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Sons and Soldiers

Cover of Sons and Soldiers

Sons and Soldiers

The Untold Story of the Jews Who Escaped the Nazis and Returned with the U.S. Army to Fight Hitler
Borrow Borrow

Joining the ranks of Unbroken, Band of Brothers, and Boys in the Boat, the little-known saga of young German Jews, dubbed The Ritchie Boys, who fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s, came of age in America, and returned to Europe at enormous personal risk as members of the U.S. Army to play a key role in the Allied victory.

In 1942, the U.S. Army unleashed one of its greatest secret weapons in the battle to defeat Adolf Hitler: training nearly 2,000 German-born Jews in special interrogation techniques and making use of their mastery of the German language, history, and customs. Known as the Ritchie Boys, they were sent in small, elite teams to join every major combat unit in Europe, where they interrogated German POWs and gathered crucial intelligence that saved American lives and helped win the war.

Though they knew what the Nazis would do to them if they were captured, the Ritchie Boys eagerly joined the fight to defeat Hitler. As they did, many of them did not know the fates of their own families left behind in occupied Europe. Taking part in every major campaign in Europe, they collected key tactical intelligence on enemy strength, troop and armored movements, and defensive positions. A postwar Army report found that more than sixty percent of the credible intelligence gathered in Europe came from the Ritchie Boys.

Bruce Henderson draws on personal interviews with many surviving veterans and extensive archival research to bring this never-before-told chapter of the Second World War to light. Sons and Soldiers traces their stories from childhood and their escapes from Nazi Germany, through their feats and sacrifices during the war, to their desperate attempts to find their missing loved ones in war-torn Europe. Sons and Soldiers is an epic story of heroism, courage, and patriotism that will not soon be forgotten.

Joining the ranks of Unbroken, Band of Brothers, and Boys in the Boat, the little-known saga of young German Jews, dubbed The Ritchie Boys, who fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s, came of age in America, and returned to Europe at enormous personal risk as members of the U.S. Army to play a key role in the Allied victory.

In 1942, the U.S. Army unleashed one of its greatest secret weapons in the battle to defeat Adolf Hitler: training nearly 2,000 German-born Jews in special interrogation techniques and making use of their mastery of the German language, history, and customs. Known as the Ritchie Boys, they were sent in small, elite teams to join every major combat unit in Europe, where they interrogated German POWs and gathered crucial intelligence that saved American lives and helped win the war.

Though they knew what the Nazis would do to them if they were captured, the Ritchie Boys eagerly joined the fight to defeat Hitler. As they did, many of them did not know the fates of their own families left behind in occupied Europe. Taking part in every major campaign in Europe, they collected key tactical intelligence on enemy strength, troop and armored movements, and defensive positions. A postwar Army report found that more than sixty percent of the credible intelligence gathered in Europe came from the Ritchie Boys.

Bruce Henderson draws on personal interviews with many surviving veterans and extensive archival research to bring this never-before-told chapter of the Second World War to light. Sons and Soldiers traces their stories from childhood and their escapes from Nazi Germany, through their feats and sacrifices during the war, to their desperate attempts to find their missing loved ones in war-torn Europe. Sons and Soldiers is an epic story of heroism, courage, and patriotism that will not soon be forgotten.

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About the Author-
  • Bruce Henderson is the author or coauthor of more than twenty nonfiction books, including the #1 New York Times bestseller And the Sea Will Tell. He lives in Menlo Park, California.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    May 1, 2017
    Military historian Henderson (Rescue at Los Baños) 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. Agent: Writers House.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from June 1, 2017
    The inspiring story of the "Ritchie Boys" and their unique contribution to the Allied victory in World War II.The Ritchie Boys, named for Maryland's Camp Ritchie, where they trained, were primarily Jewish refugees from Hitler's Germany, chosen for their language skills and knowledge of German culture. In a highly readable, often thrilling narrative, prolific nonfiction author Henderson (Rescue at Los Banos: The Most Daring Prison Camp Raid of World War II, 2015) focuses on the members of this elite, 2,000-man unit who escaped from Europe and by one means or another made it to the United States. Enlisting for military service, they were given specially designed intelligence training at Camp Ritchie. After their training, they went back to Europe as intelligence specialists and interrogators and performed a vital function on the front lines for the 82nd Airborne and Patton's 3rd Army, among many others. Trained specifically in the details of the Nazi military's order of battle, the Ritchie Boys had the skills to provide Allied forces with detailed knowledge of what they would encounter as they moved forward in the advance across Europe. While Henderson acknowledges the contributions of all the Ritchie Boys his researcher could identify, his account focuses on about a dozen men. He tells the individual stories of how these youngsters' families were split up, especially after Kristallnacht in 1938, and they came here to make a new start, some with just a few dollars in their pockets. Some of the standouts from this impressive group were Werner Angress, who, without proper parachute training, jumped into Normandy with the 82nd Airborne on D-Day; and Victor Brombert, who provided intelligence for the counterattack in the Battle of the Bulge. Others were among the first into some of the most notorious death camps in Germany, and many went on to make equally significant postwar contributions to their adopted country. A gripping addition to the literature of the period and an overdue tribute to these unique Americans.

