U.S. Military Intelligence Operative (Ritchie Boy)
Mr. Gerald Lieberman, previously Gerhard Lieberman, was born in 1924, in Munich, Germany, the son of Leo and Bella Lieberman. His father was the head of a paint factory. He attended public high school until he was thrown down the stairs because of being Jewish and then attended a pastry shop school. His father was arrested during Kristallnacht and sent to the Dachau concentration camp. Prior to his father’s arrest no arrangements for emigration had been made since his father was of the opinion that the Nazis would not last. Fortunately, Mr. Lieberman’s mother found a previous letter from the American Consulate in Munich thanking his father for his efforts in transporting the corpse of an American citizen from Italy some time ago. The writer of the letter was now the consul and in further appreciation for that deed issued to the Lieberman family, a 30 day visa for the US. With that document Mr. Lieberman’s father was released from Dachau and the family came to the US and from there went to the Dominican Republic. After six months they obtained an immigration visa for the US and came in 1940.
Mr. Lieberman was drafted into the US Army in 1942 and had his initial basic training in Virginia. When he found out that the army was looking for German speaking soldiers, he volunteered and was sent to Camp Ritchie, MD, the Military Intelligence Training Center. There he received intensive training in interrogation, army structure, recognition of equipment and uniforms, etc. for about one year.
After Camp Ritchie he went to California for two weeks to train Army personnel on how to react if captured. From there he was sent to Africa and then directly to the Anzio beachhead, in Southern Italy, as a replacement soldier. He was assigned to the 26 AD Hq. Co. MIA, part of the 3rd Infantry Division. There he joined a number of other Camp Ritchie graduates. During his four months on the Anzio beachhead he endured strafing and bombings by German forces, was wounded, and received the Purple Heart Award.
Mr. Lieberman describes his interrogations of German prisoners as being done in a friendly atmosphere without violence. He does not believe that harsh methods are necessary. One method used was to take a reluctant prisoner outside and fire a shot making the other prisoners believe he was executed. Mr. Lieberman stated that those interrogated afterward talked quite openly. In one instant he recognized one prisoner he interrogated as a fellow classmate from his school in Munich. He believes that many German soldiers were happy to be captured. He estimates that he interrogated around 500 prisoners overall.
The Italian campaign took him through Rome and Florence and into the northern mountains. Near the Po River he was indirectly responsible for the capture of 90 German solders. Following an illness he rejoined the 3rd Infantry division in this invasion of Southern France. A recurrence of his previous illness took him to a hospital in Italy. While he was away many of his fellow soldiers at the Hq. Co were killed in action. Upon his release from the hospital he was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division as an interrogator. One of his most unusual assignments was when he was sent to a camp of all female German Army soldiers to interrogate them. None of them had any useful information. After the end of the war he was stationed in Gmunden, Austria, and on a trip to Munich found an uncle who had survived a concentration camp.
Mr. Lieberman was discharged in 1946, returned to New York and went to NYU for four years plus while working at night. He eventually took over a small business from his father and developed it into a large, nationally known firm. He is married and has two children and four grandchildren. He is interested in environmental issues and is on the National Board of the Sierra Club. He now lives in Charlotte, NC.
He expressed a gratitude that he was able to serve in the US Army in an interesting and useful capacity.
Date of Interview: July 24, 2011
Length of Interview: 57 minutes
Interview & Synopsis by: Hans R. Weinmann