NEW YORK TIMES Bestseller
"An irresistible history of the WWII Jewish refugees who returned to Europe to fight the Nazis.” —Newsday
They were young Jewish boys who escaped from Nazi-occupied Europe and resettled in America. After the United States entered the war, they returned to fight for their adopted homeland and for the families they had left behind. Their stories tell the tale of one of the U.S. Army’s greatest secret weapons.
Sons and Soldiers begins during the menacing rise of Hitler’s Nazi party, as Jewish families were trying des-perately to get out of Europe. Bestselling author Bruce Henderson captures the heartbreaking stories of parents choosing to send their young sons away to uncertain futures in America, perhaps never to see them again. As these boys became young men, they were determined to join the fight in Europe. Henderson describes how they were recruited into the U.S. Army and how their unique mastery of the German language and psychology was put to use to interrogate German prisoners of war.
These young men—known as the Ritchie Boys, after the Maryland camp where they trained—knew what the Nazis would do to them if they were captured. Yet they leapt at the opportunity to be sent in small, elite teams to join every major combat unit in Europe, where they collected key tactical intelligence on enemy strength, troop and armored movements, and defensive positions that saved American lives and helped win the war. A postwar army report found that nearly 60 percent of the credible intelligence gathered in Europe came from the Ritchie Boys.
Sons and Soldiers draws on original interviews and extensive archival research to vividly re-create the stories of six of these men, tracing their journeys from childhood through their escapes from Europe, their feats and sacri-fices during the war, and finally their desperate attempts to find their missing loved ones. Sons and Soldiers is an epic story of heroism, courage, and patriotism that will not soon be forgotten.
Military historian Henderson (Rescue at Los Ba os) shares the story of eight of the 1,985 young German and Austrian Jewish men who escaped the Nazis, emigrated to America, joined the U.S. Army, and returned to Europe to interrogate German POWs, largely during the last year of WWII. Called the Ritchie Boys after the military camp where they underwent eight weeks of intensive training, this group of young men proved highly effective in their work because of their accent-free German and knowledge of the nuances of German culture. Yet their activities were also risky because they were Jewish. For example, in December 1944 two Ritchie Boys, Kurt Jacobs and Murray Zappler, were captured in the Ardennes while fighting alongside other American soldiers and were separated from their comrades and shot. Henderson does well to humanize the story of the boys, although he occasionally gets bogged down in the details of particular battles. He also opens the book by overstating the number of victims of the November 1938 German national pogrom known as Kristallnacht. Despite these shortcomings, this is an ably researched and written account of a previously unknown facet of the American-Jewish dimension of WWII.