Hitler's Soldiers in the Sunshine State: German POWs in Florida (Florida History and Culture)
- Publish Date: 2000-01-01
- Binding: Hardcover
- Author: Robert D. Billinger Jr.
By turning diversity into the central notion of this study, Billinger brings a novel approach to research on German POWs. The focus on a particular camp [Camp Blanding] and the careful attention that is given to detail and individual life stories present us with a multifaceted and intriguing picture of the German POW experience in the United States. --Philipp Gassert, German Historical Institute
In the first book-length treatment of the German prisoner of war experience in Florida during World War II, Robert D. Billinger, Jr., tells the story of the 10,000 men who were guests of Uncle Sam in a tropical paradise that for some became a tropical hell.
Having been captured while serving on U-boats off the Carolinas, with the Afrika Korps in Tunisia, with the paratroops in Italy, or with labor battalions in France, the POWs were among the 378,000 Germans held as prisoners in 45 states.
Except for the servicemen who guarded them, the civilian pulp-cutters, citrus growers, and sugarcane foremen who worked them, and the FBI and local police who tracked the escapees among them, most people were--and still are--unaware of the German POWs who inhabited the 27 camps that dotted the Sunshine State. Billinger describes the experiences of the Germans and their captors as both sides came to the realization that, while the Germans worst enemies were often their own comrades-in-arms, wartime enemies might also become life-long friends.
Concentrating especially on the story of Camp Blanding in North Florida, Billinger based his research on both American and German archives. His account mixes rare photos with interviews with former prisoners; reports by the International Red Cross, the YMCA, and the U.S. military; and local newspaper articles.
This book will be of great value to scholars and historians, as well as all readers with an interest in World War II. Those with an interest in Florida history will also find much to admire in this engaging account of a barely known wartime episode.
Robert D. Billinger Jr., Ruth Horton Davis Professor of History at Wingate University, is the author of Nazi POWs in the Tar Heel State.