Knoxville Public Library held the final program of the Lifelong Learning Series in its temporary location on June 27.
The library hosted Linda McCann, who gave a talk on Prisoner of War Camps in Iowa during World War II. McCann spoke about the treatment, living conditions, and background on the camps that were located in Iowa. Her talk included information from her newest book, “Prisoners of War in Iowa.”
McCann said her inspiration for this book came when she realized that lots of people were not aware that POW camps had been located in Iowa. McCann’s granddaughters, specifically, were her inspiration for writing the book.
During WWII, approximately 465,000 POWs were brought to the United States. Every state but three, Nevada, North Dakota and Vermont, had a POW camp. Iowa had two camps, located in Algona and Clarinda. There were about 25,000 POWs in the state during this time.
The POWs were put to work in factories and on farms to help with planting and harvest. Many of the POWs developed relationships with the farmers and their families. Some POWs even returned after the war to introduce the farmers to their families.
POWs sent to America were treated well in comparison to POWs overseas. The US government hoped that by treating POWs this way, the prisoners would write home to their families about how well they were being treated. In doing so, they hoped the other military powers would hear about this and treat US POWs better.
McCann says the treatment of POWs in the US hastened the end of the war. Many German soldiers would surrender when they came face-to-face with American soldiers knowing they would be treated better as a POW than if they were fighting. According to McCann, the amount of German soldiers surrendering played an instrumental role in ending the war.
McCann, who lives in Shell Rock, has published over twenty books about various topics relating to Iowa’s history. Her books range in subjects from a series on lost towns in Iowa to prohibition. She is currently working on a book about Rosie the Riveter in Iowa.
The Knoxville Public Library will be closed beginning July 13 as they move back to their permanent location. They are anticipating a re-opening date of August 5, with the re-opening celebration and ribbon cutting taking place on August 24.