Prisoners of War in New Mexico Agriculture
Abstract of Interview
S. Cooper Malone
TAPE NUMBER: RG2000-120
OF BIRTH: June 18, 1920
OF INTERVIEW: September 26, 2000
OF INTERVIEW: Malone farm, Lake
Arthur, New Mexico
OF INTERVIEW: NMF&RHM___x__OTHER______
OF TAPES: One
ABSTRACTED: January 2001
OF RECORDING (SPECIFY): Good
AND CONTENT NOTE: Recollections
of a farmer whose family employed Germans prisoners of war as farm laborers
during World War II.
RANGE: 1943 to around 1945-1946
ABSTRACT (IMPORTANT TOPICS IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE):
TAPE ONE, SIDE ONE:
1925, Mr. Malone’s parents began farming along the Chavez and Eddy county
lines. During World War II they employed about twenty to thirty German prisoners
of war from camps in Roswell and Artesia. Mr. Malone recalls that the Germans
disliked picking cotton and would rather run farm machinery and learn how to
Malone says the prisoners were not allotted meat so his mother would make them a
thin soup of mutton to supplement the packed lunches they brought with them. The
Malones also shared what rationed sugar and coffee they could spare.
Malones raised cotton and alfalfa and the German workers loved to rake or cut
hay, the consultant remembers.
family was building its main farm house and employed the Germans to dig a deep
basement by hand, Mr. Malone says, because there was no heavy machinery for
excavation. The Germans were “good, thrifty workers,” he recalls. He thinks
the prisoners who worked at the Malone farm were intelligent and industrious.
prisoners of war mainly did hand labor, Mr. Malone recalls. Without their help
he thinks the crops would have gone unharvested. The army’s primary concern in
asking farmers and others to employ POWs was to keep discipline problems down by
giving them something to do away from camp. The prisoners were “really
delighted” to get out of camp and see the valley and farms, Malone says.
before the war ended in 1945, the Malones had probably the “most superior”
prisoners helping them of any time. They were the elite of the German forces,
says Mr. Malone, who knew Germany was losing the war and just wanted to go back
believes there was no opposition to having POWs in the area because there was no
other farm labor available.
Malone thinks escapes were not a problem because the POWs wanted food and
security until the end of the war. He cannot remember any disciplinary problems
on the farm although sometimes the Germans would go to sleep in the rows when
they did not want to pick any more cotton. The guards would sleep then, too.
farmer had to furnish transportation for the prisoners and the Malones used a
bobtail truck with sideboards on it. He says the camp sent one guard with the
farmers paid the prisoners about forty or fifty cents an hour, as he recalls,
and gave the money to a government agency. He thinks farmers gave records to the
camp commander showing the number of workers and amount paid.
German workers were always glad to go to the Malone farm because “we did treat
them like human beings” and tried to see their side. Their intelligence and
willingness to work were only limited by their unfamiliarity with farming by
or two Germans in a work detail could speak English and would translate
instructions for the others, who then “went after it” with exceptional
says the POWs wanted to send a food supplement to their families in Germany,
like the small amounts of coffee and sugar the Malones shared with them. He did
not know if they were successful.
of the American soldiers assigned to guard prisoners on the farm were not as
highly educated and as well trained as the prisoners but there was never any
former POWs wrote to the Malones after the war and asked for foodstuffs. He
cannot recall if his family sent anything because of shortages here in the
was “understood” that the camp did not want the farmers to fraternize with
the prisoners. The prisoners did not want to fraternize and only wanted food
supplementation, he adds. He feels there was still congeniality: the prisoners
would ask the Malones about their family and would tell them about their
families in Germany. The POWs got along with the Mexican-Americans and
undocumented Mexican nationals who worked on the farm.
the war the Malones employed Mexican nationals as farm workers under the bracero
program which allowed Mexican nationals to live and work on farms in the United
States. The family also employed migrant farm workers but not during the war
when most of them would have been in the service. The extra help was needed
because harvesting was not mechanized.
Mr. Malone thinks the prison camp officials did a good job in administering the work details but he says “we didn’t take any pride” in the minimal camp facilities behind barbed wire fencing. He adds, though, that his family had no electricity, refrigeration or water well when they first began to farm and the prisoners were perhaps in a similar situation. The Malones began farming during the Depression after Mr. Malone’s father lost his hardware business in Roswell. Mr. Malone feels farm workers today are better off than people who started farming during the drought and the Depression.
of polio, Mr. Malone says he was ineligible for service and so joined the Civil
in the United States were controlled “by the book” or the camp commanders
would have been in trouble, the consultant says. Farmers who employed POWs
understood there was to be no abuse and were expected to help with supplementing
the prisoners’ lunches.
Return to list of oral history consultants
send questions or comments to: email@example.com
Rio Grande Historical Collections * New Mexico State University Library MSC 3475 * P.O. Box 30006 * Las Cruces, New Mexico 88003-3006 ** Telephone: 505-646-3839 FAX: 505-646-7477