Chad W. Timm is an Associate Professor of Education at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa. He taught high school history for 15 years and has also been teaching future social studies teachers since 2010. His Master’s Degree in Agricultural History and Rural Studies and his PhD in Education are both from Iowa State University.
Timm is an Iowa native who grew up hearing stories from his grandmother, Alice A. McNamara, about her work at Earl May Nursery in Shenandoah, Iowa, during the Second World War. Alice told him about the Japanese men who worked at Earl May in 1945, which sparked an interest in finding out how that could have been possible. Eventually he discovered that Japanese soldiers had been housed at a nearby Prisoner of War camp in Clarinda, Iowa, where the soldiers were hired out to alleviate local labor shortages. He was voted teacher of the year in 2001 and 2008 by the high school students he taught, was a state finalist for the 2006 Daughters of the American Revolution Outstanding History Teacher Award, and his dissertation received 2nd place in 2009 for both the American Educational Research Association Outstanding Dissertation Award and the Illinois Distinguished Qualitative Dissertation Award.
Working with the Enemy: German, Italian and Japanese Prisoners of War in Iowa during the Second World War
As part of a relatively quiet and underpublicized government program, thousands of enemy soldiers invaded Iowa in 1943. With the hugely successful 1942 Allied campaign against Adolf Hitler’s vaunted Afrika Corps in North Africa, the number of enemy prisoners of war (POW) needing interment grew dramatically. Great Britain, no longer able to accommodate the increasing number of POWs, looked to the United States for help. Helping with the detainment of enemy POWs made sense, as American cargo vessels were returning home after delivering war materials with empty hulls.
What began as an experiment in isolated locations in the south and southwest eventually led to more than 500 camps and 400,000 enemy soldiers interned in the United States, including two camps in the state of Iowa. Due to a severe shortage of agricultural laborers coupled with increased War Food Administration quotas for farm goods, Iowa’s farmers needed help doing their part to assist the United States in winning the war.
This talk will focus on the creation of two POW camps in Iowa during the Second World War: one in the Northern Iowa town of Algona and one in the Southwestern Iowa town of Clarinda. Some of the topics discussed will be life in a prisoner of war camp, community relations, the POW labor program, branch camps in more than 30 Iowa communities and the arrival of Japanese prisoners at Camp Clarinda in early 1945. Camp Clarinda was one of only two camps in the country to house Japanese soldiers. The story of POW interment in Iowa is a fascinating story of Iowans being confronted by the enemy: an enemy they not only needed to help them meet their wartime goals, but also challenged them to find their humanity.