98-year-old Paul Fairbrook joined VBC Happy Hour on October 4 to talk about his experiences as a “Ritchie Boy” in World War II. Paul fled Nazi Germany with his Jewish family in 1938 and, like our other 98-year-old guest that night, Max Lerner, joined the US Army to exact their revenge against Hitler. Both men trained at the top-secret Camp Ritchie in Maryland, where they learned counterintelligence, interrogation, and psychological warfare. Their stories of espionage and intelligence operations held us spellbound (and can be viewed on our VBC YouTube channel: youtube.com/veteransbreakfastclub
During the program, Paul noticed that WWII Navy WAVE veteran Julia Parsons was in the Zoom room. He then read a poem to her he had written while at Camp Ritchie in 1943.
“Oh Ritchie, Oh Ritchie” (written April 21, 1943)
Arabs dressed in zoot suits, a trio of balloons
Bag pipes in the morning to wake us with their tunes
Supervised instructions in getting lost at night
And how to gauge out eyes and teeth in rough and tumble fight.
Tell me what it is, that this Camp Ritchie lacks?
A hundred WAVES, a hundred SPARS, a regiment of WACS.
Poets on a detail, privates who can speak
Polish and Romanian, Portuguese and Greek.
Mimeographed directive on how not to pet the dogs
A score of idle pigeons and the world’s most lasting fogs.
Every possible improvement, every single blessing . . . save-
The presence of a WAC, a SPAR, or of a WAVE!
The splendid training films we see, what edifying plays
With lectures, demonstrations we while away our days.
Orders supersede old orders. Rumors fly about
Each day we move, each day it rains, each day the lights go out.
Confusion and variety, how fortunate we are—
But can’t we share our happiness with a WAC, a WAVE, or SPAR?
Pvt. Paul Fairbrook
MITC, Camp Ritchie, Md.