Several years ago I was listening to a book review on the radio. In passing it documented a not so well known part of our history. German Prisoners of War in the Midwest. One such town was Algona, located in the  north west quadrant of Iowa. 

There is a museum in town that provided information about the activities occurring in 1943, as well as World War 2. In 1943 the fighting was changing in favor of the Allied forces. There was an increased need for the US to house prisoners. Countries in Europe were turning away the influx of captured soldiers. The US made the decision to house German captured troops in the US . Thousands of POWs were  shipped to the Midwest, where they sat out the war.                                                                

POW camp Algona was a main camp, and oversaw 34 branch camps, spread out over four states. Some of  branch camps were located in Moorhead, Owatonna, New Ulm, and 31 others. The camps were built quickly and when they were done, they were deconstructed just as fast. The camp in Algona was built in 1943 and torn down in 1947.  It became the National Guard Armory, and a municipal airport.

 While the prisoners were there they lent themselves to the industry of the town. The POWs cleared land, detastled corn, and eviserated chickens. They were a great help to the community. Not only were they involved in physical labor, many of them were gifted artists, musicians, and wood carvers. Some of the prisoners carved a nativity, 60 pieces hand carved.   To this day it is cared for by the First United Methodist  church.

Many of the guards for the camp were deemed unfit for oversea service.  There were numerous escape attempts. Most returned to camp within a few days. One can only conjecture the reason why they came back.

“What is there to do in Iowa?”

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