Leading up to World War II there were several periods where the War Department attempted to transfer the base which was waning in use. During this time period, Fort Hunt hosted in 1931 an African American ROTC unit that drilled and camped at the site for several years in addition to serving as a campground location for Bonus Army groups. Fort Hunt came under the administration of the NPS in 1933 and as the Great Depression ravaged the nation, the park was home to a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Company camps from 1933-1942. In 1939, while the site was still a CCC encampment, King George IV and Queen Elizabeth, following a visit to George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate and Gardens stopped at Fort Hunt to inspect the camp while in transit to Arlington National Cemetery with President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
However, it is during the World War II Era that one of the more significant events in the site’s history took place at Fort Hunt Park. During the war, Fort Hunt was turned over to the War Department as a “defense camp” under a special use permit issued from the Department of Interior. It became the location of a secret military installation now known by its code name PO Box 1142 and housed highly classified intelligence programs. One of these programs was MIS-X, which communicated via coded correspondence with American Prisoners of War in European camps and developed “escape and evasion” kits disguised as humanitarian aid packages. Another secret program, known as MIS-Y, served as the nation’s largest Joint Interrogation Center where thousands of interrogations of high level prisoners including German generals, nuclear scientists, and heads of spy organizations. The interrogators, many of whom were German Born Jews, served a pivotal role in the war effort.
The records of this critical intelligence project were classified for more than sixty years. In the early 2000s, an NPS team from the George Washington Memorial Parkway, which now administers Fort Hunt Park that included Vince Santucci, Brandon Bies, Matthew Virta began researching the de-classified documents at the National Archives and Records Administration and later kicked off the Fort Hunt Park Oral History Project, which has striven to interview the veterans of PO Box 1142 to further explore this incredible history. While interviews are still ongoing, the park has continued work on this incredible project receiving funding to re-digitize and professionally transcribe the materials in an effort to make them accessible to researchers and the general public.
The interviews showcased on this website are a representative sample of the wide range of interviews completed as a part of the Fort Hunt Park Oral History Project. This site hosted by the National Park Service’s Museum Management Program will be updated as more interviews become available.