Legislation To Honor The ‘Ritchie Boys’ To Be Introduced
Credit: WFMD, Kevin McManus
A bill is expected to be introduced in Congress to award the Ritchie Boys the Congressional Gold Medal. That announcement was made on Monday by 6th District Representative David Trone during a visit to the former Fort Ritchie in Cascade in Washington County.
The Ritchie Boys were about 20,000 men and 200 Women’s Army Corps members who were trained at Fort Ritchie in intelligence practices such as interrogating prisoners of war, translating captured enemy documents and conducting counter espionage in Europe during World War II. Many of them were Jews who fled Germany and Austria during the 1930’s to escape the Nazis. “They really didn’t get the recognition they absolutely deserved,” Trone says.
These men either volunteered for the military or were drafted. Many were fluent in German and other languages and had an understanding of the German people. They were then assigned to the Military Intelligence Services and were trained at Fort Ritchie.
“They brought 60% of the intelligence we gathered in the Atlantic Theater in Word War II came from the Ritchie Boys,” he says. “That’s unbelievable. That’s crazy.”
Fort Ritchie was closed in 1998 by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission.
During his visit to the former Fort Ritchie, Trone says he met with one of the Ritchie Boys, Gideon Kanter, a 96-year-old man who lives in Montgomery County. “He’s a Jewish man. His family fled Germany in his late teenage yeas from Austria. Got here and joined the US Army to fight for his country,” says Trone.
He says Kantor was at Utah Beach during the D-Day Invasion of Normandy in 1944. “And then he advanced with our troop all through Germany; deciphered the captured enemy documents, interrogated the Germans as we captured them; got the intelligence from them. These guys saved lives all over the theater,”: says Trone.
He says there are only about 20 of these individuals left, a number succumbed to COVID-19.
In addition to Trone, Senator Ben Cardin has also put in a bill to honor these Ritchie Boys. Trone says he doesn’t expect this legislation to pass this year, but he will plus for it next year. He expects to get bipartisan support.
“We’re going to get that down,”: Trone says. “They’ve certain earned it.”