D-Day from a different view

German POWs

On 6 June 1944, Milton Roger Sosin, a seasoned reporter, took a ride up the south shore of Lake Okeechobee, Florida.  Overnight, the long anticipated invasion of Europe had begun.

The Miami Daily News was in search of local reactions from people in Florida – Sosin was assigned to talk to Germans.  Not German-Americans, and some weren’t too far away.

Milton Sosin, Miami Herald reporter

In May of 1943, Allied forces had begun to ship German POWs to the United States, more than 9,000 were sent to Florida’s 22 prisoner of war camps.  Near Clewiston, FL, was Liberty Point and Sosin was on his way.

On that warm day, he drove up U,S. 27, past pastures and farm land.  When he got to Liberty Point, prisoners were marching in from the fields, in formation, their shovels slung over their shoulders like rifles.

The draft had decimated the American labor force and disrupted the usual flow of Caribbean workers, so the Germans were put to work planting and harvesting sugar cane.

The Germans were happy to talk.  Yes, they had heard of the invasion, on radios the camp commander had bought them from what they earned running a canteen at the camp.  Enough of the POWs spoke English to translate the broadcasts to the rest.

June 1944 Headlines

The POWs told Sosin the reports were propaganda.  Germany, they said, surely would prevail.  Sosin’s story headline read, “Arrogant Nazis still laud Hitler.  Der Fuehrer’s Forces Think Germany Will Win The War.”

Sosin described the prisoners as “jaunty, confident and arrogant members of Der Fuerhrer’s forces – not cowed and beaten soldiers of a nation being pushed into a tighter and tighter circle.”

But their Glade home was no picnic for the fair-skinned men.  When the American Red Cross showed up, the temperature was 103°F and it had not rained for 6 months.  Prisoners worked long, hard hours, but the Americans could feel no sympathy for them – they knew what U.S. POWs in Germany were going through.

German prisoner buys candy at the canteen

The prisoners were paid 80 cents a day in coupons which they traded for cigarettes and beer.  Barracks held 6-men each and had mosquito netting.  They were served the same meals as their American camp guards.  Nearly 300 POWs fished in the local canals, saw films twice a week and assembled a band using instruments bought with their canteen money.

German POWs play chess

Prisoners had newspapers, took educational courses, played soccer and volley ball at a nearby school and competed against a local softball team.  But when the POWs went on strike whining over a cigarette ration cut – the army handed down a “No Work – NO Eat.” policy.

The prisoner’s had a social structure loosely split among the elite Afrika Korps captured in 1942; troops in Italy ’43-’44; and those captured after D-Day.  The Afrika Korps officers refused to believe what the new arrivals reported about the Normandy beaches and believed they were spies trying to demoralize them.  The korps prisoners would lord over the other POWs, doling out discipline and punishments.

Escaped German POW

Some tried to escape, but Florida was not the easiest place to go on the lam.  Most did not go very far.

Click on images to enlarge.

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Military Humor –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Farewell Salutes – 

Ralph Brown – Maori Hill, NZ; RNZ Air Force # 424421, WWII

Paul ‘Bud’ Erlacher Jr. – Milford, CT; US Army Air Corps, WWII, Sgt. Medical Corps

Lee Holstein – Laguna Woods, CA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, PTO, Co. B/187/11th Airborne Division

Durwood Johnson – Cravens, LA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, B-17 tail-gunner

John Knaur – Des Moines, IA; US Navy, WWII, steamfitter, USS Amycus

Jack Maddox (100) – GA; US Army Air Corps, WWII, ETO, crew chief, 62 FS/56FG/8th Air Force

Newton Nelson – River Falls, WI; US Navy, WWII & Korea

Harry Siria – Thompson Falls, MT; US Navy, WWII, PTO, fire ship

Otho ‘Coke’ Wiseman – NM; US Army, WWII, ETO, Purple Heart

Elvin Zipf – Pompton Plains, NJ; US Navy, WWII, air corps

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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 7, 2019, in Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 162 Comments.

  1. Thanks for following my blog and for your likes of my posts; your kindness is greatly appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I met a man who was POW here in the states, but was in a camp in Center, Colorado. It seems he’d worked potatoes in Germany, knew a lot about the equipment used, and so on. Because of that, he got an extra ten cents a day. The first time he tasted American Bourbon whiskey was in a store in nearby Monte Vista. Ironically, the store was owned by my grandfather. He said he’s drank Bourbon ever since.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Keep educating us, GP! I enjoy these posts.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Great D-Day post, GP. Working in Florida in that heat with humidity, bugs and alligators was a suitable punishment.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Regarding D-Day, I asked my dad where he thought he actually might have been on D-Day. He was not allowed to enlist until he turned 18, so he was in boot camp followed by amphibious training in 1944 and he said he was most likely at amphibious camp learning to pilot a Higgins Boat (LCVP). When I asked him how he thought he heard about D-Day, he said that the Navy kept them busy and most likely didn’t tell them anything when it occurred. He thought he learned about it while on liberty in San Diego, and that it was probably from a newsreel in an all night theater!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for giving us that story from your father! I love getting those. I believe all the secrecy – that was a mandatory situation. The Higgins boats were a massive benefit to the war effort. Without them, a huge link in the chain of success would have been broken!

      Liked by 1 person

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