The Ritchie Boys

Individual Ritchie Boys, the contributions of the Ritchie Boys, famous Ritchies Boys, and anything else that pertains directly to the Ritchie Boys, their training, and their stories.

Books, Writing, History, and Me

In “Books, Writing, History, and Me” I share my thoughts on travel, cooking, van-life, books, the process of writing, the experiences of an indie-publisher, WWII, the Holocaust, and anything else I feel might be of interest to readers of my books. Please send me comments and let me know what you like and what you want to know more about. Everything in this blog reflects my personal ideas and feelings–a memoir of sorts, it is my perspective and any errors or omissions are mine.

The Muralist and LBJ, a Secret Hero.

        WWII novels always figure importantly among the stacks of books waiting for me to read and summer is a great time for catching up. Maybe your "to read" stack is on your bedside table, or in leaning towers on the floor under your desk, or stashed neatly in boxes in a corner of a little used room. My waiting books are scattered in small horizontal piles atop of the vertical rows of titles in my  bookcases. Many of the books in my stacks are World War II related fiction and nonfiction.  But sometimes I crave a break and want to read a book that has a different slant, and these wait patiently, too.  Thus, some weeks ago, I selected from the stack of waiting books a historical novel about an abstract painter.  I thought it would be a pleasant break to read about another of my interests—art, [...]

2020-02-07T22:51:22+00:00July 11th, 2017|0 Comments

Camp Ritchie, Maryland – Development of the Intelligence Training Center

The 400 acres that was to become the Camp Ritchie Intelligence Training Center, began life in 1889 as the property of the Buena Vista Ice Company. They created two manmade lakes where winter allowed natural ice to form which could be shipped via the nearby railroad spur to Washington, DC.  The lakes also served as a recreation destination in the summer tourist season.          Recently, I was contacted by the former Post Historian for Fort Ritchie and she agreed to write the following guest blog about the development of Camp Ritchie after it was sold to the Maryland National Guard.  *********************************       Camp Ritchie was founded in 1926 as a training place for Maryland National Guard Troops.         At that time, Captain Robert F. Barrick was approached by the Adjutant General of Maryland National Guard, Milton A. Reckord, to build a camp [...]

2020-03-01T00:49:33+00:00September 16th, 2016|0 Comments

The Ritchie Boys and D-Day

       I have just returned from a trip to France which included almost a month in a Brittany village and a tour with Road Scholar.  Because of my interest in World War II, the highlight of the tour was the two days dedicated to learning about the Normandy Landings on D-Day.  We visited Omaha Beach, the Normandy American Cemetery, the Caen-Normandy Memorial museum, and several other places significant to D-Day.        One evening a few days before we visited the D-Day beaches and by prior arrangement, I was able to present my talk, “Discovering the Ritchie Boys,” to interested tour members.        In preparation for the talk and because I knew this group was interested in the landing of the Allies in Normandy, I did a bit of additional research and added that perspective to my prepared talk. Of course, the dependable Dan Gross [...]

2020-03-01T00:56:26+00:00June 2nd, 2016|0 Comments

The Archivist of the Ritchie Boys

Whenever I need statistics about the Ritchie Boys, I contact Dan Gross.  I have come to call him “The Archivist.”  I don’t know if this title is original to me, or if I heard it somewhere, but it is well-deserved. For the last decade, Dan has spent countless hours researching the Ritchie Boys at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland, and the research specialists there know him on a first-name basis.  If they are contacted by anyone with questions about the Ritchie Boys, they always mention Dan Gross as the man who knows the most on this subject. Dan Gross was born in the Bronx, New York, in 1928.  Shortly before his seventh birthday, he was hospitalized with a light case of polio, the disease that crippled so many before the development of the Salk vaccine.  Luckier than most, including Franklin Delano Roosevelt who had recently become the US [...]

2019-12-01T07:23:17+00:00April 22nd, 2016|2 Comments

The Ritchie Boy Who Helped the Quakers

Rudi Hockenheimer was born in Karlsruhe, Germany, in 1925. It seemed a safe time to his middle-class Jewish parents— Germany was recovering from the devastation of World War I which had ended seven years before—and they were pleased to have a son only a year and a half after the birth of their first baby, a girl named Marianne.  But the quiet safety was deceptive. Hitler, who had recently published Mein Kampf, was beginning to establish his leadership in the National Socialist German Workers (Nazi) Party and the early 1930s in Germany were increasingly difficult, especially for Jews. By the summer of 1934, the Hockenheimer family was planning to emigrate.  Because of business connections, Rudi’s father decided on France. In September  1935, they were granted the needed French residence permit and moved to Marseille. Rudi and Marianne, now ten and almost twelve years old, were sent to private language schools to [...]

