The Ritchie Boys

3 May

I probably like documentaries more than the average bear.  Maybe it’s that I think that the real stories are often more interesting that the ones Hollywood churns out.  Or maybe I’m tired of seeing Christian Bale’s face.  I’m not sure.  Whether you agree with me on that or not, I still think that you would want to see a doc called “The Ritchie Boys” (you can stream this on Netflix, just sayin’.)

 Imagine it’s the late ‘30s in Germany and you’re a Jew.  As a young man you leave behind your home and perhaps your family; your parents, your siblings, your friends.  Then you come to the United States to start a new life.  Your newly adopted country goes to war with your old country.  You have a chance to fight the very things that made you leave Germany in the first place.  The only problem is that since you speak like a Kraut, the Yankees worry that you just might still be one at heart.  After trying to stick make you into a medic they finally see your intentions as true and decide that not only should you fight, you should be put through intelligence training.  What makes you different is what is going to make you powerful.  That German accent could save lives.

 Now can I write blurbs for the back of DVDs?  Or at the very least can I work for someone who is too lazy to read things and will pay me to sum them up for him while I eat popcorn with real butter?  The popcorn is not optional.

 Anyway, this is the story of the Ritchie boys.  Calling them boys is very apropos for some of these enlistees were very young.  They were shipped off to a place called Camp Ritchie in Maryland.  It’s a secluded place and there they are taught how to interrogate prisoners of war.  They are also taught about hand-to-hand combat, Morse code and geography.  They also take part in drills where they are mistaken by locals for the feared Nazi invaders. 

 This story is so moving.  The men in this documentary are still sharp and vibrant.  They have so many details about serving overseas.  Some of those who trained for this special service did lose their lives but more lives were saved by the fast accumulation of info that these men were able to get.  It wasn’t simply about being in a war.  It is clear that the battle was about freedom and humanity and less about borders on a map.  It was also about messing with Nazi POWs by making them think you were Russian and by impressing Parisian girls with your uniform, apparently.

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