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The WRINGER Collection

The term “WRINGER” identifies the past effort of the United States Air Force to obtain intelligence information on the Soviet Union and communist Eastern European nations from overt interviews with former prisoners of war of the Soviet Union.

Following World War II, thousands of German and Japanese prisoners of war (POWs) were incarcerated in the forced labor camps of the Soviet Union. These POWs were forced to help rebuild the Soviet Union following the Second World War. Beginning in 1946, the Soviet Union began releasing thousands of these German and Japanese POWs to their homeland. U.S. Air Force officers quickly realized the tremendous political and military information these ex-POWs possessed, and initiated an intensive interview program. From 1947 through 1956, U.S. Air Force personnel in the U.S. Zone of Germany interviewed over 300,000 ex-POWs. A similar program was intiated by the U.S. Air Force in Japan upon the return of thousands of Japanese POWs.

WRINGER sources ranged from common laborers to highly skilled technicians. These men were detained in forced labor camps throughout the former Soviet Union. The fact that an ex-POW had no particular knowledge did not make the individual valueless. Almost all German and Japanese ex-POWs had the ability to remember at least the broad details of the places where they had worked. Most importantly, some of them remembered meeting, seeing, or hearing about U.S. and allied servicemen who were also detained in the forced labor camps.

Researchers from the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Persons Office (DPMO), Joint Commission Support Directorate (JCSD) have initiated a concerted effort to review the WRINGER reports. They are specifically searching for reports that may shed light on the numerous eyewitness sightings of U.S. servicemen reportedly held in Soviet forced labor camps. The WRINGER reports are now declassified and stored in 1,350 boxes at the National Archives’ College Park repository.

In addition, the WRINGER reports have triggered considerable interest among many outside researchers. Scholars of the Soviet period have commented on the detail and accuracy contained in the reports, indicating the importance they have for their own inquiries into those individuals unaccounted-for in the Gulag.

The database contains 123 documents. New documents are added as they are received and processed.

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  August 17, 2010
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