Personal Recollections of Ryan Park POW Camp
Past Postcards concerning the POW camp at Ryan Park have prompted several personal accounts, as well as stories written over the years. Here’s part of a story written several years ago by Neal A. Ward of Saratoga.
“During the World War Two years, there was a great shortage of young men to perform the work in sawmills and the woods, as most of them had been drafted or enlisted in the armed forces.
“R. R. Crow, the owner of the sawmill and logging operations in Saratoga requested prisoners of war (POWs) to perform these duties. His request was granted, and the first group to arrive were Italian POWs.
“As young children, a group of us stood staring as the first canvas-covered army trucks arrived in Saratoga to deliver POWs to the sawmill. We were all awestruck, as this was the enemy our soldiers were fighting, and they had American soldiers with rifles escorting them to the sawmill. For a while, we were very curious and went to see if we could catch a glimpse of these strange enemy soldiers, but then it became boring, and we found other things to do.
“I’m not sure, but I don’t believe many of the Italian POWs worked long at the sawmill and worked mainly in the woods. I am not real sure when they left the area, and I don’t recall hearing of any escape attempts by this group of prisoners. I never heard any negative comments about them.
“Shortly after the Italian POWs left, the German POWs arrived. From stories that I heard, they required stricter supervision, as escape was always a possibility. The mill and timber workers all told stories about working with the POWs.
“My dad told a story of a POW cleaning up sawdust around some machinery. Most of the machinery in the mill did not
have guards over the shafts that powered them and had long-set screws protruding from the shafts where they connected to drive pulleys, saws, etc. This POW didn’t see the setscrew, got too close to the shaft, and it caught his pants. Supervisor Fred Caton was standing on the other side of the shaft and pushed him in the face, back away from the turning shaft. They said the surprised soldier stood there in his shorts, unharmed, but his pants were in shreds wrapped around the shaft.
“Like all healthy young men, the POWs liked girls. Watching the young American guards whistle at the girls with the ‘Wolf Whistle,’ which was the rage at the time, the POWs tried to imitate them. When they saw a girl, they whistled at her, but it came out ‘out-of-tune’ and lost something in the translation.
“My dad went to work in one of the horse barns on Brush Creek where the POWs would cut and skid logs to the road for transport to the mills . . . ”
Whoa, that’s material for another Postcard.