Towards the end of World War II, The United States set up a top-secret military intelligence facility in Virginia, only referred to as PO Box 1142. The work carried out in this facility and its overall impact on the country’s future was only made public knowledge recently. In the early 2000s, the National Park Service uncovered certain parts of its history. This led to the interviews of some of the veterans who worked at PO Box 1142, which are featured in Netflix’s animated documentary short, ‘Camp Confidential: America’s Secret Nazis.’ So, let’s find out more about this facility and what has happened to it since then, shall we?
Where is PO Box 1142 Located?
The military installation comprised multiple buildings and guard towers surrounded by electric fences and was located in Fort Hunt, Virginia. It was previously a picnic area. The facility was started as an Army/Navy installation that was primarily used to collect intelligence from German Nazi prisoners of war. Nazis who were captured or voluntarily surrendered were brought into this camp. However, these prisoners were held there without the Red Cross being notified of them, something which was in violation of the Geneva Conventions. Furthermore, another wing of the service dealt with helping American prisoners of war escape from Europe.
Close to 4000 prisoners stayed there, ranging from weeks to sometimes close to nine months. Many of them were German scientists, submariners, and soldiers. The interrogators serving for the United States were primarily German Jews who immigrated before the war. Some of them were recruited for their language skills while others for their scientific knowledge. Their job was to gather any information that would help the Allies.
The interrogation yielded details regarding the research Germans carried out in rocket science, submarines, microwave and infrared technology, and U-boats, among other things. Most of these scientists did give up information readily with the hope that they would be allowed to live in the United States. Torture was never a part of the interrogation techniques, with Henry Kolm, one of the veterans, later stating, “We got more information out of a German general with a game of chess or Ping-Pong than they do today, with their torture.”
One of the prisoners held there was Wernher von Braun, who went on to work with NASA. The captives were generally kept happy by providing them with liquor and taking them out to the movies. One veteran, Arno Mayer, remembered taking the scientists Christmas shopping at a local store where they wanted to buy lingerie for their wives back home.
Is PO Box 1142 Still Active?
The tremendous work that gave the United States an edge during the Cold War was kept secret for many years. The soldiers that worked there kept it from their own families, moving on in their lives, choosing different professions. PO Box 1142 was bulldozed in 1946. Today, Fort Hunt is a park that is managed by the George Washington Memorial Parkway. Many of the soldiers who served there never realized the impact they had in the war. George Weidinger said, “When I was discharged, I looked back at my service like it was nothing. Once it was explained that I was part of a team, that changed my total outlook — that maybe some of the monitoring I did, did result in something.”
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