"When I was 12 years old one corner of our farm was sold to the government for the P.O.W. camp. My father bought the farm in 1940, In 1941 we moved from Gilmore City to that farm. In 1943 the Federal government wanted to buy some of the land. Dad did not want to sell any of it. At the time I thought it was because he thought it was worth more than what was offered. Later I learned he did not want a POW camp in our back yard.
"At the time I guess I was too young to be afraid, I just liked the excitement of the whole thing. The prisoners would go out and work at various farms when the farmers needed help. We didn't have any prisoners work for us, as there were American soldiers who wanted to help a little. I don't know if Dad ever paid any of them as they would just show up on their day off. They would help us if there was any work to do. But, I think they liked my mother's cooking. Also, I had 2 older sisters, in fact my oldest sisters married a soldier who was a guard at the camp.
"I enjoyed listening to the soldiers telling about what they did and where they lived before they entered the service."
"In the winter we'd watch the prisoners march around the mile square and past our farm when they weren't working. Also we were invited over to the camp for a special events, like the first showing of the Nativity Scene."
"First, the prisoners were Italian, followed by the Germans. There were over 10,000 German prisoners that went through the camp and during that time there were several prisoners who escaped. One or two of them came in our back parch & took some of my brothers chore clothes & left theirs. Dad was very careful not to let us know that a prisoner or 2 had been in our house but I had overheard. I like the excitement of all the guards & police officers around."
"The prisoners were always friendly and never harmed anyone when they escaped, they just wanted to see a little of the country. Once when I was helping Dad pick corn with a 2 row corn picker & tractor next to the POW camp the prisoners were so interested in seeing the machines and watching them work that they stopped us for nearly an hour asking questions and looking the equipment over."
"Being of German decent, Dad could understand a little German but it took time to figure out exactly what they were asking. They were very appreciative of the time Dad took to allow them to look over the picker and try to answer their questions."
"I often wondered about mixed emotions my father must have had, having those prisoners on what had been part of our farm and at the same time having his two oldest sons serving in the Armed Forces , probably praying they would never be taken captive, but if so, being treated as those men were treated."
"Having had a POW camp next door has given me a deeper appreciation for the freedom we enjoy and feel compelled to always pray for peace and for the countries that don't have it."
From the Archives: American Personnel