Discussion Forum

TOPIC: World War II P.O.W. Camps in New Mexico

Subject: NM Internment Camps
Posted: March 26, 2007 3:30 PM MDT
Comments: There were several Japanese internment camps in New Mexico during WWII, the ones at Santa Fe and Lordsburg may be the best known and “held U.S. residents of Japanese descent. The camp at Lordsburg also held captured German and Italian soldiers. Another camp at Roswell held almost exclusively German prisoners, most of them from Gen. Rommel's elite Afrika Korps, until late in the war. As the war dragged on, severe labor shortages began to hit the nation because of the large numbers of Americans who were involved in the war effort in one way or another. In New Mexico, those shortages were mostly on the farms of the state, which were working to peak capacity to produce food for the nation and our troops overseas. In 1942, the Bracero Program, which brought in contract laborers from Mexico, filled most of the need, but some farmers still had to plow under un-harvested crops the following spring. In 1943, the government began allowing German and some Italian prisoners from Roswell and Lordsburg to work on neighboring farms at the local prevailing minimum wage. The program worked well enough so that over the next three years, several dozen branch camps (also called side, labor or "fly" camps) were set up throughout Southern New Mexico and a few in the north. They were usually located in abandoned Civilian Conservation Corps camps, but also in school buildings, warehouses, armories and any other facilities that could be found. They ranged in size from 15 at Mayhill (between Alamogordo and Artesia) to 600 at Las Cruces. Some prisoners were sent to Albuquerque, where they not only farmed but also helped construct some of the buildings at the State Fairgrounds” (“New Mexico's Prisoner of War Camps” by Jay Miller ). The article, "Casualties of Caution and Fear: Life in Santa Fe's Japanese Internment Camp, 1942-46" by Richard Melzer in the book, Essays in Twentieth-Century New Mexico History edited by Judith Boyce DeMark. Albuquerque : University of New Mexico Press, c1994, is excellent. You may also want to check out Silent voices of World War II : When Sons of the Land of Enchantment Met Sons of the Land of the Rising Sun by Everett M. Rogers and Nancy R. Bartlit. Santa Fe : Sunstone Press, 2005 .
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