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Linda Bode
936.228.0786 Work
281.630.0426 Cell
lbode@csdinc.org
j.lbode@suddenlink.net
 


 

 
 
 
 
 

Camp Forrest during World War II

 
 

Sent: 6/22/2009 3:57 PM

 

My father was a Supply Officer at Camp Forrest during World War 2 and my Mother and I lived off base with him.  During that time you had German Prisoner at Camp Forrest, he was an artist that painted my portrait from a Olen Mills picture of me at two years old, which I still have.  The paint during that period was the best my Father could find (not great) but it is still a wonderful portrait.

I remember that my parents hung that portrait in their bedroom and I was afraid of it because the girl in the picture eyes moved and I thought she was watching me.

He also made the frame and a small heart shaped frame for the Olen Mills picture of me, it is matted with a newspaper from Tullahoma Tennessee.

Several years ago I followed Antique Road Show procedure and sent pictures of my portrait trying to locate the German POW Artist who had signed it as  J FINK, they were not able to help me but they did give me a certificate of authenticity.

I would love to locate J Fink, or his family, find out anything that I can about him.

If you could please help, it has been so difficult due the length of time and information available.

Thank you,

Linda Bode
936.228.0786 Work
281.630.0426 Cell
lbode@csdinc.org
j.lbode@suddenlink.net

 

Email from Connie Sachs to Linda

Sent: Fri 7/31/2009 12:10 PM

 
Linda-
Your family's experience with the German POWs was not uncommon.  Many other families around the United States had similar experiences - the POWs enjoyed the American children because they reminded them of their own children or nieces and nephews back in Germany, the POWs painted, sculpted or crafted something for the family, etc.  As in most wars, the opposing sides think very little of one another almost to the point of hatred.  It was amazing to the US citizens who came in contact with the POWs that they were "just like us".  
 
The majority of the German POWs did not return to Germany immediately after they left the United States.  Some were held up to an additional three years in POW camps in France and Russia before they were allowed to return home.  The POW 
had to return to his country.  He could not apply for asylum in the United States before being "shipped out".  Some former POWs did return and became American citizens.  Some merely returned on vacation to visit the places and families they so fondly remembered.
 
The German POWs represent a fascinating chapter in our country's history. The US Army had no precedent from which to operate in the POW situation, so they basically rolled up their sleeves, grabbed a copy of Geneva Convention Accords and played it by ear!  They did some things wrong, but they also did some things right.   
 
A friend of mine wrote a book on the German POW camps in Arizona.  The way he got in touch with former POWs was to put an ad in a German newspaper.  However, that was close to 15 years ago.  Many of the former POWs are no longer living, but I know their families would be good sources of information.
 
The War Department would most likely not have any records of what happened to the hundreds of thousands of POWs once they left our shores.  Many of the Army officers involved in the German POW situation were glad to see it come to an end.  As the final boatload of German POWs sailed from Camp Shanks, NJ to Europe, camp commander Col. Harry Mass stated, "Thank God, that is over."
 
There is a story about a gentleman who lived in a town in Wisconsin where there is a high German population.  The man's town was home to a POW branch camp.  One day, he heard a knock on the door and opened it to find his brother standing there.  The brother was a POW at the camp.  Of course, the man couldn't do anything about it. 
 
Would you and/or your sister be able to write down some of your experiences for me?  I'd love to incorporate some first hand knowledge of the POWs into my thesis.
 
Keep in touch!
 
Connie Sachs
 

Sent: Tue 8/4/2009 9:14 AM

 
Hello, Charles, Linda and Steve:
In continuing my research, I came across several notes of interest.  These do not reference Camp Forrest, but are of general interest regarding the German POW camps in the United States. 

Due to the US Army's lack of knowledge in caring for POWs, Army commanders thought it would be best for the prisoners to run their own camps.  This was due in part to the lack of interpreters and personnel.  From August of 1942, when the initial load of prisoners arrived, to Feb, of 1943, Nazi POWs basically ran many of the camps.  This was a detriment to the anti-Nazi, democratic prisoners, who were beaten, "forced" to commit suicide and killed for not sharing the ideals of the fanatic Nazis they were interned with.  This led to a written directive in Feb, 1943, which ordered the separation of Nazis from anti-Nazis.  Fanatical Nazis were sent to Alva, OK while the anti-Nazis were sent to Camp Campbell, TN/KY, Camp Devins, MA and Camp McCain, MS. 

Some of the servicemen who served at the camps were not very happy with their assignment.  They would much rather have been in the "guts and glory" of the front lines.  Because the Army had no precident for the POW camps, the camp commanders had no precident either.  Standardization of the different processes regarding the POWs was often haphazard because the POW camps were not the Army's first priority - fighting a dual-front war was the top priority.  Camp commanders and personnel often found themselves frustrated as they sought answers to many of the POW problems.  One of the problems was souvenier seekers.  The POWs were subjected to frequent searches of their belongings and their persons in order to obtain any personal affects they had that would prove they were here.  The personal effects were then confiscated as war "trophies" by those assigned to their care.  Many times, a POW's "papers" were confiscated.  This lead to a great deal of confusion as to who the prisoner was and what his background was (service record, special training, etc.).  

Arnold Krammer's, "Nazi Prisoners of War in America" is a good resource to find out more about the POW camps.

One subject that keeps popping up in my research is the role of the arts in the camps.  Many camps had a chorus, an orchestra and/or dance band, a theater troupe, a woodworking shop and art supplies were furnished for the prisoners.  The prisoners were also able to participate in a "distance learning" program of sorts.  College level classes were offered to the POWs through area colleges.  Many POWs actually got college credit for their classes and went on the continue their college education at a later date.  The camps also had libraries and record collections.  These camps were by no means comparable to the concentration camps of Nazi Germany.  In fact, the US Army had been accused of "coddling" the prisoners - giving them resort-type ammenities (food, etc.) when the average US citizen was subject to rationing. 

I continue to find this subject quite fascinating!

Sincerely-
Connie Sachs