Home Front – Missouri POW’s

The main camps supported a number of branch camps, which were used to put POWs where their labor could be best utilized.

As author David Fiedler explained in his book “The Enemy Among Us: POWs in Missouri During World War II,” the state was once home to more than 15,000 German and Italian prisoners of war (POW).

Many of the camps where they were held have faded into distant memory as little evidence remains of their existence; however, one local resident has a relic from a former POW camp that provides an enduring connection to the service of a departed relative.

“Established at Weingarten, a sleepy little town on State Highway 32 between Ste. Genevieve and Farmington, Missouri, (Camp Weingarten) had no pre-war existence,” wrote Fiedler. The author further explained, “The camp was enlarged to the point that some 5,800 POWs could be held there, and approximately 380 buildings of all types would be constructed on an expanded 950-acre site.”

Camp Weingarten quickly grew into a sprawling facility to house Italian POWs brought to the United States and, explained Jefferson City resident Carolyn McDowell, was the site where one of her uncles spent his entire period of service with the U.S. Army in World War II.

Working POWs earned 80 cents a day and could buy beer at the canteens.

“My mother’s brother, Dwight Hafford Taylor, was raised in the community of Alton in southern Missouri,” said McDowell. “His hometown really wasn’t all that far from Camp Weingarten,” she added.

Although her uncle passed away in 1970, records accessed through the National Archives and Records Administration indicate he was drafted into the U.S. Army and entered service at Jefferson Barracks on November 10, 1942.  After completing his initial training, he was designated as infantry and became a clerk with the 201st Infantry Regiment.

Shortly after Taylor received assignment to Camp Weingarten, Italian prisoners of war began to arrive at the camp in May 1943. Despite the challenges of overseeing the internment of former enemy soldiers, the camp experienced few security incidents and conditions remained rather cordial, in part due to the sustenance given the prisoners.

There were four main base camps, each holding between 2,000 and 5,000 POWs.

It was noted that many of the Italians were “semi-emaciated” when arriving in the United States because of a poor diet. The Chicago Tribune reported on October 23, 1943, that the prisoners at Camp Weingarten soon “put on weight” by eating a “daily menu … superior to that of the average civilian.”

Pfc. Taylor and his fellow soldiers, most of whom were assigned to military police companies, maintained a busy schedule of guarding the prisoners held in the camp, but also received opportunities to take leave from their duties and visit their loved ones back home.

“During one of my uncle’s visits back to Alton, he asked his mother for an aluminum pie pan,” said McDowell. “He then took it back to camp with him and that’s when he gave it to one of the Italian POWs.”

Cigarette case cover

When returning to camp, one of the POWs with whom Taylor had established a friendship was given the pie pan and used it to demonstrate his abilities as an artist and a craftsman by fashioning it into a cigarette case. The case not only had a specially crafted latching mechanism, but was also etched with an emblem of an eagle on the cover with barracks buildings and a guard tower from the camp inscribed upon the inside.

“My uncle then gave the cigarette case as a gift to my father, who was living in Jefferson City at the time and working as superintendent of the tobacco factory inside the Missouri State Penitentiary,” stated McDowell. “It is a beautifully crafted cigarette case, but the irony of it all is that my father never smoked,” she jokingly added.

Inside of the case.

As McDowell went on to explain, her uncle remained at Camp Weingarten until his discharge from the U.S. Army in December 1944. The following October, the former POW camp was closed and many of the buildings were dismantled, shipped and reassembled as housing for student veterans at colleges and universities throughout the United States.

In the years after the war, McDowell said, her mother kept the cigarette case tucked away in a chest of drawers but since both of her parents have passed, she now believes the historical item should be on display in a museum.

Italian POWs

Little remains of the once sprawling POW camp located approximately 90 miles south of St. Louis, with the exception of a stone fireplace that was part of the Officer’s Club.  McDowell notes the cigarette case is not only a beautiful piece that serves as a link to the past, but represents a story to be shared of the state’s rich military legacy.

“I will someday donate the cigarette case to a museum for preservation and display, and I believe my brother, Harold McDowell, would agree. However, I want to ensure it is recognized for the treasure that it is and it is not simply thrown away,” said McDowell. “That’s why I want to tell the story of its creation … its history, so that its association to Camp Weingarten is never forgotten.”

