Roamy here. Here’s another story my dad likes to tell. During WWII, traveling wasn’t easy and frequently frowned upon. (“Don’t you know there’s a war on?”) Gas and tires were rationed, so my grandparents and father traveled from Tampa to Georgia by train. It had been two or three years since my grandfather had seen his brother, and it was time for a visit.
My great-uncle lived in Dublin, GA at the time, where there was a military hospital for convalescing soldiers and also a prisoner-of-war camp. The Dublin POW camp was probably administered out of Camp Wheeler in Macon. Nearly 700 POW camps in the US housed over 425,000 prisoners, mostly Germans, during the war. Many of these camps were located in the South, where the prisoners could be used as farm labor, filling in for the Americans fighting overseas. They were paid for their labor, according to the Geneva Convention.
My dad was shocked upon arrival at his uncle’s house to find a Luftwaffe Oberst cutting the grass. “Daddy! There’s a German!” The gentleman was in uniform with “POW” in big yellow letters on his back. My grandmother shushed my dad, but the Oberst didn’t say a word, just straightened his back and kept working. My great-uncle had hired him not only for yardwork but also other oddjobs. He was probably paid 80 cents a day.
There were POW camps in 46 states, though the whole network was kept pretty quiet. After the war ended, the prisoners were returned to their home countries with the money they earned and at least some fluency in English. About 860 German POWs remain buried in American military cemeteries, including over 100 in the National Cemetery in Chattanooga. There is a POW Museum in Algona, Iowa.
As a side note, the Dublin military hospital was later named for Congressman Carl Vinson of Georgia.