Miles City WWII question?
Posted by Dan (+467) 14 years ago
Does anyone know if any Nisei or German (or any other nationality) POW's were interned in this area during WWII? Used as farm labor? Thanks-
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Posted by Richard Bonine, Jr (+14145) 14 years ago
I think I remember hearing about some out at the fairground, but that might be a "fig newtown" of my imagination. Perhaps there are some "old people" in this forum that could enlighten us.
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Posted by Dan (+467) 14 years ago
That is the rumor I heard as well, trying to find out if there is any truth to it.
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Posted by Pete Petro (+285) 14 years ago
There was an interrment camp at the fairgrounds during WW2. It was mostly or all Germans I believe. I remember that two of them escaped and were caught looking in store windows downtown. They couldn't believe that Americans lived so well. From reports at the time, this bunch of prisoners weren't much of a problem, they were just glad to be getting three squares a day and a bed
Thanks for the "old people",Richard.
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Posted by Richard Bonine, Jr (+14145) 14 years ago
Actually, when I wrote that I had you in mind!
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Posted by Pete Petro (+285) 14 years ago
Pretty good for a"neighbor brat".
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Posted by Dan (+467) 14 years ago
Thanks for the info. I wonder if someone could steer me towards some newspaper articles or documentation on this topic?
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Posted by Jay Johnson (+45) 14 years ago
I was born and raised in Miles City and was in High School during World War 2. This is the first I have heard of any internees being held in this area. With the nosiness of high school kids I'm amazed that I would not have heard of them being housed at the fairgrounds.
We had carnivals at the fairgrounds each year and all of our home football games were played there. I believe we also had the annual county fair there is the fall each year. There must be someone left in town who can come up with some verification if they were indeed quartered at the fairgrounds.
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Posted by Pete Petro (+285) 14 years ago
Don't know how you missed them, Jay, but trust me there were German prisoners of war at the fairgrounds during WW2. Check the MC Star archives, if they go back that far.
Pete
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Posted by Cory Cutting (+1276) 14 years ago
Pete is correct! My grandfather (Albert Reinhardt) was the caretaker in the 60's and 70's. Since I couldn't go to the source, I asked my mother and she agreed..... they were held in the Exibition Hall and she says there are water faucets and a concrete stip next to the building that was used for showering. She said that she did not know how many there were but there were a whole lot!
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Posted by Chuck Aastrom (+12) 14 years ago
Hi Pete, You and Cory are correct. My Dad was a sugar beet farmer at Kinsey and I remember one spring he had German prisoners thin and hoe sugar beets. Women and children were not allowed near the fields they were working in. I believe there were two truck loads of men, about 20 or more in each truck. This arrangement was set up with Holly Sugar Co. and the regular rate per acre was paid to Holly Sugar, who apparently then paid the government. Working in the beet fields was voluntary but the ones who did were some way paid and they could purchase cigarettes, candy etc.
Pete, I also remember when the two prisoners were walking downtown Miles City looking in store windows.

[This message has been edited by Chuck Aastrom (edited 7/30/2005).]
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Posted by Pete Petro (+285) 14 years ago
Hey Chuck,
Thanks for backing me up on this. It's nice to be right once in awhile. I guess one of the reasons I remember the prisoners so well is that I was strictly forbidden by my mother to go near the fairgrounds when they were there. Of course, you know what happened next. It's good to see a name from out of the past. Where are you hanging your hat these days?
Pete
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Posted by Betty O'Brien (+118) 14 years ago
Hello Pete & Chuck:

I am down in the Las Vegas right now visiting my daughter but had to go into the MC site - I sure do remember the German Prisoners at the Fair Grounds. Also them working in the beets - my dad had them in the Fall as I recall because school was going and as I was in the 7th grade and had to walk about 1/2 miles from the school bus to my house, my dad would make sure I was not alone as I had to walk right past the field they were working in - also they had a guard that rode out with the truck load of prisoners but all he did was stay in the house and drink coffee with my grandfather that happened to be staying with us at the time. I also remember the two that escaped and was found window shopping - they were so amazed at America, I wonder if some came back to become citizens? This sure brought back some "old" memories. Betty Carter O'Brien
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Posted by Johnnie Lockett Thomas (+399) 14 years ago
The German prisoners of war in Miles City and the escape are covered by Robin Gerber in her Miles City History course. If you who live here, consider taking one of her history classes. They are especially interesting when the classes include older people who were part of or eye-witnesses to facts that Robin learned in school and from research. It often leads to spirited discussions and new information.

Johnnie Lockett Thomas
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Posted by Buck Showalter (+4452) 14 years ago
I heard the prisoners wouldn't eat corn, because it was for swine.
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Posted by Johnnie Lockett Thomas (+399) 14 years ago
And that would be because we grow and eat sweet corn which was a rare commodity outside of the United States when I was growing up. Field , or dent, corn was always grown both here and in the rest of the world for animals. That was certainly the case when we lived in Europe in the mid-fifties.

