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Nazis on the Potomac: The Top-Secret Intelligence Operation that Helped Win World War II

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Nazis on the Potomac by Robert K. Sutton.

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The first full account of the crucial work done at Fort Hunt, Virginia during World War II, where the highest-level German prisoners were interrogated, and captured documents analyzed.

Now a green open space enjoyed by residents, Fort Hunt, Virginia, about 15 miles south of Washington, DC. was the site of one of the highest-level, clandestine operations during World War II.

Shortly after the United States entered World War II, the US military realized that it had to work on exploiting any advantages it might gain on the Axis Powers. One part of these endeavors was to establish a secret facility not too close, but also not too far from the Pentagon which would interrogate and eavesdrop on the highest-level Nazi prisoners and also translate and analyze captured German war documents.

That complex was established at Fort Hunt, known by the code name: PO Box 1142. The American servicemen who interrogated German prisoners or translated captured German documents were young, bright, hardworking, and absolutely dedicated to their work. Many of them were Jews, who had escaped Nazi Germany as children—some had come to America with their parents, others had escaped alone, but their experiences and those they had been forced to leave behind meant they all had personal motivation to do whatever they could to defeat Nazi Germany. They were perfect for the difficult and complex job at hand. They never used corporal punishment in interrogations of German soldiers but developed and deployed dozens of tricks to gain information.

The Allies won the war against Hitler for a host of reasons, discussed in hundreds of volumes. This is the first book to describe the intelligence operations at PO Box 1142 and their part in that success. It will never be known how many American lives were spared, or whether the war ended sooner with the programs at Fort Hunt, but they doubtless did make a difference. Moreover these programs gave the young Jewish men stationed there the chance to combat the evil that had befallen them and their families.

Robert K. Sutton recently retired as Chief Historian of the National Park Service, which culminated a 33-year career in the service. On his first day in this position, he met with the team interviewing the veterans who served at Fort Hunt during World War II. He encouraged the group in their efforts and was able to subsidize travel to complete the interviews. National Park Service historians did an absolutely masterful job of tracking down surviving veterans and capturing their stories. The author is writing this book with the belief that it should be a vehicle to share these stories with as wide an audience as possible. In addition to this volume, the author has published a number of books, articles and reviews on various public history topics.

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