Grandma, could you first tell me a little bit about
yourself, such as when you were born and where you grew up?
I was born in Liberty, Tennessee, in 1919, and lived there
until the summer of 1932, when my family moved to
Winchester, Tennessee. After high school, I went to
business college in Nashville, Tennessee.
Where were you when you heard about the bombing of Pearl
Harbor on December 7, 1941?
We (my family) were listening to the radio in Winchester
when we heard about it.
What kind of work did you do after the US became involved in
World War II?
World War II began shortly after I graduated from business
college in 1940. By this time, my family had moved to
Tullahoma, Tennessee. My first job with the federal
government was in 1942 for the Rent Control Office. There
were about ten people working in our office. Since a lot of
people were trying to find housing, our job was to make sure
that rents were fair and controlled for apartments, hotels,
and any other kinds of lodging.
How you did you come to work for the POW camp?
I changed jobs in 1943 and started working as a stenographer
(grade 2) at an Army Air Corps Base in Tullahoma. Camp
Forrest was just outside of Tullahoma. In 1945, I went to
work at the POW camp, also located at Camp Forrest, where I
got a higher-grade job as a stenographer (grade 3). My
younger sister, Virginia, and my friend, Mrs. S, also worked
at this camp as secretaries to some of the doctors.
What did your parents think about your working at a POW
They were just grateful that we had jobs.
What about your brothers? What were they doing at this time?
My older brother, John, a soldier, was shot in the face in
battle when he was in Germany. The bullet went in one side
of his face and came out of the other side. He was flown
back to a hospital in Ohio. My parents drove up to Ohio to
visit him. I think that he received a purple heart for his
service. My younger brother, Tom, volunteered for the
Marines (I think), but he was rejected due to being
flat-footed. My baby brother, James, was only about 12
years old at the time, so he was at home in school.
From my research, I learned that Camp Forrest originally
housed German and Italian internees (aliens who were rounded
up and imprisoned when the war first broke out), but that in
1942 the internees were relocated and the camp was used
exclusively for German and Italian POWs. What kinds of
people were housed at this camp when you were there?
Just the POWs were there by the time I started working
How were you able to get the job there?
My previous experience with the Federal Government at the
Army Air Corps base helped me to get this job since I was an
experienced civilian employee.
What did you do in your job at the POW camp?
I was a clerk stenographer. I performed shorthand dictation
for various military staff and interrogators. This included
letters, notes, and records of interrogations. The
interrogations were quite lengthy, too. After I finished
dictation, I would type everything and turn it over to
whomever I was taking dictation from.
Do you remember any of the details of the interrogation
No, I canít remember details of the interrogations; that was
so long ago.
What was your salary for your job?
I donít remember exactly how much I made, but it was paid at
one of the lowest pay grades for federal employees at the
time. I think that the only lower grades were for file
I read that everything was rationed at that time (fuel,
food, clothing, rubber, typewriters, refrigerators, etc.)
Where did you live, and how did you make ends meet with all
of the shortages?
My family and other people of that period had always been
frugal. One funny thing that I remember is that once when
I went into a little store to buy eggs, the woman looked at
me and said that I couldnít have them because I didnít trade
there all of the time.
I also read that ration stamps (coupons) were given to
families based on size of family, ages, and income. Did you
receive additional ration stamps because of your work at the
Leather, sugar, and gas were among many things that were
rationed. I donít recall using ration stamps, although they
may have been issued to my family.
Did you wear your civilian clothes to work, or did you have
We wore civilian clothes, and back then women didnít wear
How did you get to work? Did you have a car, or did you
ride with someone?
I lived at home with my family. My sister had a Chevy
convertible that her husband bought her before he went into
the service. We drove this car, and carpooled with others.
In general, how was your family affected by the war?
Everybody just adapted to the times, and did what we had to
do. Other than the shortages of items, we were all
Were parts of your job classified?
I donít think so. I donít recall if they were.
Were you allowed to communicate with the prisoners?
The only POWs that were allowed to be in our work area were
the trusties, but I did not talk to them. One time, one of
the captains came into the office and said that one of the
trusties told him that I looked like his wife, since I was
blonde and wore my hair up in a braid.
