German and Italian World War II Prisoners of War
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Erie Proving Ground
During World War II, the United States military housed both German and Italian prisoners of war in Ohio. The prisoners came from all ranks in the military, but they tended more often than not to be officers. The reasons the United States military brought these men to the United States were two fold. First, the Americans faced a difficult time in housing and feeding these men in war-torn North Africa and Italy, where most of these men became prisoners. Secondly, by taking the officers and sending them to the United States, the American military hoped to weaken the resolve and also to hinder the resistance of the enlisted Germans and Italians held in Allied prison camps in North Africa and Italy.
By 1943, more than eight thousand German and Italian prisoners of war were in Ohio. While surrounded by armed guards and kept in camps at night, during the days these men had quite a bit of freedom. Most of these men worked in farm fields or in factories. Some prisoners even worked at the Erie Proving Ground, reconditioning weapons and shipping supplies to the soldiers overseas. Most of the prisoners were located at Bowling Green, Celina, and Defiance. Once Italy surrendered in 1943, the Italians, in most cases, continued to aid the American war effort by continuing to work in these same positions.