The reconstructed village of Camp Ritchie, nestled in the soft peaks of Washington County’s mountains, is a stark reminder of the intelligence operatives who helped lead the United States to victory in World War II. Known as the “Ritchie Boys,” these soldiers bridged the language barrier that stood between America and the Axis Powers.
Initially, the camp opened as a training facility for the Maryland National Guard Reserve, but as the war intensified, the Army upgraded it to an official Army post specializing in top-secret military intelligence training. It would also take in tens of thousands of German Jewish refugees, whose linguistic skills were critical for the success of the American effort.
After completing an eight-week course at Camp Ritchie, many of the students went on to serve in the Counterintelligence Corps (CIC) or the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the precursor to the Central Intelligence Agency. Others took part in the D-Day invasion, helping scout enemy positions for airborne troops or interrogate prisoners.
Some of the Ritchie Boys served in the Pacific Theater, where they translated captured documents and did other research. They also participated in the Allied assaults on Guadalcanal, Okinawa and Iwo Jima. Private Leonard Bostrom, a Ritchie Boy who died attacking an enemy stronghold in the Philippines, received the Medal of Honor.