Feb 20 2012
The Not-So-Great Escape: German POWs in the U.S. during WWII
Nearly 400,000 German POWs were brought to the United States during World War II, and officials recorded precisely 2,222 individual attempts by the Germans to flee their camps. POWs scaled fences, smuggled themselves out in or under trucks or jeeps, passed through the gate in makeshift GI uniforms, cut the barbed wire or tunneled under it, or went out with work details and simply walked away. Their motives ranged from trying to find their way back to Germany which none ever did to merely enjoying a few hours, days, or weeks of freedom.But none of these assorted breakouts could match in audacity, scale, or drama the plan under way at Compound 1A at Papago Park. It would trigger the largest manhunt in Arizona history, bringing in local law enforcement, the FBI, and even Papago Indian scouts.
Very interesting article. We go to that park every time we visit our daughter. I had no idea this had happened. Next time I am there, though, I will try to find some signs of this former POW camp!
Note- the comments to this article are also interesting. Here is one memory shared:
This story brought back memories of my Mother, a former WAC from Pennsylvania who passed away in 2000. She was stationed at a bomber base in Texas where German POW’s did manual labor. She said that where she worked she could see POW’s working in a warehouse that was attached to her office. One day she saw a crate about to fall on a POW’s head, and yelled a warning to him in Pennsylvania Dutch, which saved him from harm. Weeks later, one of the guards asked her if she would accept a gift from that POW in gratitude. It was a carved rendition of a chalet, which unfortunately has not survived the years.
FYI- We also had German POWs in Washington. Both Italian and German POWs were kept in Seattle at Ft. Lawton. I read this article and learned there was resentment by the black troops over the favorable way the POWs were treated. An Italian POW was found dead, and 23 blacks were charged. Interesting story! The site also has maps showing the segregation of the “colored” troops.
App. 4000 POWs were kept at Fort Lewis, nearby Camp Meriwhether and Fort Vancouver, too. Wow.