Clinton County Historical Society Welcome

WILMINGTON POW CAMP

Kay Fisher

(Thanks to Bonnie Matthews for sharing her research materials)

World War II

WWII began September 1, 1939 and ended September 2, 1945.  The United States involvement was December 7, 1941 until the war’s end.

The Need

On Wednesday, June 27, 1945, the Clinton County Rural Policy Group, consisting of 23 farm groups and 48 men and women, met at the White House Restaurant in Wilmington. Among those present were Dr. V.R. Wertz, rural economist at the Ohio State University, Carl Henry, manager of the local USES office, Walter L. Bluck, county agent,  Robert Peelle, president of the Rural Policy Group, Walter L. Williams, treasurer, and Luther Swaim, member of the investigating committee.  The topic of this meeting was the seasonal agricultural emergency facing hybrid corn producers and canneries, due to the labor shortage caused by World War II.

The Resolution

Following dinner, presentations, discussions and questions, the following resolution was adopted:

Whereas, it has been satisfactorily proved in recent years that hybrid corn stands adverse weather conditions with greater yield per acre than open-pollinated corn and hybrid corn is now practically the only corn grown in this area.

Whereas corn is the feed base of hogs and cattle going to market as pork and beef, in addition to the numbers uses of corn, and,

Whereas, the planting and growing of hybrid corn by the farmer is based upon the successful growing of hybrid seed corn by hybrid seed growers and the prompt and repeated detasseling of the growing seed stock is absolutely essential and vital to the production of hybrid seed, and,

Whereas detasseling take much labor at the critical period in the growth of the seed stock, and recent newspaper advertising for labor to be used in detasseling corn has disclosed that not only is there insufficient labor available, but also that there is practically no labor available in this general area for the detasseling of hybrid corn seed stock, and,

Whereas, in and close to Clinton County, Ohio, enough hybrid seed stock has been planted to produce need for 200,000 acres of hybrid field corn, which corn if used solely for the purpose of feeding hogs (which is the main use of corn in this area) would produce at least 120,000,000 pounds of pork, and,

Whereas the canning industry in this area produces 7,000,000 No. 2 cans of processed foods, and this industry also needs much seasonal labor in the fields and in the factories.

Whereas, to save this hybrid seed stock, and to assist some canners in critical labor areas, it is necessary to import labor in this areas for the work of detasseling  hybrid corn seed stock and to assist such canners in the critical labor areas in processing the foods at the necessary time, and,

Whereas, the only large supply of labor available for such seasonal and temporary employment in this country is captured Prisoners of War now in the continental United States, and,

Whereas, a Prisoner of War cannot be used if a civilian laborer is available, and,

Whereas, Prisoners of War are retained in guarded enclosures, are worked under the control of guards and are supervised and controlled by the American Army, and only Prisoners, first carefully screened to eliminate objectionable persons, are used in labor, and,

Whereas the Army has offered the use of approximately 200 Prisoners of War to work in this area in the detasseling of hybrid corn seed stock and to work in such canneries as are in critical labor areas and,
Whereas a camp must be established for such Prisoners of War and the guards prior to the first date for the essential detasseling of corn.

Therefore, Be It Resolved by the Clinton County Rural Policy Group comprising 23 farm organizations and agencies of Clinton County, Ohio, that we approve the use of Prisoners of War in the work of detasseling of hybrid corn seed stock and in the work in canners in critical labor areas.

The Site

On Friday, June 29 Army engineers, from Ft. Hayes came to Wilmington to meet with city and county officials to discuss sites for the POW camp.   Upon Army approval, construction was anticipated to begin July 16, 1945, and POW laborers would begin working on July 23.

On July 2, a delegation came to Wilmington to inspect a possible camp site. The delegation included Captain David O. Gibson, POW branch, Fort Hayes; Charles C. Hull, Fifth Service Command engineering office of Fort Hayes; and Guy Dowdy, farm labor supervisor, Ohio State University.  Final approval would be made by Colonel McCormick of Camp Perry.

If approved, Captain Val McLeay, post engineer at Camp Perry, would be in charge.  Construction was anticipated to be completed within one week with 250 prisoners of war and 50 American personnel housed at the camp.   The camp would be in operation until October 1.

The site chosen for the camp was located on the property of Hubert A. Barrett at the eastern end of Doan Street.

Wilmington was chosen as the camp site because of its central location for needed workers.  Hillsboro was 34 miles away, Jamestown at 26 miles, and the remainder of work sites within 18 miles of Wilmington.

Prevailing wages would be paid, with the POWs receiving 80 cents a day credit at the canteen or to purchase War Saving Stamps or Bonds or Postal Saving Stamps.

Growers and canners would be responsible for transporting the laborers from the camp, with one guard to every 10 workers.

The Work

By July 31, 1945 work by the POWs was progressing according to schedule.  More than 200 prisoners of war were working on six farms. 

Lieutenant George E. Nichols, commanding officer of the POW camp announced on August 14 that prisoners would be available for non-competitive employment.  Those interested in employing POWs would have to fill out a Certificate of Need.  Lt. Nichols stated that he would be at the camp headquarters in Wilmington to answer questions.

In late August, Lt. Ellis Satterthwaite replaced Lt. Nichols.  Satterthwaite was transferred from the Scioto Ordinance Prisoner of War Camp in Marion. At this time there were 75 POWs at the Wilmington Camp.

Originally scheduled to close on October 1, 1945, due to labor demands, the Prisoner of War camp continued until October 15.

The Closing

The Wilmington Prisoner of War Camp closed on Saturday, October 13, 1945.  125 POWs were moved back to Camp Perry.

Dismantling of the camp was completed on Wednesday, October 17 and the property returned to Barrett in its original condition.