During World War II, Michigan became a temporary home to six thousand German and Italian POWs. At a time of homefront labor shortages, they picked fruit in Berrien County, harvested sugar beets in the Thumb, cut pulpwood in the Upper Peninsula and maintained parks and other public spaces in Detroit. The work programs were not flawless and not all of the prisoners were cooperative, but many of the men established enduring friendships with their captors. Author Gregory Sumner tells the story of these detainees and the ordinary Americans who embodied our highest ideals, even amid a global war.
About the Author
Gregory D. Sumner is co-chair of the Department of History at the University of Detroit Mercy, where he has taught since 1993. Sumner holds a PhD in American history from Indiana University and a JD from the University of Michigan Law School. His previous books include Unstuck in Time: A Journey through Kurt Vonnegut's Life and Novels (Seven Stories Press, 2011) and Detroit in World War II (The History Press, 2015).
Table of Contents
Introduction. "A Break for the Underdog": Michigan's World War II POW Camps 9
I Strangers in a Strange Land
To the "Land of Soft Drinks and Canned Food" 26
Launching the Michigan Experiment 33
II Fritz Ritz?
A Question of Honor 39
"Hogan's Heroes in Reverse" 43
The Prisoners 48
"Covert Battlefields" 53
Baby Food and Birch Trees 75
The Blissfield 16 84
"Conspiracy" in Owosso 98
IV Doing Time
Mail Call, Alcohol and "Yankee" Ways 113
Hansel and Cretel and the "Street of Hope" 117
Il Calcio and the "Conchies" 126
Democracy Schools and Der Ruf 135
Farewell to the "Liberty Statue": The Long Road Home 139
Selected Bibliography 155
About the Author 159