Click on images to enlarge.

###########################################################################################

Wishing all in New Zealand a memorable Maori New Year!

 

 

############################################################################################

Military Humor – 

 

 

 

 

 

###########################################################################################

Farewell Salutes – 

Robert Bealle – Tuscaloosa, AL; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, P-47 pilot

Percival Blows (100) – Summerset Karaka, NZ; RNZ Army #20590, WWII, 21st Battalion

David Chappell – Pueblo, CO; US Army Air Corps, WWII & Korea

Murray Fromson – Los Angeles, CA; US Army, Korea, Stars and Stripes journalist

Robert Greer – Stanford, KY; US Army, 11th A/B & 82nd A/B Divisions

Melvin Korman – Providence, RI; US Army, WWII, ETO, Sgt.

L.G. ‘Butch’ Lemons – Phoenix, AZ; USMC, WWII, SSgt.

Donald McIntyre – Tauranga, NZ; RNZ Army # 388853, WWII, Maj. (Ret.), 7th Rajput Reg, So. Lancaster Reg.,Royal West African Frontier Force Intelligence Corps

John Strouf – Altoona, IA; US Army, WWII

Byron Wrenn – St. Helens, OR; US Navy, WWII & Korea

############################################################################################

About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on June 18, 2018, in First-hand Accounts, Home Front, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 76 Comments.

  1. That’s a great story!

    You know, I don’t think I ever realized we held POWs here. I guess I just assumed we held them at bases closer to where we captured them.

    Thanks for sharing this! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s crazy to think that at one time German EPWs were held in the states…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. GP I had no idea about the prisoner of war camps. It sounds like the conditions were fair adn healthy and thus lead to that coridal relationship or perhaps even friendship. The story of the kitchen pan being turned into a beautiful cigarette holder really is remarkable.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Fascinating… Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. 15,000 POW in Missouri alone, that’s incredible. Also, of note is the fact how we treated them, a far cry from how the Japanese treated our POWs or the Koreans, Vietcom and so on…

    “The Chicago Tribune reported on October 23, 1943, that the prisoners at Camp Weingarten soon “put on weight” by eating a “daily menu … superior to that of the average civilian.””

    Great article!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I had never thought about where the Americans put the POWs they captured. How did those men get back to their home countries afterwards?

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Spannende verhalen en er zijn veel meer dingen die we niet weten maar door jouw blog krijgen we meer zicht op bepaalde zaken .Bedankt

    Like

    • Ik waardeer uw vertrouwen in mijn rapportage, Mary Lou. Ik wou dat ik ALLE info kon geven, maar dat zou te veel zijn denk ik !!
      Een fijne dag verder!

      Like

  8. A part of the home front I’ve always wanted to know a little more about. Great post 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. A lot of the Italians stayed in England after the war because it was so much better than their poverty stricken country. The Germans could be a different proposition as there was a good smattering of Nazis and SS among them. At one point they organised an uprising although, thank goodness, it came to nothing.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I hadn’t really thought about POW camps in the USA – I knew that there were camps in Wales and elsewhere in the UK. I always wonder what it was like for the prisoners. Did they all go home after the war? I know that some Germans stayed and married British girls, the Manchester United Goalkeeper, Burt Troutman was one I know of. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bert_Trautmann

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do believe some stayed, but most were sent home. John Knifton was just telling me about the Germans, but I had no idea Troutman had been a POW. Thanks, Emma.

      Like

  11. Camp “Weingarten” – a German name holding Italian POWs. That’s neat – but I suppose all ’em krauts looked alike. LOL!

    On a more serious note, I suppose far removed from the horror and drudgery of war – people conduct themselves a lot better and to higher standards of humanity. Hence, those fairly “nice” barrack style living quarters and nutritional meals – and the ability to buy a pint or more.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. The POWs worked in many areas in many countries and think most felt they had a better life away from the fighting no matter where they were. I wrote a story, in a recent book of our writing group, about a POW in Australia, who made a beautiful cigarette case. A friend of mine had the case and shared it with me. Then I researched the story. But I don’t have a picture of the case. Seemed like cigarettes were very important to those POWs.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. The song being played on The Maori New Year video clip sounds like MOONLIGHT SERENADE by the Glenn Miller Orchestra, which was a big hit in 1939 (although it probably remained popular into WWII, during the latter stages of which a plane carrying Miller disappeared over the English Channel on the way to Paris to set up arrangements for his band’s arrival there.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Thanks for your Matariki wishes GP. My aunt married a POW who was working on a farm near her home in Fife, Scotland. When I was looking at marriage records for around the time of their wedding, I discovered a surprising number of POWs married local girls. My uncle was from the Ukraine, so it’s not surprising he didn’t want to go back!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I can well understand why they didn’t want to go back. There was such chaos putting Europe back together after the war – and then there was that pesky wall in Germany. I hope it was a happy ending for your family.

