My parents met at Camp Edwards
My father was incarcerated along with 3,000 other POWs at Camp Gruber, Oklahoma. This was a U.S. military POW prison camp complete with barbed wire fences and armed guards, where the prisoners were allowed to develop a community that included an art group, theater troupe, religious services and holiday observances. For the next 10 months, he would march four to five miles to a quarry to cut flagstones—working side by side with civilians—to be used to build drainage ditches to mitigate destructive flooding in the region during heavy rains. At first, the POWs worked one day on, two days off. Later, they worked two days on, one day off. My father was paid 70 cents a day for his work, which the Army kept until repatriating him.
In May 1944, my father was transported to Camp Edwards on Cape Cod. His English was good, and he became an interpreter for other POWs when they sought medical attention at the infirmary. It was there that he met my mother, a volunteer typist, who worked in the infirmary. By the end of 1945, my father was repatriated to Germany.
In 1946, my mother and father began a trans-Atlantic correspondence that eventually led my mother to Vienna, Austria, to reconnect with my father. They were married in occupied Vienna on May 20, 1949, and returned to the United States with the help of my mother’s family’s political connections. In July 1949, they arrived at “Raven Brook,” my grandparents’ home in Middleboro, Mass. Two weeks later, they moved to Nantucket, where they spent the next year. Dad found employment as an electrical engineer and my parents moved off island to Foxboro to start a family.
During my mother’s interview, my father spoke of the compassion that all American soldiers showed him during his captivity. His exposure to the American culture, while detained as a POW, resulted in his wish to return and become an American citizen. He achieved this goal on January 21, 1952, one of the proudest moments in his life.
Karla (Manner) Butler
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