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. I am not sure where I read it, perhaps in old Texas newspaper coverage, but some prisoner of war placement was supposedly in an effort to place them in locales that were similar to where they were captured, giving the example of North African German POWs being placed in arid areas of Texas for that reason. If Florida also had POWs from North Africa, that would be a contradiction to the premise that they were placed roughly to match where they were taken prisoner. Have you come across this, GP?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Many such facts have been forgotten, but are well worth remembering.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I could make some comment about that unshakeable belief in the master-race. As a national withdrawing from the fringes of Europe I could even suggest it persists to this day…

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Very interesting. We had a number of POW camps in WI as well. With a high German-American population it must have been interesting. There is a whole book written about German POWS in WI. One day I have to read it.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Very interesting, GP.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Jennie. Too bad I don’t have information beneficial to pre-schoolers, eh?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Actually, it is. And you do. I can take the information and make it age appropriate. Really. So, thank you!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Why Jennie, that is fantastic!!! Thank you so much for telling me! I try to keep things civil, as I do have adolescent followers, but I never thought in my dreams it could be adapted for preschool. You are quite the educator!!

          Liked by 2 people

          • You are most welcome, GP. It’s how you say what you say. I can tell a story for preschoolers, and that includes war. Last week in reading Little House on the Prairie, the neighbor Mrs. Scott talked with Ma about the Missouri Massacre. Well, I had to stop and talk about that. There’s the Indian perspective and the white settler perspective. Much like your post. With young children, the thread of this conversation always leads to morals, ethics, right and wrong. I can’t think of a greater way to help children become grounded into values, than discussing history. War is front and center. Thank you, GP.

            Liked by 1 person

  6. Amazing what people want to believe, but I guess it’s always wise to doubt your enemy.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Due to some of my own research for our area, I have to say that you have dealt much better with the prisoners of war. I am still investigating where the 30,000 or so prisoners of war came. They were in a camp about 36 km from here around 1944. First they wanted to poison them with arsenic in the breakfast rolls, then all disappeared without any hint. No one of the here Russian soldiers here seem to have come home. All officials in Germany and Bavaria remain silent to this day. ;-( Thank you for the information. Michael

    Liked by 2 people

  8. German arrogance to the end gp, much like the Japanese not recognizing the inevitable, think there must be a follow up to that story gp, bit more revelations on the finale when Germany surrendered.
    Cheers.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That is a great article and the pictures are superb! In my opinion, the troop transport squadrons did not receive as much recognition as they should have gotten. (They probably still don’t!) Thank you!

      Like

  9. As always, very good article Sir. I am going to reblog this one for you.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. It does seem like contempt-worthy arrogance, GP. Although the human mind is amazing in the things of which it can convince a person for self-preservation. Regardless of the physical conditions, a person has to convince themselves of some kind of hope to endure. Southern heat and humidity… triple that in a swamp area, what a nightmare. I feel bad for the guards.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Perhaps we , that’s the British and US, should have given the POW’s in our custody the same treatment as the Nazis gave our troops.’ The POW’s in England were given better treatment than we were, couldn’t be in conflict with the Geneva Convention could we?

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Here in England at least one POW was tried by a Nazi kangaroo court and hanged. They also, supposedly, had grandiose plans to have a mass breakout and link up with a German invasion in the southern part of East Anglia. There were lots of prison camps for a country as small as England. The best known prisoner was Bert Trautmann who became goalkeeper in Manchester City’s team, and Fritz von Werra, the only one who ever escaped and got back to Germany. He made use of a neutral country, funnily enough, the USA, in early 1941!

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Your posts always get me thinking. Once again, kudos to a well researched and well-written article. Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

    • My pleasure, Kally. I’ve done so many posts for D-Day, when the anniversary rolls around, that I figured this year I’d do something different. I’m glad you found it interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. I confess I laughed when I got to this: “Some tried to escape, but Florida was not the easiest place to go on the lam. Most did not go very far.” Alligators, snakes, and undependable ground underfoot come to mind. As hard as cutting cane is, I’d stick with the work detail myself.

    I was interested in the ship named the Athabaskan. I know that word as a language group, and sure enough, I found this in the Wiki: “Several Canadian naval ships have been named HMCS Athabaskan. All were named for the First Nations peoples who make up the Athabaskan language group. The first was British built, the other two in Canada. HMCS Athabaskan (G07), a Tribal-class destroyer, was commissioned in 1943 and torpedoed in the English Channel off French coast on 29 April 1944.”

    Clearly, honoring the native peoples of Canada isn’t a brand new thing.

    Liked by 4 people

  15. Interesting history. I hope I can also read how the American and British POWs were treated in Germany or Italy.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I will refer you to another site for that, if you’re interested in the subject. This is a Pacific War blog and I do not consider myself adept in the ETO side enough to cover it. I appreciate your visits here, Roy.

      Like

  16. Completely off-topic:
    Floriduh – crazy enuf to now earn a column listing its antics on a nationally-read website!
    https://pjmedia.com/vodkapundit/its-florida-man-friday/

    Liked by 3 people

    • Oh, it’s true. We need our own statue of liberty that says, “send us your worst: politicians, election system, druggies, drivers, (I’ll end this with an ETC. because the list is too long!!)

      Liked by 1 person

  17. I learned something new reading this post

    Liked by 3 people

  18. That was very interesting!

    Liked by 3 people

  19. I too would have “no sympathy” for fools corrupted enough to follow the dictates of a mass murderer. They should have been grateful to be alive. In other times and other countries there would NO prisoners.