    COPYRIGHT(2017) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    March 1, 2017
    In 1942, the U.S. Army trained nearly 2,000 German-born Jews in special interrogation techniques and sent them to gather intelligence from German POWs. From the author of the No. 1 New York Times best-selling And the Sea Will Tell; with a 200,000-copy first printing.

    Copyright 2017 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Leon Panetta, Former Director of the CIA and Former Secretary of Defense "Sons and Soldiers tells the remarkable story of how 2,000 German-born Jews were able to get the crucial intelligence that saved American lives and helped win World War II. ... The message of their courage and patriotism should not be lost in today's war on terrorism."
  • Boston Globe "Gripping. ... A story of courage and determination, revenge and redemption. ... Opens a window into a much-ignored aspect of the war. ... A magnificent story, one crying out to be told, and one that is told very well."
  • San Francisco Chronicle "Henderson is a skilled storyteller. Sons and Soldiers records concrete acts of courage, commitment, compassion... and, of course, unspeakable cruelty."
  • Kirkus Reviews (starred) "Thrilling. ... Gripping. ... An overdue tribute to these unique Americans."
  • Daily Mail (London) "Highly compelling. ... The Ritchie Boys... are the unsung heroes who saved so many American lives and helped win the war."
  • New York Post "Harrowing. ... No small amount of courage was needed for [the Ritchie Boys'] work. ... Their contribution to victory is undeniable."
  • Steve Twomey, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Countdown to Pearl Harbor "A revelatory work about a group of Jewish men whose World War II journeys are so implausible and heroic it's difficult to understand why so few of us knew about them before now. A book of fear, flight and almost divine retribution."
  • Jewish Book Council "A must-read. ... Poignant. ... Henderson is a wonderful storyteller who has written a never-before-told chapter of the Second World War."
  • Publishers Weekly "An ably researched and written account. ... Henderson does well to humanize the story."
  • Steven P. Remy, author of The Malmedy Massacre "A first-rate account of one of the last, great untold stories of World War II."
  • Colin Heaton, author of The German Aces Speak and The Star of Africa "Bruce Henderson's Sons and Soldiers artfully evokes the drama of the persecution and flight — and later, their brave return as soldiers — of German-born Jewish sons to America, where they found a new home and a divine purpose. More than an enlightening history, it is a stellar addition to the literature of human survival and triumph."
  • Bill Sloan, author of Their Backs Against the Sea "This coming-of-age saga is a story of patriotism and courage unlike any other from World War II. An unforgettable story and a great read, told in Bruce Henderson's poignant and powerful style."
  • Washington Independent Review of Books "Unforgettable. ... The 'Ritchie Boys' finally get their due. In telling their... story so eloquently, Henderson has done them proud."
  • Douglas Waller, author of Disciples: The World War II Missions of the CIA Directors Who Fought for Wild Bill Donovan "Sons and Soldiers is the riveting — and long neglected — story of Jewish refugees from Nazi barbarism who fought an intensely personal war for America. Bruce Henderson has delivered a fast-paced and rich narrative."
  • Library Journal "An inspiring story. ... Fans of Stephen Ambrose and World War II histories will enjoy this look into a little-known aspect of U.S. Army operations."
  • John Wukovits, author of Tin Can Titans "A triumph! More than seventy years after World War II ended, historians scramble to unearth a fresh story. With Sons and Soldiers, Bruce Henderson has found one. This gripping account of German Jews who fled their nation only to return as members of an elite U.S. Army unit to help defeat the Nazis, tugs at every emotion."
  • Steven Karras, author of The Enemy I Knew: German Jews in the Allied Military in World War II "An invaluable, must-read addition to the canon of important WWII books, about the thousands of European-born American soldiers whose own odysseys were ingrained in the 20th Century's two most significant narratives: the Holocaust and the Allied war against their families' oppressors in Nazi Germany."
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Sons and Soldiers
Sons and Soldiers
The Untold Story of the Jews Who Escaped the Nazis and Returned with the U.S. Army to Fight Hitler
Bruce Henderson
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