Saturday, June 18, 2011

A trip to the POW Camp Museum in Algona, IA

While we were having the coach serviced at Forest City, IA, we did some exploring and ended up in the nearby town of Algona, IA where we saw a sign for the Algona POW Camp Museum. Naturally, this was something we had to check out.

We found the museum was about a WWII German POW museum that was built in the Algona area and provided a great overview of the WWII era.

The camp held up to 3,000 POWs that were shipped from the European war zone to central Iowa in 1944. This guard tower was a 1/3 size replica of the real ones that housed guards around the camp.

We were surprised to learn that there were quite a few camps of POWs in the middle United States. Algona was a large "base" camp while there were many more smaller, "branch" camps as well. POWs worked on the local farms as laborers and from all accounts, performed good service in that regard.

This picture is one of the few available of the camp which was built in 1944. The POWs were guarded by a small (20 or so) American Army soldiers, but there were very few escapee attempts and none that were successful. I suppose that even if you escaped the camp, you had 1,500+ miles to get to the east coast and then the ocean lay in front of you.

The camp was only in existence for less than 2 years and was razed in 1946. Today, the camp is the site of the Algona Airport.

The museum houses all kinds of items including this 1940 Ford Staff car. There were also exhibits featuring the craftsman ship of the POWs who created remarkable artwork depicting their time in captivity. These provided an amazing view into the day to day life of the POW.

Finally, on the way back to Forest City, we turned a corner in Crystal Lake, IA and lo and behold -- we saw this bullhead statue! And not just any bullhead -- this is the "Largest Bullhead in the World". Apparently this iconic figure is the local advertisement of the Bullhead Days festival in Crystal Lake. Pretty cool and it just proves you never know what you will run across!

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