By Lynn Willoughby
Sons and Soldiers ~ Bruce Henderson
We have all read bizarre and brutal accounts of what happens during war. And we realize that man’s inhumanity to man know no bounds. When I saw what this author said….”it is a privilege to write this unknown history…” I knew I had to read this book of non-fiction.
“Sons and Soldiers draws on original interviews and extensive archival research to vividly re-create the stories of six of these men…” Without a spoiler here, I will just say that this is “…the remarkable story of how 2000 German born Jews were able to get crucial intelligence that saved American lives and helped win World War II.”
With Nazism on the rise in Germany, Jewish families were desperate to get out of the country. But with all assets frozen, it was next to impossible. Many made the heartbreaking decision to at least get their young sons away to America. These same young men were determined to join the fight against Hitler and Henderson describes how they were fast-tracked to become American citizens so they could be recruited into the Army. Their unique mastery of the German language, the topography of the country, the layout of a village, German accents and slang, the German psychology itself were put to use by them to interrogate German prisoners of war. This book follows the stories of six of these remarkable young men, who had no doubts about what the Nazis would do to them, if they were captured.
They were sent in small elite teams to join every major combat unit in Europe. A post war army report found that nearly 60% of the credible intelligence gathered in Europe came from the Ritchie Boys. (About 2000 German born Jews trained at Camp Ritchie in Maryland.)
This author is not shy about presenting the persecution, starvation, torture and brutality practiced by the Nazis. There are photos throughout the book, but the one showing the living skeletons still alive in Buchenwald and other concentration camps, the description of the smells, the black smoke spiraling daily from the crematoriums is the stuff of nightmares. But for the Ritchie Boys who now knew what had happened to their families, they wanted to scream “It is you with your blind obedience to authority that caused this!”
The last few pages gives a short history of life after the war of the six men followed throughout the book. The hope comes from the Thousand Year Rose which was flourishing once again and climbing up the wall of a new cathedral that replaced the one leveled by bombs in Hildesheim in 1945.
- Hero Found
- True North: Peary, Cook and the Race to the Pole
When the American Army liberated Wobbelin Concentration Camp they found starved inmates along with many corpses. In accordance with General Eisenhower’s command “…all atrocity victims to be buried in a public place…” General Gavin, who was on the scene, issued his own order that “the entire adult population of the town (Ludwigslust) be at the mass burial service, after which they were to walk between the rows of graves, paying their respects to the victims.”