Recollections of WWII POW Camp
An article in the April 1, 1989 issue of the Rawlins Daily Times relates memories of a person closely associated with the World War II German-Italian-Austrian prisoner of war (POW) camp at Ryan Park in south central Wyoming.
Passed along in a column entitled “Peverley’s Patter,” penned by George Peverley, were more stories, tidbits, facts and memories of the camp.
For you old timers, yes, this Peverley is the famous character of Farm Bureau fame in the 1960-70s – but that’s another Postcard, someday.
In part, Peverley noted:
“I was reminded the other day about a war-related episode that was recorded right here in Carbon County. I had previously known, but had forgotten, that an Italian and German POW Camp was located in the Ryan Park vicinity in Snowy Range territory in 1943-45.”
Peverley interviewed Art Bergquist, originally from Sweden and a resident of the Platte Valley since 1935, who was a tie inspector for the Union Pacific during the end of World War Two and became well-acquainted with many German prisoners of war working out of a POW camp in the Ryan Park area.
Bergquist became personally acquainted with most of the German “soldaten” in the vicinity. Art was born in Sweden and came to the United States in 1928. Since he spoke Swedish, and this language is somewhat similar to German, he was able to converse quite ably with the imported workers. Some of them, he added, could speak English.
The interview continued, “Art says he ‘got along fine’ with the young men and often gave them Life magazines that highlighted World War Two pictures.
“He remembers the foreigners liked being ‘in the timber and mountains’ and said he thought they were captured by the Allies during fighting in Italy.
“In a pleasant Swedish accent, Art recalls that the Germans liked to work on the loading docks of the Saratoga and Encampment railroad in Saratoga ‘because we had lots of fun.’
“He pointed out the workers were under guard by army personnel but were usually amiable and hardworking.”
The column concludes, “In 1945, Art Bergquist recollects, the camp was closed and the prisoners returned to Europe via England.”
The former CCC and POW camp is now the Ryan Park Campground, and the Forest Service has marked locations of many of the former compound facilities.