Friday, October 19, 2007

P.O. Box 1142 -- WWII Secret Intelligence

[Congressional Record: October 18, 2007 (House)][Page H11759]
Mr. MORAN of Virginia...

...from 1942 through the end of the Second World War, a top secret military intelligence service operated clandestinely on the shores of our own Potomac River. At Fort Hunt Park, along the GW Parkway, a secret installation operated silently in the shadows of our Nation's Capital.

Known only by its mailing address, P.O. Box 1142, the men and women at this post provided the military intelligence that helped bring an end to World War II and gave the United States an early advantage in the Cold War.

P.O. Box 1142 was an interrogation center. Throughout the war and its aftermath, the post processed and interrogated nearly 4,000 of the most important German prisoners of war.

The men who performed the interrogations were drawn from across the country. The shared attribute is that they all spoke fluent German to be able to interact with their captives. Many were Jewish, to ensure their loyalty to America's mission. And most had friends and family battling on the front lines against Nazi Germany. To them, the war was personal and would impact their lives forever.

Despite these circumstances, their interrogations never resorted to torture, used violence, or implemented cruel tactics to obtain the vital information required to support our Nation at war. Instead, their most effective interrogation technique was to start a dialogue to develop trust with their captives. They all talked with their captives, played card games, took walks, discussed their lives, and ultimately obtained the necessary information from their captives. Despite the apparent simplicity of these methods, these interrogations resulted in the discovery of most of Germany's secret weapons programs.

P.O. Box 1142 learned about research to develop the atomic bomb, the jet engine and the V-2 rocket, all technologies that became essential informational components in waging the Cold War. The detainment and interrogation of high-ranking German officials, such as Reinhard Gehlen, who ran the German intelligence operations, advanced our military intelligence operations well beyond the Soviet Union's capabilities.

In advancing the Nation's interests and uncovering vital secrets, the interrogators at P.O. Box 1142 never resorted to tactics such as sleep deprivation, electrical shock, or waterboarding. Their captives were never sexually abused, humiliated, or tortured. They never resorted to the methods that have recently branded our Nation so negatively. As a result of the war on terror, I'm afraid that America is now haunted by lasting images of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay. The current intelligence community can learn from the men of P.O. Box 1142. For all our sake, I hope it's not too late.

Despite the vital work that the interrogators at P.O. Box 1142 performed, their activities remained closely held secrets by those who worked at the post. Many of these men never told family or loved ones. It wasn't until park rangers from the GW Memorial Parkway uncovered declassified documents and met former officers of P.O. Box 1142 that the operations that occurred at Fort Hunt Park during World War II became known.

Under the encouragement of the National Park Service, these park rangers identified veterans of P.O. Box 1142. They conducted professional oral history interviews. The deeper the park rangers dug, the more obvious it became they had discovered a remarkable story that had remained unrecognized by the officers because of their oath of secrecy.

A House resolution follows recognizing and thanking these men for their service. Since that time the bar has been lowered. modern terrorism is working wonderfully well. It is making otherwise decent people lose all sense of honor, decency, morality and propriety, sliding down a very slippery slope, redefining and expanding the meaning of torture to excuse behavior once considered unthinkable.

Link here to a Washington Post story about the men of PO Box 1142.

H/T Steven Aftergood of Secrecy News Blog

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