Recognizing the History

Fort Hunt, VA today

On October 18, 2007, U.S. Representative Jim Moran entered into the Congressional Record a resolution, Post Office Box 1142, which helped reveal some very important pages of U.S. history that occurred during World War II. Prior to the reading of the Resolution [Page H11759] on October 6, 2007, Washington Post staff writer, Petula Dvorak wrote a story, “Fort Hunt’s Quiet Men Break Silence on WWII: Interrogators Fought ‘Battle of Wits,’ which was picked up by newspapers across the nation. The release of the material in the story corresponded with a national debate on the use of interrogation techniques and torture.

The resolution below provides an insight into the history of the men who were part of the Fort Hunt interrogation group. It is followed by the Washington Post story.   

Post Office Box 1142 Resolution

Text from the resolution delivered by Mr. Moran of Virginia reads:

Mr. Speaker, 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 water-boarding. 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.

After 2 years of work, the National Park Service decided it was time for the men of P.O. Box 1142 to finally be acknowledged. On October 5 and 6, the National Park Service held the first-ever reunion of the veterans of P.O. Box 1142 at Fort Hunt Park. The veterans raised the American flag in the post's original flag pole setting and memorialized the grounds.

Today, I'm proud to play a small part in giving justified credit for the tremendous work performed at P.O. Box 1142. Along with my northern Virginia colleagues, Congressmen Tom Davis and Frank Wolf, I'm introducing a long, overdue resolution to honor the men of P.O. Box 1142.

Mr. Speaker, I extend my appreciation to these veterans. The Nation owes a great debt to them for their sacrifice to our Nation during a time of war for their pursuit of critical intelligence, while maintaining the highest level of integrity and America's moral values, and for their intrepid actions that have, until very recently, gone unacknowledged.