In the 30's and 40's there were lots of things that were staples in the Alabama diet that you rarely or never ate in Montana. Sweet potatoes, black-eyed peas, turnip greens and collard greens, rice, fish and sugar cane come to mine along with pomegranates, scuppernongs, pears, blackberries, and pears instead of chokecherries, etc, etc, etc. But when I married into my husband Momtana family they considered me the poorer for having grown up in a culture they considered inferior.

Pity.

Johnnie Lockett Thomas
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Posted by Hal Neumann (+9347) 14 years ago
If you are interested in prisoners of war in other parts of the state, see:

"German Prisoners Of War"
By Ellen Thompson
September 2, 2005
HAVRE DAILY NEWS
http://www.havredailynews.com/articles/2005/09/02/features/1hilineliving.txt
"CHINOOK - Imagine driving on U.S. Highway 2, past the Blaine County Fairgrounds, glancing to the south and seeing a formidable barbed wire enclosure. In the center are dozens of canvas tents, and above them, rather than an announcer's booth, is a guard tower manned by armed guards. It's an unlikely image, but a generation of Blaine County residents carry it in their memory of World War II Chinook . . . some old-timers recall the visitors that the sugar beets once brought, including German prisoners of war."

--Hal
= = = = = =
The Montana History Discussion List
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Montana_History/
Montana History In The News
http://www.geocities.com/neander97/news/montana-history-news.html
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Posted by Dan (+467) 14 years ago
Neat to see this come up again after so long, thanks for the responses!
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Posted by Chad (+1767) 14 years ago
Okay Johnnie, what's a scuppernong?

Is it related to a henway?
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Posted by Betty Emilsson (+77) 14 years ago
We had family friends in Bozeman who had a cousin who was interred in Miles City during World War II. I remember them telling my mother about him. When the war was over, he had hoped to be able to stay but he was shipped back. I rather his family was grateful for his return.
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Posted by Ted Schmidt (+65) 14 years ago
I hope I can keep this brief and still get the story across. My came to this country from Germany in 1929 and at the outset of WW2 had not yet been naturalized as a US citizen. After a trip to Miles City she related a story of having visited with some of the POWs at the fairgrounds. She said they
appeared to be just teenagers. She was able to visit with some of them and they expressed a desire to remain in this country or return after the war was over. They also had already lost their families to the war in their homeland and had nothing to return to anyway. The person that took her out to the fairgrounds was a Reinhardt. They lived at Cohagen at the time. I also remember reading in the Star of the wandering prisoners in town and admiring all the goods in the store windows. Ted Schmidt
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Posted by Hal Neumann (+9347) 13 years ago
Dan, if you're interested in areas other than Southeastern Montana, here's an article on putting WWII POWs to work as farm labors. Mostly it deals with deals with Camp Rupert in Idaho, but it does provide some details on German POWs in Montana.

Jaehn, Tomas. "Unlikely Harvesters," MONTANA: THE MAGAZINE OF WESTERN HISTORY, Autumn 2000.
http://www.findarticles.c...i_n8903727
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Posted by mom (+63) 13 years ago
As you have been told, there were indeed prisoners of war out at the fairgrounds, some in Miles City, and some at the Rosebud County fairgrounds in Forsyth. The guards watching them all carried submachine guns. Many farmers around the area hired them for seasonal and or farm work. They frequently were placed with families of German decent as the communication issue was easier. Dyba Bros. of Cohagen/Rosebud employed some. They were work parties, and were paid very little, maybe tobacco money, a little for candy and if necessary some money for clothing. In 1946, before they were repatriated a crew was taken to the ranch on the Rosebud, where they jacked up and blocked up the old log house, dug out and rebuilt a basement and reworked the sewer line. Years later one of the workers wrote a letter to the family thanking them for the treatment they received. They commented about the good food and the fact that they were treated like family members.
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Posted by [email protected] (+18) 3 years ago
I have been told about the Germans who were bunked at the fairgrounds by my mother. She was at Kircher school at the time. She says some came out to work and heard there was a German family living nearby. My mothers parents both immigrated from Germany, they became citizens and had eight children. She said the fellows wanted to talk with her father, Karl Pinnow, and whoever was in charge said ok. She went with her father and across a fence they talked. My mother spoke no German, so she did not understand the conversation. Her father said that this group mostly wanted to return to Germany when the war would end. They felt mistreated by our government and longed for knowledge of their families. My mother had three brothers in the military. One Army, one Navy and one Marines. This really hurt the farm they lived on as her father was disabled. Additionally, I would add that many kids at school mistreated her. She remembers being called names like kraut and Nazi, having rocks thrown at her and being generally outcast dispite her brothers fighting overseas. Her army brother went in on the beach the fourth day of the D-day invasion.
I think this is a learning experience for all of us. When I was home last summer I read in the billings gazette there was to be a support meeting at 7am in pioneer park for the Muslim community. She loudly said "I want to go". While there she went around and hugged young women about the age she was then and encouraged them by saying "it will get better". I felt so much love and sympathy for her and the girl she was. I see the effect the war had on her. It was only then she told me more about it. She 84 me 64.
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Posted by Rad (+46) 3 years ago
Good article here also.

http://m.theprairiestar.c...touch=true
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