Prisoners of War in New Mexico Agriculture
Abstract of Interview
CONSULTANTS: James C. (Jimmy, or Jim) and Dorothy Mercer
OF BIRTH: Jimmy–May 23, 1924 in
Martwick, Kentucky; Dorothy–January 27, 1920
in Hereford, Texas
in Hereford, Texas
Male and Female
OF INTERVIEW: July 28, 2000
OF INTERVIEW: The Mercer’s home, Hereford, Texas
Robert Hart and Cameron Saffell
SOURCE OF INTERVIEW: NMF&RHM___x__OTHER_______
OF TAPES: One
ABSTRACTED: March 28, 2001
OF RECORDING (SPECIFY): good
AND CONTENT NOTE: Responses to
standardized prisoner of war project questionnaire for camp workers; some
questions from city folks questionnaire for Dorothy. Regards Italian POW camp
south of Hereford and their jobs at the camp.
RANGE: 1943 - 1946
TAPE ONE, SIDE A:
Jimmy begins by discussing his duties at Camp Hereford, first as a guard
at the main gate and later bringing in supplies by truck from Clovis, N.M.
Stopped for coffee at shop in Clovis with POWs, which made the detail
popular among the prisoners. When
things “got comfortable” the Army transferred him to Germany (circa March
1945), where he served in an infantry division and an armored infantry division
before being discharged in May 1946. Drafted
in April 1943 in Kentucky. Came
through Fort Benjamin Harrison, Ind., and sent directly to Hereford.
Found out when his brother, stationed there as a cook, came and told him.
Talks about the arrangements for his work details of
four Italian prisoners: one guard with rifle, brought their lunch with them.
Dorothy asked about whether locals resented how the prisoners were
treated (better rations and general treatment).
Jimmy briefly talks about the army units assigned to Hereford.
Camp was still being built when he came. More details about getting supplies at Clovis: one to four
trucks a day, left at 7:30am, prisoners and guard went by car, Jimmy went with
the first truck, came back with the last truck.
Only went into compounds occasionally, to distribute food.
Never had trouble, particularly since he was bringing what they were
eating. POWs unloaded the trucks at
camp, sometimes included the ones who went to Clovis if there was a lot.
Jimmy tells story he heard about Italians helping
Mexican girls in the fields by helping fill their sacks, since the girls were
paid by the sack (or pound). Neither
recall Germans being at camp. Motor
pool supplied a driver for the car with the guard and POWs.
Discussion about doctors at the camp for POWs and for base personnel.
Camp had a chapel, but prisoners had their own chapels or something.
Some soldiers went to church in town.
Discussion of whether POWs were treated too well.
Does not recall any escape stories or incidents.
TAPE ONE, SIDE B:
More questions about escapes, but neither recall any escapes.
Story about two soldiers drafted with Jimmy in Kentucky who went AWOL and
visited Jimmy’s parents at home. Worst
job was working at the gate because periodic shift rotations created an
irregular schedule. Loved what he
did with the quartermaster; lived in town and it was like having any job.
Dorothy asked about whether she had contact with POWs.
Not that she recalled. Discussion
about photographs or objects that might be used in exhibit.
Paintings at Umbarger church mentioned.
A couple of local families mentioned as perhaps having knowledge of POW
use. Having grown up there, Dorothy
discusses impact of camp on community emotionally and economically.
She tells a story about a soldier who was sent to the one bank in town
but who didn’t drive, had never left the camp, and didn’t know how many
banks were in Hereford.
Dorothy was a secretary in the quartermasters office.
Some discussion about use of Mexican nationals after the war.
Neither recall inspection visits from the Red Cross or other officials.
Dorothy does not recall if camp closed shortly after the last prisoners
left or not. Most of town turned
out by the railroad when the first prisoners arrived.
Dorothy remembered seeing farmers in town, but never saw any prisoners
there. Neither believe the stories
that the POWs were mistreated or starved. Dorothy
mentions local teachers who promote study of history in the town and of the
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