wwii: pow's

“Under the watchful eyes of U.S. troops bearing bayonets, members of the Italo-German armistice commission in Morocco are rounded up to be taken to Fedala, north of Casablanca, on November 18, 1942. Commission members were surprised in American landing move.”

(AP)

Red Army soldiers and personnel being searched by soldiers of the Totenkopf Division in Demyansk area during Operation Barbarossa in the autumn 1941. Some of them were dressed in civilian clothes to escape captivity.

“After the surrender of Axis forces in Tunisia in May of 1943, Allied forces took more than 275,000 prisoners of war. Shown here is one roundup of thousands of German and Italian soldiers in Tunisia seen in an Army Air Forces aerial shot, on June 11, 1943.”

(AP)

A Kfz. 15 medium cross-country personnel carrier from the Das Reich Division move past Red Army prisoners during Operation Barbarossa, area of Smolensk in the summer of 1941. The white letter ‘G’ indicates it belongs to Panzergruppe Guderian.

4

“It was so good to see your handwriting.”

Those of us who work with archival collections come into contact with unique handwriting nearly every day. Although we can normally decipher the script (predominantly English in our collection), from WWII, there are times when we have to poll colleagues and guess at what is written. Does it say —? There were times when handwriting played a more central role in communication. In writing to prisoners of war, especially in the Pacific, where letters would be read by both American and Japanese censors, writers received special instruction. Most importantly, the letters were to be short (no more than 25 words) and were to be typed or block printed. Letters that did not comply with these rules, were returned.

We have examples of these failed attempts at communication from a collection of material related to the imprisonment by the Japanese of USMC Sgt. Edward A. Padbury. POWs in Japan were allowed very little, if any, correspondence with their loved ones. Mail was regularly delayed by nearly a year. General Jonathan Wainwright’s wife, Adele, reportedly sent him 300 letters over the three-plus years of his imprisonment. He received a total of six.

Catherine Faye, Edward Padbury’s sister, had some unsuccessful efforts to write to her brother. The first letter was returned on two accounts. It was longer than 25 words and written in cursive. The second letter was block printed, but also too long. We do not have any correspondence from Sgt. Padbury, but we do know that he survived the war and was liberated from Shinjoku POW Camp in the Tokyo Bay area.

Gift of Phillip Faye, 2006.128

Post by Curator Kimberly Guise.

“Two thousand Italian prisoners march back through Eighth Army lines, led by a Bren gun carrier, in the Tunisian desert, in March 1943. The prisoners were taken outside El-Hamma after their German counterparts pulled out of the town. ”

(AP)

“Compounds erected by the Allies for their collections of prisoners never seem to be big enough, here is an over-crowded cage of Germans rounded up by the Seventh Army during its drive to Heidelberg, on April 4, 1945.”

i(AP)

“In February of 1943, a Soviet soldier stands guard behind a captured German soldier. Months after being encircled by the Soviets in Stalingrad, the remnants of the German Sixth Army surrendered, after fierce fighting and starvation had already claimed the lives of some 200,000.”

(Bundesarchiv)

A soldier from the Das Reich Division interrogates a wounded Soviet prisoner during Operation Zitadelle in July 1943. Information of immediate tactical value such as unit designation, strength, types of weapons, morale, and immediate plans were sought.