The Geneva Conventions of 1929 required that the prisoners be treated basically the same way U.S. G.I.’s were treated. This included a salary of 80 cents per day, which is what an American private made. They lived in camps that were like U.S. military camps except for barbed wire fences and guard towers. The camps were placed mostly in areas where there was a shortage of labor. Many of the men were able to come and go to jobs. The prisoners were treated to a standard of living better than that of many American citizens. One of these camps was located on the Cumberland Plateau near Crossville, Tenn. It housed about 1,500 Germans, many of whom were from Rommel’s Afrika Korps.
When I was 15 years old, I spent a week at the camp. I could tell you much more but space does not allow. I will tell this vignette to close.
Because of the lax security of the camps and the exceptionally good living conditions, very few prisoners escaped. Of 356,500 prisoners, only 1,583 escaped. Most came back voluntarily. Only 22 were never recaptured. One case of an escape that ended badly happened at Camp Crossville. Three German submariners stumbled upon a mountain cabin. Out came a mountain “Granny” who ordered them to “git.” When they did not leave, she shot one of them dead.
The deputy sheriff came out to investigate. He explained the circumstances to her and she began to cry. She explained that if she had known they were Germans, she would not have fired the shot. She said, “I thought they ‘wuz’ Yankees.”
Now, so far as I know, that’s the truth if I ever told it.