O.K., I was truly shocked by the sign on the side of the road in the middle of Nowhere, MS!
Who knew? I sure didn't.
Who knew? I sure didn't.
This is rather lengthy but I found it very interesting stuff.
My geekiness shines through!
Four major POW camps in Mississippi were established at Camp Clinton near Jackson, Camp McCain near Grenada, Camp Como in the northern Delta, and Camp Shelby near Hattiesburg. The four base camps were large compounds designed to house large numbers of POWs. Camp McCain housed 7,700, Camp Clinton 3,400, and Camp Shelby housed 5,300. Camp Como originally held 3,800 Italian soldiers, but the Italians were soon moved out of Mississippi and replaced by a smaller number of Germans.
In 1944, the four base camps — Camp McCain, Camp Como, Camp Clinton, and Camp Shelby — developed fifteen branch camps. Ten of these camps were in the Delta. They were located at Greenville, Belzoni, Leland, Indianola, Clarksdale, Drew, Greenwood, Lake Washington, Merigold, and Rosedale. These camps furnished POWs to work in the cotton fields where in the spring under a hot sun, they chopped the weeds away from the young cotton plants with a hoe. In the fall they picked the cotton — a job they disliked. Mechanical cotton pickers had not yet been perfected, so cotton had to be picked by hand. The prisoners dragged heavy canvas bags, and as they filled the bag with cotton, the sack became heavier. As they pulled the cotton from the bolls, the pointed bolls scratched and punctured their hands.
The other five branch camps were located in south Mississippi in the pine lands. They were at Brookhaven, Picayune, Richton, Saucier, and Gulfport. Much of the POW's work was in forestry. They planted seedlings, cut timber and pulpwood, and cleared lands for various purposes. They worked to complete Lake Shelby, a small lake a few miles from Camp Shelby.
Perhaps the most intricate and useful work that was done by German POWs in Mississippi was the Mississippi River Basin Model. The U.S. Corps of Engineers was in charge of major waterways, and they had long wanted to build a one-square-mile model of the entire Mississippi River basin. Such a model could be of great value in predicting floods and in assessing the water flow of the Mississippi River and its tributaries.
The war in Europe ended in May 1945, but the POWs remained in the compounds and continued to work — some for almost a year after the war ended. American soldiers were mustered out of the military quickly and efficiently, but President Harry Truman decided that a labor shortage existed in the United States and that the POWs should remain in this country until the labor shortage was over. Some POWs did not get home to Germany until mid-1946. They had been in the Mississippi camps almost three years.
Over the years since 1946, German veterans have come back to Mississippi to see the camps that they lived in as young men. They are sad to learn that the camps were torn down after the war. The German POWs in Mississippi were probably aged 18 to 20 when they were captured in North Africa in 1943. The survivors of the Mississippi prisoner-of-war camps are now very old. But many of those who are alive still come back to Mississippi to remember their experience. In a strange way the camps saved their lives. Unlike many other German soldiers who were killed in the war, these POWs survived. When they entered the Mississippi camps, their war was over.