August 10, 2021

Wyden, Colleagues Honor the Service of World War II Ritchie Boys

Bipartisan resolution recognizes bravery and contributions of 19,000 troops, including Wyden’s dad Peter, who served in vital language and intelligence roles in every theater of World War II

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden today along with U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin, D-Md., Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Jim Risch, R-Idaho, lauded unanimous passage by the Senate Monday evening of their resolution (S. Res. 349) that honors the contributions and service of the Ritchie Boys during World War II.

A U.S. Army unit named for Camp Ritchie in Maryland where they trained, Ritchie Boys included individuals of many faiths who were both American- and foreign-born, originating in as many as 70 countries. These men possessed language and skills that prepared them to be specialists, counterintelligence operatives, photo interpreters and psychological warfare experts. Ritchie Boys were assigned to every unit of the U.S. Army, as well as the Marines, along with the OSS and the Counter Intelligence Corps during World War II. Their contributions were essential to the Allied war effort; a declassified report records that the Ritchie Boys gathered nearly 60 percent of the actionable intelligence in Europe.

“My father, Peter Wyden, fled Nazi Germany to find refuge in America, and he felt a deeply personal obligation to serve his new home and fight to save his old one as  a part of the U.S. Army’s Ritchie Boys,” Wyden said. “Until recently, I didn’t even know the extent of my father’s service. The Ritchie Boys didn’t just create propaganda to drop over Nazi-occupied territories, among other critical responsibilities. Newly declassified reports revealed they were integral in gathering counterintelligence that helped secure victory for the Allies in WWII. I’m extremely proud to join this resolution recognizing the contributions of the Ritchie Boys, many of whom, like my father, were refugees united by a sense of honor and service.”

About 2,800 Ritchie Boys were refugees who fled Nazi persecution in Germany and Austria and came to the United States (as ‘enemy aliens’) prior to our entry into World War II. These individuals, including Wyden’s father Peter Wyden, had the strongest motivation to return and fight for their newly adopted country. After the war, Ritchie Boys continued to serve as interpreters and interrogators during the Nuremberg Trials. Of the approximately 19,000 Ritchie Boys who served during the war, about 200 are still living, ranging 95 – 107 years old.

Ritchie Boys were sent as individual specialists in small elite teams to join combat units in the North African, Mediterranean, European and Pacific theaters starting in 1942 and to military camps and Prisoner of War camps and interrogation centers (such as Fort Hunt, VA) in the U.S. Members of the unit displayed bravery that was awarded with over 65 Silver Star medals and numerous Bronze Star medals as well as at least five Legion of Honor and many Croix de Guerre medals. About 140 Ritchie Boys lost their lives during the war. 

The full text of S. Res. 349 honoring the Ritchie Boys is here.