In my research on Camp Forrest, I learned that the prisoners
slept in barracks. Did the camp have any electricity, heat,
running water, etc?
Sure, it was a big installation. I didnít go into the area
where the POWs were held, but I assume that the POWs had
most of the amenities that were common for that period.
Were the prisoners respectful to the people who worked at
Yes, at least from what I observed based on the way that the
trusties acted in the office where I worked.
I read that by the end of the war, there were approximately
24,000 POWs under guard at Camp Forrest. How many of them
I think that most of them probably worked in some way, as
trusties, in the kitchen, cleaning, and things like that.
I read that the POWs were used in outside work details,
such as on farms. Did you ever see them do any work outside
of the camp?
No, I donít recall seeing them once they were outside of the
How were the POWs treated inside the camp?
They were well-treated. I never saw or heard of any
maltreatment. However, I did hear about suicides by
officers. I am guessing that this is because they were
ashamed to be captured, but Iím not sure about this.
From research sources, I learned that the US Government
created what was called an Intellectual Diversion Program,
which was for the purpose of training the POWs about various
American cultural issues and change their views about the
US. Do you remember anything about whether the POWs had
access to other education or recreation?
The POWs were about ľ-mile away from where I worked, but I
recall seeing and hearing them exercise and play in their
From pictures of Camp Forrest on the internet, I could see a
guard tower. Were there other ways that POWs were confined
to the camp? In other words, how were they prevented from
There was also fencing around the area where the POWs were
Were the POWs restrained with chains or handcuffs?
The trusties did not wear any sort of restraints. I am not
sure if there were any of the other POWs that were
restrained. I would imagine that only troublemakers would
Did any of the POWs stay in the United States after they
The POWs were sent back to Germany before being released, so
I am not aware of how many may have returned to the US.
In doing research for this project, I read that the earliest
recorded escape from a German POW camp was on November 5,
1942, when two prisoners escaped from the train that was
transporting them from Cincinnati, Ohio to Camp Forrest.
Were there any attempted escapes at Camp Forrest while you
I heard that there were some escapes, but that they were
caught pretty quickly and returned.
I read that at another POW camp in Crossville, Tennessee,
the POWs had better food than the Americans because the POWs
were mostly officers who were allowed to bring their own
chefs to the camp to cook for them. What kinds of food did
the POWs at Camp Forrest eat?
I am pretty sure that they ate the same food as the staff Ė
pretty much just meat and vegetables like we eat now.
Where did you eat?
We ate in a mess hall with the nurses and officers.
How did POWs communicate with the Americans since they
probably spoke mostly German and Italian?
They used interpreters. Some of these interpreters were POW
Grandma, how were you able to dictate the interrogations if
you didnít speak or understand German or Italian?
I wasnít present during the actual interrogations. The
interrogators would dictate the findings of their
interrogations to me in English after interrogating the POWs
through interpreters, in German and Italian.
So you really couldnít be sure if the interrogator was
accurately documenting the discussion. Is this correct?
Yes, I guess so.
How did the local people react to the camp being near their
They were happy to have the jobs and other business
generated by the POW camp.
I remember reading that the population of Tullahoma before
the war was about 4,500, and during the war it grew to
75,000. What happened after the war?
When the camp closed down in 1946, the local economy
suffered greatly. Jobs were eliminated; we had to move to
Atlanta to find jobs.
Did you ever listen to President Rooseveltís ďfireside
chatsĒ during the war, and what did you think about what he
had to say?
We frequently listened to the president speak on the radio.
Roosevelt was very well-respected. Everyone was more
respectful of people in authority back then.
Did you ever buy any war bonds?
Yes, we all bought these bonds all during the war years.
They were heavily promoted since they helped fund the war.
They were worth $25 at maturity. I didnít cash them in
until after I was married Ė until they had matured.
I read that after the war was over in 1946, Camp Forrest was
declared surplus property, and buildings were torn down.
What is on the site where Camp Forrest was located?
Arnold Engineering Development Center is located there now.
Thank you for taking time to talk about your experiences at
the POW camp.