    Liked by 2 people

  20. A lot different than American POWs were treated.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. That was really interesting. It didn’t surprise me–the structure of the camp–but it’s intriguing that all POW camps seem to organize themselves to best benefit the prisoners. There’s some takeaway here I might be missing.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. I can’t imagine the frustration of being a POW. At least we treated them well.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. Even as prisoners, without then’freesom’, it was a world apart!

    Liked by 2 people

  24. I wonder if POWs were sorted for ideology. The Florida swamps sound like a good place to send harder cases. My wife’s family talked about German prisoners working their farms in Maine. Mostly kids glad to be out of the whole nonsense. My Dad worked with released POWs in Germany—he got into the war so late he had to stay over with the army of occupation. He had German prisoners released by Americans and Polish prisoners released by the Germans under his command. The Poles did not want to go back and face Soviets. The two groups did not exactly get along ;~)

    Liked by 3 people

  25. Sounds like these prisoners received much better treatment than those that were captured by the opposition. These men at least look well fed instead of the skeleton-like bodies often seen in POW camps. I’m certain none of them found life easy, but they were prisoners after all.

    Liked by 3 people

  26. Basically, we treated our POW better than our enemies. Some of them wanted to settle here.

    Liked by 3 people

  27. It appears that the Germans were treated a lot better in Florida than the allied prisoners in the German camps in Europe. I suppose it helped morale to keep believing you would win, whatever side you were on.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 2 people

  28. Pierre Lagacé

    This is the story of a German prisoner from the start.

    https://willit24.home.blog/2019/02/03/the-journey-begins/

    We are now at Chapter 4. More to come as he will be taken prisoner in 1945 and kept in a POW camp for three years in France under harsh conditions at first.

    This might be interesting to some of your readers. The blog is in three languages… English, French and Geman.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank you very much, Pierre. There has been a lot of interest today about the German POWs.

      Like

      • Pierre Lagacé

        The story of German POWs in France is not well known. This has to be told by the son of a German sailor who was on the T24 on April 29, 1944. That ship sank Nicole’s uncle’s ship HMCS Athabaskan.

        Liked by 1 person

  29. Maybe one day I personally can say one of those brave men – thank you!
    Let me say, in the name of all for whom they came and gave us their hand – thank you!

    Liked by 3 people

  30. This is a curious story. You live in Florida, right? Have you ever been to the base where they kept the prisoners? Florida is hot and muggy. I wouldn’t want to be a POW there, that’s for sure.

    Liked by 3 people

    • No I have not. Most of them now have vanished, like Liberty Point, except for a plaque. The main camp for them near Lake Okeechobee is now a training base, I believe for the USCG.
      I agree about the weather – we appear to be in one very HOT one this year and where they were did not get the balmy gulf or ocean breezes – to top it off, working the sugar cane is an excruciating job!!

      Liked by 1 person

  31. My mother remembered Italian POWs laughing and pointing at bomb damage in London as they were transported to their holding camps…she felt tthat that was a bit of a cheek coming from the sunburned armpit brigade!

    Liked by 3 people

  32. Reblogged this on John's Notes and commented:
    I thought that this article was interesting. There is little mention of German POW camps in the US. They are another little-discussed aspect of WWII.

    Liked by 3 people

  33. A real different view. Thanks, GP.

    Liked by 3 people

  34. Their responses were hardly surprising

    Liked by 2 people

  35. Denial is often a useful survival tool….not surprised they didn’t want to believe what they were hearing about the invasion.

    Liked by 3 people

  36. GP, I love this article. We don’t hear much about the POWs in the United States. (Think it could be a rich niche to mind for some scholar.) It is a totally different take on D-Day. Found it fascinating (but not surprising) that the Afrikan Corps elite bullied the other prisoners. Love the No Work, No Eat policy of the Army. (I wonder if they could get away with that today.) Thanks for continuing to educate, inform and entertain us with your (should be) award-winning blog posts.

    Liked by 2 people

  37. I learn so much more from you than years of schooling. My FIL was one of the many English children sent away from family to live in the country to escape the blitz.

    Liked by 3 people

  38. We’ll never forget here in Britain, how much those brave American soldiers,stood side by side with our British troops. My grandfather has fond memories of the wonderful American soldiers,bringing doughnuts and raising morale. We’re free today,because of them. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 8 people

  39. I can remember my mother’s fury at the memories of Japanese prisoners of war golfing in Hershey, PA while our servicemen were tortured and killed in Japanese camps. Probably too much for her to think about the German ones. She hated any German for the rest of her life.

    Liked by 3 people

  40. The cartoonist was a genius, wasn’t he? There were German POWs in Iowa, too. They also did fieldwork and even crafted a large nativity scene for the town. https://wcfcourier.com/news/top_news/wwii-vet-recalls-guarding-german-prisoners-at-algona/article_17349586-4c7d-5554-956a-fbe315199331.html

    Liked by 5 people

  41. It is often hard to remember that those on the other side are fighting for their country, their buddies, their beliefs. Perhaps the most frightening thing about World War II was that most Germans – especially the SS – and most Japanese believed they were right in what they did even at its most horrible point. It means we must all be especially careful in these days of fake news on all sides of the political spectrum.

    Liked by 5 people

  42. Much appreciated, Maureen.

    Like

  43. Thank you, Ian!

    Like

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