P.O. Box 1142
During World War II the most important resource for all sides in the conflict was information. Information would lead to technology which would then lead to more successful offensives, it would prevent falling into ambushes and thereby also prevent casualties. All of the major powers during the war utilized intelligence gathering ranging from attempts to break encryption codes and in doing so knowing what the enemy is talking about in their communication to directly spying on the enemy. There was also another way of obtaining information and that was through the interrogation of Prisoners of War (POWs). One of the United States’ top secret POW interrogation facilities open during WW 2 was PO Box 1142 which was located at Fort Hunt, Virginia.
PO Box 1142 Opening
During World War II the US military operated a top-secret facility codenamed “PO Box 1142”. It’s main objective was to gather
information from high-value prisoners, most of which were German. The facility was located at Fort Hunt in Virginia and in this facility some of the most brilliant German scientific minds of the period were interrogated for important information that could help the U.S in the war effort. The information gathered from the scientists at “PO Box 1142” did not only help with World War II but was also used in the Cold War.
Despite of it’s importance or maybe because of it the facility remained top-secret for many decades after the war. This was probably due to the sensitive nature of the operations that were being performed there. But after 60 years of silence some of the veterans came back to Fort Hunt where a memorial was held in their honor. Their work was also, for the first time, recognized by the U.S. Army and Navy.
These are the stories of two of the veterans that worked at PO Box 1142, George Frenkel and George Mandel.
George Frenkel was born in Berlin, Germany in 1919 where he spent his childhood. When the Nazis and Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933 it was a very difficult time for the Jewish people. Frenkel was however fortunate enough to have a family in the United States and he managed to emigrate after a while and arrived in New York.
Living four years in New York doing dead-end jobs he was drafted and assigned to the horse cavalry, something very unusual for a city boy who had only seen a few horses in his life for a few times in his life. As it happens the division he was assigned to was also the one that made George Custer famous.
Frenkel was sent off for his basic training to Kansas from where he was later transferred to El Paso, Texas, the 1st Cavalry Division’s station. Many of the men in the division were from Texas and Oklahoman and were excellent horsemen but after a while Frenkel learned to ride horse military style.
Because of his academic background he was assigned to become a personal clerk. He however felt that he could be of more help since he could speak both English and German. He wanted to become a part of the military intelligence but that wasn’t possible because he wasn’t a U.S. citizen at the time, only becoming one in 1943. He would see service at PO Box 1142 as an interrogator of German POW’s (primarily German scientists and submariners).
PO Box 1142 Video
George Mandel’s history was very similar to the others that worked at PO Box 1142. He was born in 1924 in Berlin. His father was a officer in the First World War. They lived happily in Berlin until some of their relatives that told them that they should get out of there because it was becoming increasingly dangerous being a Jew in Germany. So he and his family emigrated to the U.S. in 1937. He finished High school near New York City in Scarsdale and developed an interest in chemistry at the same time.
After he finished high school he attended college and made the decision to major in chemistry. Just three months after he started going to college Pearl Harbor was bombed. Up to that point the U.S. tried not to get involved with the war but after the bombing the decision was easy – the U.S. was entering the war and it became a world war. The question for Mandel was what should he do, he was told that he should finish his college degree because developing new technologies was going to be very important for the war effort. So he did just that and got a degree at Yale.
As soon as he finished his degree he was drafted and completed basic training in the infantry. When the army discovered that he lived in Germany for 12 years and spoke German they decided that he could be useful to the American war effort, that and knowing how to type was also very important which he used during his wartime service at PO Box 1142.