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POWs at Douglas Work, Play

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Although a World War II prisoner of war (POW) facility near Douglas was designated as a work camp for Italian and German POWs, mostly young men in their 20s, it was necessary to find activities for them to do in their spare time.

Here’s more of the fascinating history, as taken from the internet, of that camp.

“The prisoners enjoyed playing soccer and doing calisthenics outside in spite of the cold winter. One Italian prisoner learned American cooking at the camp and enjoyed cooking both American and Italian food for his fellow prisoners, the camp officers and patients and staff at the hospital. A Catholic chaplain of Italian descent provided musical instruments to some of the prisoners. They set up a small Catholic church in the camp theater where they also put on musical and theatrical productions with costumes made of flour sacks.

“Prisoners spent time in the camp library or became involved in sports. Others staged plays and concerts for the entertainment of not only their fellow prisoners but the public was invited, as well. Artisans among the POWs sketched portraits and made such handcrafted items as shelves and decorative plaques which they glued together using dried cottage cheese from their meals. A number of these items were gifts to Douglas community members and are on display at the Douglas Pioneer Museum.

“Three Italian prisoners left a remarkable artistic legacy with the sixteen murals they painted … that can be seen today on the walls of the Officers Club, one of only a few camp buildings still standing. 

“With such a busy work and play schedule, it was reported that there were only a few minor escape attempts. Guards found two prisoners hiding in a haystack down river from the camp, both clothed in six pairs of G.I. winter underwear. Three Germans hid their escape by the clever use of paper dummies that their comrades propped up during roll call. Another group of escapees made it south about 25 miles where they hid out for a week until their capture when they inquired what state they were now in.”

By August 1945, as the war wound down, the regional camp commander announced the end of POW labor and that prisoners would now be prepared for repatriation … but, then, that’s another “Postcard.”

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