Pearl Harbor Attack Changed Everything In Bradenton 80 Years Ago. ���We Are At War!���

On June 6, 1944, a Miami newspaper reporter took a ride up the south shore of Lake Okeechobee. Overnight, the long-anticipated and historic invasion of Europe had begun. Editors wanted local reaction from Germans. German Germans. Some were not too far away.

In May 1943, Allied forces had begun shipping to the United States Germans captured in combat. More than 9,000 went to 22 Florida camps, many at or near military bases. State headquarters was at North Florida’s Camp Blanding, also an active POW facility. It now is a National Guard training base.

German POWs were confident about war effort in Europe

At Liberty Point, Germans who were put to work performing the backbreaking work of planting and harvesting sugar cane told the reporter that, yes, they had heard of the invasion, on radios. They said it all was propaganda. Germany, they said, surely would prevail.

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While the prisoners appeared cocky, their home in the Glades was no winter vacation. If there was a perfect hell for fair-skinned people from chilly northern Europe, this was it. When the American Red Cross inspected Liberty Point in March 1945, it found the temperature at 103 degrees; dust aggravated by six months without rain settled on everything. The Red Cross cited the camp for having only 12 latrines for 293 prisoners; only two had seats. Americans found it hard to feel sympathy. Compared to what was going on in Europe, including to American POWs, German POWs in Florida seemed to have it pretty good.

Prisoners at the various camps worked from before 8 a.m. to about 3 p.m. The military charged farmers the going rate for labor, but they were able to show a profit by paying prisoners 80 cents a day in coupons they traded for items such as cigarettes and beer.

Access to such treats led to a showdown with local distributors in early 1945. They halted supplies to Morrison Field, now Palm Beach International Airport, when they learned it was sharing them with the POWs.

A display of what Camp Blanding looked like during World War II at the Camp Blanding Museum during the celebration of the 75th Anniversary of Camp Blanding Joint Training Center near Starke, Florida, on Jan 9, 2015.
A display of what Camp Blanding looked like during World War II at the Camp Blanding Museum during the celebration of the 75th Anniversary of Camp Blanding Joint Training Center near Starke, Florida, on Jan 9, 2015.

Barracks, which held six men each, had mosquito netting but no air conditioning. American camp guards ate the same food as POWs, in keeping with the Geneva Convention. The nearly 300 prisoners fished in nearby canals, saw films twice a week and assembled a concert band using instruments bought with money from their canteen fund. They took classes in bookkeeping, English, geometry and chemistry, and read American magazines and copies of the New York Staatszeitung or “state newspaper.”

Coddled in Florida, concentration camps in Germany

Sometimes the POWs pushed their luck. At the Belle Glade camp, when POWs held a two-day strike over a cut in cigarette rations, the American public, press and politicians angrily painted word pictures of coddled Germans whining over cigarettes at a time when GIs were stumbling across Nazi concentration camps.

One escapee got from North Florida all the way to the Everglades south of Lake Okeechobee. He was captured and returned to the camp scratched, bloody and filthy. The head of the POWs complained camp officers had beaten the man. No, the commander said, his scratches and cuts came from the Florida countryside.

Florida Time is a weekly column about Florida history by Eliot Kleinberg, a former staff writer for three decades at The Palm Beach Post in West Palm Beach, and the author of 10 books about Florida (www.ekfla.com).

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Florida housed thousands of German POWs during World War II

Source : https://news.yahoo.com/florida-history-german-prisoners-war-130017076.html?soc_src=social-sh&soc_trk=tw&tsrc=twtr

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Florida history: German prisoners of war – the enemy in our midst

Source:Yahoo News

Florida history: German prisoners of war – the enemy in our midst