Posts Tagged ‘prisoners’

POWS AND PEARS

December 3, 2011

So often when I’m doing research, I discover a fascinating story that has nothing to do with Highway 99, just that it happened during that time period or maybe near the highwy.
This time the story that got my attention was from Camp White, out of Medford, Oregon, several miles from Highway 99. I had known that most of the troops had trained and left Camp White fairly early in World War II. I had even been aware that German Prisoners of War were held there toward the end of the war. That was all I knew.
Begun as a secret mission, an elaborate plan was launched to reeducate German prisoners held in the United States. The hope was they might be prepared to take part in a different post war Germany.
Seventy U.S. military officers were sent to New York for twelve intense days of clandestine training in the fall of 1944. They were distributed to the 150 camps with 350,000 German prisoners scattered across the United States. Approximately 2000 at Camp White, Oregon.
English language, American history and civics classes were offered. Not greatly successful early on but Frank Capra’s Hollywood produced series, Why We Fight was translated into German and caught the interest of many.
The prisoners were allowed access to a well stocked library without restrictions, they had radios which were kept repaired and uncensored. A few took correspondence courses through the University of Oregon. Life magazine and others were available and the Oregonian newspaper had 100 personal subscriptions while another 50 copies were made available for general distribution.
Prisoners were allowed to work if they wished as long as it didn’t aid the war effort. The prisoners would be paid 80 cents a day for labor. The pear orchards of Southern Oregon and fields of Northern California were a popular diversion for Camp WhitePOWs.
Longer-range strategies enabled prisoners to print their own uncensored news magazine and freely elect their own spokesman to deal with their American jailers. Some of the classes were taught by the POWs themselves.
Both American and Swiss representatives visited Camp White and filed written reports on prisoner treatment, specifically addressing the “Intellectual Diversion Program.”
The Camp White German prisoners of war, finally repatriated in the spring of 1946, by rail and then by ship back to Germany. “What a far cry from what happens now.” These are excerpts from SOUTHERN OREGON HERITAGE TODAY,The Magazine of the Southern Oregon Historical Society, Vol 8, No.2 Spring 2006 p.18,19

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