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.
“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.” — Leon Panetta, Former Director of the CIA and Former Secretary of Defense
“Henderson is a skilled storyteller. Sons and Soldiers records concrete acts of courage, commitment, compassion… and, of course, unspeakable cruelty.” — San Francisco Chronicle
“Highly compelling. … The Ritchie Boys… are the unsung heroes who saved so many American lives and helped win the war.” — Daily Mail (London)
“Riveting. … Richly detailed. … Puts readers alongside the Ritchie Boys in some of the darkest moments of history. … A spellbinding account of extraordinary men at war.” — USA Today
“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.” — Boston Globe
“Thrilling. … Gripping. … An overdue tribute to these unique Americans.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“Harrowing. … No small amount of courage was needed for [the Ritchie Boys’] work. … Their contribution to victory is undeniable.” — New York Post
“An irresistible history of the WWII Jewish refugees who returned to Europe to fight the Nazis.” — Newsday
“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.” — Steve Twomey, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Countdown to Pearl Harbor
“A must-read. … Poignant. … Henderson is a wonderful storyteller who has written a never-before-told chapter of the Second World War.” — Jewish Book Council
“An ably researched and written account. … Henderson does well to humanize the story.” — Publishers Weekly
“A first-rate account of one of the last, great untold stories of World War II.” — Steven P. Remy, author of The Malmedy Massacre
“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.” — Colin Heaton, author of The German Aces Speak and The Star of Africa
“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.” — Bill Sloan, author of Their Backs Against the Sea
“Unforgettable. … The ‘Ritchie Boys’ finally get their due. In telling their… story so eloquently, Henderson has done them proud.” — Washington Independent Review of Books
“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.” — Douglas Waller, author of Disciples: The World War II Missions of the CIA Directors Who Fought for Wild Bill Donovan
“An inspiring account. … Chronicles how, despite great personal risk if their Jewish identity was discovered, these soldiers were on the front lines in Europe, gathering crucial intelligence.” — Booklist
“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.” — Library Journal
“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.” — John Wukovits, author of Tin Can Titans
“Pays homage to [the Ritchie Boys’] achievements. … Achieves a rare intimacy, putting readers in foxholes and interrogation rooms. — Forward
“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.” — Steven Karras, author of The Enemy I Knew: German Jews in the Allied Military in World War II
“Fascinating. … Extensively researched.” — Winnipeg Free Press