In June 1942, the U.S. Army began recruiting immigrants, the children of immigrants, refugees, and others with language skills and knowledge of enemy lands and cultures for a special military intelligence group being trained in the mountains of northern Maryland and sent into Europe and the Pacific. Ultimately, 15,000 men and some women received this specialized training and went on to make vital contributions to victory in World War II. This is their story, which Beverley Driver Eddy tells thoroughly and colorfully, drawing heavily on interviews with surviving Ritchie Boys.
The army recruited not just those fluent in German, French, Italian, and Polish (approximately a fifth were Jewish refugees from Europe), but also Arabic, Japanese, Dutch, Greek, Norwegian, Russian, Turkish, and other languages—as well as some 200 Native Americans and 200 WACs. They were trained in photo interpretation, terrain analysis, POW interrogation, counterintelligence, espionage, signal intelligence (including pigeons), mapmaking, intelligence gathering, and close combat.
Many landed in France on D-Day. Many more fanned out across Europe and around the world completing their missions, often in cooperation with the OSS and Counterintelligence Corps, sometimes on the front lines, often behind the lines. The Ritchie Boys’ intelligence proved vital during the liberation of Paris and the Battle of the Bulge. They helped craft the print and radio propaganda that wore down German homefront morale. If caught, they could have been executed as spies. After the war they translated and interrogated at the Nuremberg trials. One participated in using war criminal Klaus Barbie as an anti-communist agent. Meanwhile, Ritchie Boys in the Pacific Theater of Operations collected intelligence in Burma and China, directed bombing raids in New Guinea and the Philippines, and fought on Okinawa and Iwo Jima.
This is a different kind of World War II story, and Eddy tells it with conviction, supported by years of research and interviews.
Beverley Driver Eddy is professor emerita of German at Dickinson College, with seven books to her credit. She has presented and lectured widely on this topic, including at the U.S. Army Heritage & Education Center. Eddy lives in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.
NetGalley Review: 4 stars
Last updated on 25 Jun 2021
"Although my dad was in WW2 and my mom survived Nazi Germany, I had never heard of the Ritchie Boys till I saw a 60 Minutes story and had to know more. A fascinating history of our true heroes"
—Joellen Sommer, reviewer at YOC
Last updated on 04 Jul 2021
"There are a number of books out about the Ritchie Boys, but this one by Beverley Eddy Driver provides a depth of detail that is truly valuable. From Camp Ritchie itself to the Pacific and European theaters of operation, the stories of individual men and women are vividly presented, along with the strategic impact of their varied services. Recommended."
—James Benn, author of the Billy Boyle World War II Mystery series
NetGalley Review: 5 stars
"What a terrific read! The book was totally interesting and kept my attention. The author does an outstanding job of explaining the various functions of the camp. In addition, the use of first hand accounts and short excerpts about various individuals really brought the story to life. This is a must read for any history enthusiast.
Thank you to #NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for my honest review."
—Ron Baumer, reviewer at Nawah Energy
"Since I was one of those Ritchie Boys and attended the 7th Class in April 1944, I can vouch for the accuracy of everything described in painstaking detail in this magnificent book. The author’s research continued by telling of these soldiers’ use of their training in Europe as well as in the Pacific theater, and also of some of their post-war activities in these parts of the world."
-- Paul Fairbrook, former Ritchie Boy
Last updated on 01 Sep 2021
"This is not just another Publish or Perish book! It is an in depth into things that Military Intelligence and the OSS were up to here in Maryland/Pennsylvania in WW2 to keep the country's intelligence community informed. Complete with photo reproductions from the National Archives and Records Administration and other sources. It also exposes the biases of the day in the military and elsewhere. I hadn't been exposed to this information in the past, but I did find it mostly riveting (there are a couple of chapters I found as delightful as *The Begats*). I hope that some of the better historical novelists will take this information and run with it! I think that it is all fascinating and all the better because it is well-researched and documented nonfiction.
I requested and received a free temporary ebook from Rowman & Littlefield/Stackpole Books via NetGalley. Thank you!"—Jan Tangen, consumer reviewer