2019-12-01T07:23:40+00:00March 3rd, 2016|0 Comments

The Ritchie Boys and Questions of Death and Spies

Last November, when I spoke to the Hot Springs Women’s Club about Immigrant Soldier, I was asked two questions regarding the Ritchie Boys I had never fielded before. One of the ladies wanted to know how many, if any, Ritchie Boys were killed in action.  Another lady inquired if any of the Ritchie-trained men were later discovered to have been German spies during the war, given their close ties to Germany and Austria. I did not know the answers to either of these questions but assured the two women that I would find out what I could. Naturally, I turned to Dan Gross, the unofficial archivist for the Ritchie Boys. He responded with just the information I needed. Mr. Gross wrote to me saying, “My records show that thirty-nine Ritchie Boys died during the war. One in 1943 and the remainder in 1944 and 1945.”  He included statistics that showed the [...]

2019-12-01T07:24:07+00:00February 4th, 2016|0 Comments

Life on the Ringstrasse and a Ritchie Boy Discovered

This year, I read two books that reveal the opulent life of many Jewish families living in Vienna, Austria before World War II. Both books are well worth reading for their intimate view of these families, the leaders of Austrian business, thought, and artistic culture in the first four decades of the twentieth century— of how they lived in Vienna and of how they escaped to find new lives flung across the globe. Many of these influential Jewish families lived in large homes known as Palais, or palaces, on the Ringstrasse. In 1857, Emperor Franz Joseph ordered the demolition of the Vienna’s old city walls and moats to make room for an encircling boulevard and the new buildings he wanted built along it. He intended this majestic setting to be a showcase for the grandeur and glory of the Hapsburg Empire. Wealthy families flocked to build palatial homes beside the [...]

2019-12-01T07:24:31+00:00July 11th, 2015|0 Comments

Remembering V-E Day

On May 8, 1945, the world erupted in celebrations. With the acceptance of Nazi Germany’s unconditional surrender by the Allies, the fighting in Europe was finally over. In commemoration of the 70th anniversary of victory in Europe, I decided to speak to a few Ritchie Boys and ask them to remember where they were on that day 70 years ago. Surviving Ritchie Boys are now in their 90s and many are no longer in good health, so I am very grateful for those gentlemen who made the effort to get back to me when I posed the question to them via an e-mail blast. In 1945, Wolf Lehmann was in Italy. For the members of the 88th Infantry Division, the war had already ended four days before, at noon on May 2nd when all the German forces in Italy surrendered. “It was a surprise to us, including our division commander, [...]

2019-12-01T07:25:01+00:00May 2nd, 2015|0 Comments

Eight Notable Ritchie Boys

The Ritchie Boys, brought together by their proficiency in German, Italian or French, were trained in intelligence work by the US Army under whose command they helped defeat the Axis powers in WWII. After their service was completed, like veterans today, they had to find a place for themselves in civilian life. As a group, they did uncommonly well. The list of successful Ritchie Boys is long. You have already heard of some of them in previous posts—William Warfield and General Grombacher. In fact, the hero of Immigrant Soldier, Herman Lang, later earned 6 Emmys for his excellent camera work with CBS. As the publication of Immigrant Soldier approaches, I’d like to honor eight notable Ritchie Boys from a variety of fields. These men are only a few of the many. Ralph Baer, inventor—Known as the father of the video game, Baer was born in Germany in 1922 and arrived in America at [...]

2020-01-13T00:52:51+00:00February 8th, 2015|0 Comments

A Very Big Man – Man Mountain Dean

One common memory that almost all the Ritchie Boys share is of the oversized instructor of hand-to-hand combat, Man Mountain Dean. He obviously made an impression commensurate with his size. Dean, who stood over six feet tall and weighed in excess of 300 pounds, must have seemed, to the young soldiers he instructed, a literal giant straight out of Grimm’s Fairy Tales. I have no statistics on the average height of the Ritchie Boys, but my personal observations conclude that most are somewhere between 5’1” and 5’10”. Standing at attention on the parade ground, anticipating an order from the towering Master Sergeant to demonstrate a throat-hold on him, must have been a frightening experience. Yet all the men I have talked to remember Man Mountain Dean with fondness. A Ritchie Boy, Max Horlick, remembers that the instructor was too large of stature to fit into a public telephone booth, so he [...]

2020-01-13T00:41:58+00:00January 7th, 2015|0 Comments
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