Among P.O. Box 1142's high-ranking prisoners was the man who had developed the V1 and V2 rockets that had reduced parts of London to rubble. Hear the whole story in Giles Milton's Unknown History podcast.
From the outside, it looked like any other military compound. There were a few houses, a couple of huts and the occasional vehicle going in and out. Yet P.O. Box 1142 was very different from any other army base on American soil.
The P.O. Box address at Fort Hunt in Virginia was actually an intelligence centre at its most active in the aftermath of the Second World War. It was here that many captured Nazis, including leading rocket scientists and nuclear engineers, were interrogated. In total, more than 4,000 high-ranking prisoners passed through the base. Among them were the rocket scientist Wernher von Braun and the nuclear technician Heinz Schlicke. Prisoners were grilled about Nazi scientific discoveries and developments in weaponry – anything, indeed, that could be of use to the victorious Allies.
The base was in violation of the Geneva Convention but this did not unduly concern the American government. Surviving transcripts and testimonies suggest that human rights were generally respected and torture was never employed. Rather, prisoners were rewarded if they revealed sensitive information. Some prisoners were given gourmet food in order to soften them up.
One of the American interrogators was George Mandel, a twenty-year-old scientist who spoke fluent German. ‘My job was to interrogate scientifically trained and experienced Germans,’ he explained. Many of the men were such experts in their field of work that Mandel had trouble understanding them.
To learn more, listen to the full episode of our podcast, Unknown History, in the top right hand player of this page or on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify. Plus, connect with Giles on Twitter and Facebook.
This post is roughly excerpted from When Churchill Slaughtered Sheep and Stalin Robbed a Bank. You can preorder a copy of the book, due out in November 2016, on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, Books-a-Million, and Apple.