Prisoner of War camps

I left home the week after mom got out of the hospital after their car wreck. I went to meet Jean in New Mexico. Jean had come back to the states after he had been wounded in the war in North Africa. The army brought German prisoners back to the United States for internment and Jean was sent to these camps. He worked in the office to keep track of all the prisoners and you know the army, there are always all these forms to fill out.

I met Jean in Roswell New Mexico. Places to rent were very hard to find but we finally found a bedroom to rent in a farmhouse not far from town. The couple we rented from had grown children who had married and left home so they had an extra bedroom. They were very friendly and did everything they could to make us feel at home. This was my first time to see very much of the country. I was surprised to see what crops grew in that part of the country. I especially remember the cotton plants.

We were invited to thanksgiving dinner by the couple we rented from. I wish I could remember their names but right now I can't seem to. There was a big crowd at the dinner table. All their children and their wives and grandchildren were there. I missed my family but I felt right at home with the big crowd around the table. During dinner they began to talk about the crops and the usual farming talk. They began to talk about "goosing the cotton" and what areas of the farm were being goosed. I thought surely they must be kidding but they seemed quite serious. I listened for quite awhile and finally said "all right, I'll bite. What is goosing the cotton"? They all laughed. They really do raise geese and turn them loose in the cotton fields because geese eat all the weeds but leave the cotton plants alone. This is goosing the cotton.

Our next transfer was to Carlsbad New Mexico. Places to rent once again were extremely had to find. We checked into the hotel. Jean was called to camp and could not leave because one of the prisoners of war had escaped and all personnel were confined to camp. We could only stay in the hotel for five days. I went out every day looking for anything with a roof to live in. I was pregnant with Pat and every place I was told me they wouldn't rent to me because I was pregnant and they didn't take children. My five days were up at the hotel so I was told to leave. I had no place to go. The jail was right across the street so I thought I'll just go spent the night in jail. As I was standing in front of the hotel with my two suitcases by my side the hotel clerk came out and told me a person with a back porch to rent was trying to get in touch with another girl but since the other girl wasn't in she gave me the address. I went out and rented this back porch. It had solid windows around three sides so it was very bright early in the morning and got pretty hot later in the day. Fortunately we weren't there very long.

Jeans next transfer was to Alva Oklahoma. This is a copy of a newspaper clipping that tells the story of the Alva Oklahoma prisoner of war camp. "On July 7, a prisoner was shot to death trying to escape from the Alva prisoner of war camp. The shooting came two days after two German officers were caught trying to escape. POW's in other camps called the Alva camp "Devil's Island" or the albatross of the prison system. The Alva camp accepted its first 19 German prisoners on July 13th,1943. At its peak the following February, the camp--with 8 foot barbed wire fences, 13 guard towers and hundreds of buildings in its various compounds-had 4,415 German prisoners, including many from the Africa Corps that fought in North Africa under General Rommel, known as the desert fox .(Jean fought with Gen Pattan against Rommel in Africa}

Of the prisoners brought to the United States those described as diehard Nazis were sent to Alva.. When they arrived by train, the POW's were marched through town before arriving at the camp. The prisoners in this camp were the most dangerous. They were the SS troops, the elite of the German army. Several of the prisoners in this camp had relatives in Seneca my home town They would ask Jean if he knew anything about their relatives and ask him to take messages back for them. The messages were never about the war. They just wanted to know if there relatives were OK.

We found our first real apartment in Alva. It had three rooms, a kitchen living room bedroom and bath. It was very small Jean always said you could sit on the bathroom stool and peal potatoes in the kitchen. Almost the truth but it was heaven compared to most of our former living conditions. The apartment was above the movie theater. The theater always showed westerns. You could follow the movie without seeing it because the volume was so loud. You could heat all the conversations, storms, shootings and the sheriff on his horse galloping after the bad guys.

Our first daughter was born while we lived in Alva. Pat was born on August 10th 1945. She was a pretty baby with lots of black hair. People who looked in the nursery thought she was a little Indian baby. .

The Japanese war ended while I was in the hospital with Pat. I wanted to go out and celebrate with everyone else but of course I couldn't. Jean went down town to celebrate. I don't know who but somebody started a large bon fire in the middle of the street. The Indians in the area were doing a celebration war dance around the fire. Other couples were dancing on the sidewalks. Army and navy men who were in the area threw their hats into the fire.

The war with Germany ended a little later so the prisoner of war camps closed and the prisoners sent home. Jean was transferred to Chickasha Oklahoma to be mustered out of the army. I went home to Seneca to wait for him.