Jim Featherstone, who grew up in Hannibal and graduated from Hannibal High School in 1953, shared a memory with me that I think others will relate to.
“About 1943 or 1944 I remember going south on Fifth Street to where it ended at a steep drop off.
“The government decided that Clemens Field was the perfect place to keep German POWS. I looked down and saw these guys kicking the soccer ball. They appeared very content, knowing they were out of the conflict and had no way of escaping and making it back.”
I found a newspaper clipping from that same era that describes the work that the POWs were doing in Hannibal.
Sept. 18, 1944
War Prisoners Start Sorting Relief Shoes
Germans Billeted On Portion of Clemens Field
German war prisoners, who will sort shoes here for the next few weeks to be sent to people of war-torn countries now being liberated by allied victories, arrived in Hannibal Sunday afternoon and today started work for the war department on its shoe sorting job, at a warehouse of the Bluff City Shoe plant where the old army shoes are stored.
They are billeted in tents on a portion of Clemens Field which had been prepared in the last week by the war department as a temporary detention camp. The number in the contingent was not stated but earlier this month when it was announced the quartermaster corps expected to carry out the work here, it was said that about 200 might be used. The contingent was brought from a war prisoners camp near Clarinda, Iowa, it was stated.
The prisoners are under guard of a detachment of soldiers commanded by an officer of the U.S. Army and will remain under strict guard at all times, it was stated. They will be transported between the warehouse and camp in trucks and under guard.
It was stated several days ago when it was announced that prisoners would be used because of inability to secure civilian labor for only a few weeks to handle this type of work, that the job was a “must” one since the need for relief shoes to be shipped to France, Greece and other countries being liberated from axis domination is pressing. A dispatch from Quebec circles today quoted United Nations Relief Administration authorizes as saying a total of more than 126,000,000 pairs of shoes would be need3ed to take care of the relief problem in the next few months.