Category Archives: World War II

June 1944 in Montana

June 1944 in Montana

June 4 – The mayor of Great Falls and several local people

were interviewed for a KFBB radio program broadcast in

Britain.

June 5 – The Allies captured Rome. High school air cadet

trainees arrived at Montana State College for two quarters

of training. An oil truck loading facility in Laurel was

destroyed by fire $30,000 damage.

June 6 – The Allies invaded the Normandy beaches.

June 7 – The 163rd Infantry Regiment captured Mokmer

airfield on Biak.

June 9 – Paris Fligman’s department store in Great Falls was

sold to a subsidiary of Allied Stores for $1.75 million.

June 12 – The Fifth War Bond Drive started.

June 17 – Billings held the annual “Go Western” parade.

June 20 – A five-year-old Helena boy drowned after riding

his tricycle into Ten Mile Creek.

June 23 – A P-39 pilot was killed in a crash near Pompey’s

Pillar.

June 24 – Five tons of waste paper were destroyed by

arsonists in Great Falls. A compulsory 48–hour work week

was implemented for major industries.

June 25 – The Augusta rodeo began.

June 28 – A truck accident near Boulder destroyed 180

cases of liquor.

Montana History Calendar 1942

Montana History Calendar 1941

Montana History Calendar 1930s

May 1944 in Montana

July 1944 in Montana

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May 1944 in Montana

May 1944 in Montana

May 2 – A fire at the Carston Packing Company in Billings

caused $7,000 damage.

May 3-5 – Personnel at Gore Field presented “Desert Fever,”

a six–act play, at the Rainbow Theater in Great Falls.

May 4 – A Butte apartment building was destroyed by dynamite,

severely injuring one man. The suspect rented an apartment just minutes before the blast.

May 13 – Six crewmen died and five were rescued when a

bomber from Casper, Wyoming crashed two miles northwest

of Miles City. A new oil well in the Gage Dome north of

Roundup produced 5,000 barrels a day.

May 18 – The 163rd Infantry Regiment seized Wakde.

May 19 – Two hundred Butte miners from the St. Lawrence

Mine walked off the job because they disliked the foreman.

The miners returned to work three days later when the

foreman was removed.

May 21 – “I Am an American Day.” Two Great Falls men

drowned at the Martinsdale Reservoir.

May 25 – The Montana Stockgrower’s Association met in

Miles City. One hundred oil truck drivers in Laurel and

Billings went on strike, which ended after two days.

May 26 – The U.S. Senate passed a measure providing postwar

construction funds for Hungry Horse dam.

May 27 – The 41st Division landed on Biak Island.

 

Montana History Calendar 1942

Montana History Calendar 1941

Montana History Calendar 1930s

April 1944 in Montana

June 1944 in Montana

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Prisoners of War in Montana

Today’s Missoulian carried an article by Perry Backus of the Ravalli Republic on two Bitterroot Valley residents who are compiling information on the German prisoners of war (POWs) who worked on local farms in Montana during the summers of 1944 and 1945.

Montana's Home Front During World War II
Montana’s Home Front During WW II

Finding enough labor to work the sugar beet fields was a recurring nightmare for farmers, sugar companies, and government officials during World War II. At first community volunteers from young to old, augmented by high school and college students, worked to bring in the critical harvest of sugar beets. Later, thousands of Mexican workers were brought to Montana each summer, as well as a few hundred Jamaicans, but the state faced a continual shortage of farm labor throughout the war years. Farmers were relieved during the spring of 1944 when the Federal government announced that as many as 7,000 German prisoners of war would be sent to Montana (actual numbers were probably lower).

Some of the prisoners of war in Montana wound up at the farm owned by Homer and Betty Bailey in the Bitterroot, and their daughter Mary Lyn has been compiling information about the little-known prisoner of war camps. You can read the Ravalli Republic article here. Mary has received numerous responses to the article and is interested in hearing from anyone who has memories or knowledge of the German prisoner of war camps.

Typically, temporary camps for the prisoners were built at sugar beet refineries and on local farms. Many of the camps were built for 250 prisoners, with two American officers and 30 enlisted men to guard them. Usually these were tent camps, surrounded by barbed wire fences with guard towers and searchlights. The farmers and sugar beet companies were responsible for constructing the camps. Many of the Germans had served with the Afrika Corps in North Africa before being captured. They received a voucher for 80 cents per day that could be used to purchase personal items. They could work no more than eight hours per day, excluding breaks, meals, and transportation, and were accompanied everywhere by armed guards. Local residents were not supposed to speak to the prisoners. Wheat farmers also used prisoners, and when the 1945 beet harvest was complete, 250 Germans were sent to the Bitterroot to pick apples. A small number of Italian prisoners worked near Billings, and both Italian and Japanese detainees at Fort Missoula also helped with the sugar and apple harvest. Marvin Costello of Stevensville, 14 years old at the time, remembered “The prisoners all seemed so young, not much older than me…They acted like they were all pleased to be safe as POWs after what they had probably been exposed to in the war.”

Mary Lyn would like to organize a gathering to bring together those who remember the Germans prisoners. She can be contacted at 406-360-6279 or marylynmontana@gmail.com. You can also leave a comment here.

Montana's Home Front During World War II
Montana’s Home Front During WW II
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