Hitler's Soldiers in the Sunshine State: German POWs in Florida

Hitler's Soldiers in the Sunshine State: German POWs in Florida

by Robert D. Billinger


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"They were Uncle Sam's smiling workers and they looked like all-American boys. There were at least 10,000 of them, deployed in 25 Florida camps between 1942 and 1946. They were also members of the Wehrmacht, Hitler's armed forces."—Forum

"Most Americans were unaware their government was housing Hitler's soldiers on its shores. . . . Billinger weaves interviews with former prisoners, American soldiers who worked in the camps, newspaper accounts, and government documents into a stunning historical narrative."—Kansas City Star

"A tropical paradise that for some became a tropical hell."—Sarasota Herald-Tribune

"First came crewmen of destroyed U-boats, then thousands of Afrika Korps veterans who swamped the system in 1943. Pro-Nazi, arrogant, and tough, they defied U.S. authorities, terrorized anti-Nazi inmates, and rioted."—Choice

"Filled with colorful personal accounts, this historical book packs the punch of fiction."—St. Petersburg Times

"Billinger's first-rate history of this little-known chapter in American history teaches us that, in spite of wartime propaganda, our enemies are human, too."—Atlantic City Press

"Hard to put down."—Daytona Beach News-Journal

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.

A volume in The Florida History and Culture Series, edited by Raymond Arsenault and Gary R. Mormino.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780813034416
Publisher: University Press of Florida
Publication date: 10/11/2009
Series: Florida History and Culture
Pages: 286
Sales rank: 1,261,018
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Robert D. Billinger Jr., Ruth Horton Davis Professor of History at Wingate University, is the author of Nazi POWs in the Tar Heel State.

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