      Like

  15. Very interesting.

    There was apparently an internment camp for German prisoners near Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada not far from where I was born.

    A lot of them stayed in Canada after the war.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. I did love this story, GP. That case is symbolic of a better way of treating POWs.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. This was a fascinating post. I’ve been in Alton, and we had some fringe relatives who lived there, but when I called my history-minded cousin who used to live in Arkansas and who traveled that area tracking down genealogical details, he’d never heard of the POW camps. I suspect he’ll be doing his own snooping around now.

    Apart from that, the story’s another reminder of a basic fact of life: treat people decently, and they’ll return the favor — not because a balance has to be maintained, but because they want to.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know it was a bad time in history, but it’s a shame not more remains there that your cousin at least would have heard about. Too much history is being erased and ironically in an era when everyone is trying to locate their ancestors.

      Like

  18. The gift of the cigaret case should be given to a suitable place NOW! I have recently learned to do what I am thinking as soon as possible and be done with it. Hold your head high and be proud for the rest of your days!

    Liked by 2 people

  19. Thank you for the Matariki good wishes! It marks the reappearance of the Seven Sisters constellation in the night sky. It means your days will start to get shorter and ours longer! Can’t wait!

    Liked by 2 people

  20. That’s a good story. I’m heartened by our attitudes, even then.

    Liked by 2 people

    • We’re not half as bad as people make us out to be, eh?!! 🙂
      Have you heard from your son? Just wondering if Okinawa felt any effects of Japan’s earthquake.

      Like

  21. My Great Uncle Frank worked at one of these POW camps. I don’t know whether or not it was this particular one. He spoke German and had no problem communicating with prisoners.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. With the treatment the Italian POW’s received at the camp no wonder they did not want to return to their homeland after the war.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You got a chuckle out of me on that one, Peter!!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I know of German POW’s in the States, who had to return to their war torn homeland and who went straight to the US embassies to apply for immigration to the land, which was in their eyes the country of infinite opportunities. I wonder what your chuckle was all about, GP.

        Like

        • I can believe it, Peter.
          You got a chuckle because it had to be like night and day for some of the POWs. They had to know what shape their country was in and would be for a while, plus just how bad their camps back home were in comparison – it was a foregone conclusion that they’d want to stay here or Canada.

          Liked by 1 person

  23. This is a fascinating post! Thx for sharing. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Wonderful story about the pie pan/cigarette case. It’s good to know the POWs were treated well.

    Liked by 2 people

  25. Reminds me of my mother’s stories of meeting POWs in Derbyshire, UK as a child, and my father-in-law’s stories of post war POWs working on farms here in Western Australia, some amazing story. I note that considering the stories I was privileged to hear from allied POWs was the difference in dignity and care. Thank you for another insightful post.

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Great post! I did not know there was a POW camp in Missouri. We treated those POW much better than the POW in Camp Cabanatuan where the Japanese practically starved our men to death. The cigarette case story is just wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Thank you for also remembering on this, GP! POW’s in Missouri was new to me. Michael

    Liked by 1 person

  28. Very interesting! I did not know there were POWs in Missouri, and the cigarette case is fascinating!

    Liked by 1 person

  29. A nice personal memoir of the war years, GP. I doubt there would have been many ‘incidents’ with POWs held in the US. It was a long way to get home, even if they escaped. 🙂
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

  30. It is the stories that make such mementos so valuable

    Liked by 3 people

  31. Much appreciated.

    Like

  1. Pingback: FEATURED BLOGGER: Salute to the Women in Uniform By //Pacific Paratrooper | ' Ace Worldwide History '

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: