022, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum presented the Ritchie Boys with its highest honor, the Elie Wiesel Award.