U.S. Army Intelligence Operative (Ritchie Boys)
Mr. Paul Fairbrook was born in 1923 in Berlin, Germany as Paul Schoenbach, the son of Alvin James and Lotte Schoenbach. The family changed their name to its English translation Fairbrook after arriving in the USA. He came from a well-to-do German Jewish family, his father was a banker. When his father realized that it would be impossible for his children to obtain a proper education in Germany because of the segregation of Jews, he moved the entire family to Palestine in 1933. There he opened a machine shop, but after some time decided to move the family to the USA.
To obtain the proper documents for entry into the US, his father felt he needed to visit a sympathetic US consul in Amsterdam, Holland. While traveling through Germany in 1937 to get to Holland, the family was detained by Germany authorities who told them that Jews were no longer German citizens and were not wanted, and that they had to leave Germany within 24 hours. At the American Consulate, Mr. Fairbrook’s father was able to circumvent the need for an affidavit of support by an American citizen by proving to the consul that due to this valuable stamp collection, he could support his family.
In New York, Mr. Fairbrook attended high school and then worked as a bus boy in a resort. In January 1943, he was drafted into the US Army and initiated his basic training at Fort McClellan, AL. He was transferred to Camp Ritchie, MD, the Military Intelligence Training Center because of his competency in German and French. He was made a US citizen and became part of the camp’s 7th Class. The training consisted of interrogation methods, Morse code, identification of German uniforms, insignias, weapons, and other associated subjects. He recalls that the instructions on interrogation centered on a psychological approach and that torture was not necessary.
After Camp Ritchie he was assigned to a special secret unit attached to the Pentagon, known only as P. O. Box 1142 and based at Fort Hunt, VA. His primary assignment was to interpret documents taken from the German Army Afrika Korps in order to analyze their methods of operation. He was transferred to England shortly after D Day, but was brought back to his assignment at Fort Hunt after six weeks. His efforts played a major part in the creation of the “Order of Battle of the German Army” publication, which spelled out the details of the structure of the German Army,i.e. types of units, methods of operation, organization, officers, tactics, etc. this publication was given to the US army officers during the European campaign.
Mr. Fairbrook also mentioned some of the other activities of P. O. Box 1142, most of which were unclassified only a few years ago. He also describes his work in the German Military Document Section which categorized the data obtained from the captured documents into a readily useable format.
Following his discharge from the Army in 1946 he attended Brown University studying comparative literature. He also obtained a MBA from Michigan State University. He specialized in food services and became Dean of the Culinary Institute of America and Director of Auxiliary Services at Northern Illinois University, and the University of the Pacific. Subsequently he formed his own consulting firm in the field of college and university food services,. He is the recipient of several national awards for his work.
In a message to those that will view his interview, he reaffirmed his conviction that with proper training, the use of harsh methods of interrogation is not necessary.
Date of Interview: July 22, 2011
Length of Interview: 47 minutes
Interview & Synopsis by: Hans R. Weinmann