The administration and operation of German prisoner of war camps in the United States during World War II

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dc.contributor.advisor Caldemeyer, Richard H. (Richard Hugo), 1913- en_US Pluth, Edward J. (Edward John), 1937- en_US 2011-06-03T19:30:00Z 2011-06-03T19:30:00Z 1970 en_US 1970
dc.identifier LD2489.Z68 1970 .P5 en_US
dc.description.abstract The purpose of this study is to examine and evaluate the development of prisoner of war administration in the United States. No full account of this phase of World War II history exists. This study is an attempt to fill that gap.When the United States officially entered World War II in December, 1941 the War Department plans for handling prisoners of war had not anticipated the transfer of thousands of war prisoners to the United States. Consequently, when War Department officials decided on this move in 1942, no detailed policies existed. Agreements resulting from the projected African campaign called for transfer of an undetermined number of German and Italian prisoners to the United States for internment. Prisoners began arriving in large numbers after May, 1943. Ultimately some 375,000 German soldiers were interned in a total of 155 base camps and 511 branch camps. The Geneva Convention of 1929, untested in war, along with post-World War I Army Regulations, provided the War Department with some guidelines, if only in theory and principle, upon which to formulate a prisoner of war program. The lack of precedents and experience in handling prisoners in this country was reflected both in the administrative and operational organization of the War Department and in its initial regulations. The Office of Provost Marshal General, which was responsible for policy formulation and operation of the prisoner of war program, underwent several reorganizations as its tasks became more complex and diffuse. Other agencies, in particular the Army Service Forces, also were restructured in an effort to promote greater operational and administrative efficiency. In this respect the War Department faced a serious shortage of qualified personnel who were experienced in prisoner of war administration. As a partial consequence, numerous camp administrative and guard personnel proved to be incompetent or completely unsuited for such work. The situation was particularly serious at the start of the prisoner of war program. Lack of adequate training further hampered efficient administration. Also, the multifariousness of early regulations along with the absence of any coordinated filing system caused much confusion in camp administration. Eventually an orderly manual was developed.Initial regulations prepared for the prisoner of war program were both general and vague. Matters of security were of primary concern. As fears of sabotage proved groundless the War Department adopted a more flexible and practical policy. A growing manpower shortage contributed to the extension of that policy as public officials and private individuals urged that prisoners of war relieve the labor shortage through their employment in agricultural and forest work. Although the War Department feared that escaped prisoners would present a security problem, such fears proved groundless.A far more serious problem resulted from efforts of Nazi elements in the camps to control inner camp government. Although War Department officials made concerted attempts to identify and segregate those prisoners believed to be promoting Nazism, their efforts were hampered by uncooperative camp administrators and by conflicting and uncoordinated policies. Nevertheless, a fairly effective segregation program was implemented. Disciplinary measures in the form of courts-martial and an administrative policy of "no work, no eat," helped control disturbances among the prisoners, whether these stemmed from Nazi influence or other causes.The War Department's failure to fully inform the public of the prisoner of war policies, along with news reports describing Nazi influence in the camps and good treatment of war prisoners, led to chargesthat it was "coddling" its prisoners. The resultant Congressional investigations exonerated the War Department and supported on legal and humanitarian grounds the good treatment accorded the German prisoners of war. In this respect the War Department adhered to the Geneva Convention with unusual perserverance. This policy paid dividends both in the reciprocal treatment accorded American prisoners in German hands and in its psychological and morale impact on the German Wehrmacht fighting in Europe.In general, morale in the prisoner of war camps remained high and was sustained through a variety of recreational and work activities. In this matter the Red Cross and YMCA provided much needed assistance. Other personal needs and requirements were attended to by representatives of the Swiss Legation, which served in the capacity of Protecting Power. A secret re-education program was implemented in early 1945.With the end of the war, agricultural and other interests exerted strong pressures in an effort to retain prisoners needed for agricultural labor. Other groups urged their immediate repatriation. Although the process of repatriation began in earnest in the fall of 1945, the need for manpower caused some delay in the completion of that process. The last large contingent of prisoners left the United States in July, 1946. Many of these prisoners were not directly repatriated but served instead as forced labor in reconstruction work in Allied countries in Europe.The American experience with German prisoners of war in this country was unique in modern American history. For this reason administrative policy had to evolve as the situation warranted. While the War Department may be justly criticized with regard to some personnel and policy matters, the overall program must be commended. en_US
dc.format.extent ix, 457 leaves : ill. ; 28 cm. en_US
dc.source Virtual Press en_US
dc.subject.lcsh World War, 1939-1945 -- Prisoners and prisons, American. en_US
dc.subject.lcsh Prisoners of war -- Germany. en_US
dc.subject.lcsh Prisoners of war -- United States. en_US
dc.title The administration and operation of German prisoner of war camps in the United States during World War II en_US Thesis (Ph. D.) en_US
dc.identifier.cardcat-url en_US

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  • Doctoral Dissertations [3248]
    Doctoral dissertations submitted to the Graduate School by Ball State University doctoral candidates in partial fulfillment of degree requirements.

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