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Pine Grove Furnace POW Camp was originally intended to house German Naval Officers, it was enlarged to include prisoners from Rommul's African Corps. Later Japanese Officers were also imprisoned here.
Pine Grove Furnace POW camp was utilized by the Provost Marshal General as an interrogation camp for enemy officers. the P0Ws were kept for a short period of time for interrogation and then dispersed to other POW camps.
The Camp was located at Michaux, a two-hour drive to Washington, D.C. It was under supervision of the Intelligence Department of the Army and had a private telephone line to Washington, D.C. The camp was classified as secret until 14 July 1943 when it was redesigned as & POW camp assigned to the Third Service Command.
At one time during the war a German Naval Officer was quartered in Trail Lodge. He was a very stubborn prisoner and for two weeks would not divulge any secrets. Someone found out that this prisoner was very fond of American Whiskey. So they brought him down to Michaux Lodge and put him in with another prisoner. The Americans gave them two bottles of whiskey. They became very drunk and the conversation which ensued was recorded by means of a Dictaphone hidden in the ceiling. A few days later a submarine base in Germany was bombed for the first time.
The camp was also known a. Pine Grove Furnace Internment Camp, Camp Michaux and Camp S-51-PA.
The camp was occupied by 1500 prisoners and 150 American personnel. Approximately 60 to 150 guards were utilized at the camp at varying times during the existence of the camp. When questioned by outsiders, guards were instructed to say they were stationed at Carlisle Barracks, which was located approximately 30 minutes away, to maintain the secrecy of Pine Grove Furnace POW camp.
The inventor of the German Buzz Bomb was held here. A reported 15 prisoners escaped from the camp. The Michaux Prisoner of War Camp is mentioned by President Eisenhower in his book "Crusade in Europe."
The POW camp was declared surplus on 29 November 1945. The entire camp became home to as Camp Michaux, operated by the Dickinson United Presbyterian Church, as a youth church camp.
In 1944 (when I was in diapers) four of my uncles were dodging German bullets in Europe. One had already died in Italy. My dad (Ralph Roscoe Brandt) was working in the food industry, he was declared vital to the operation and was deferred. That deferral carried a freeze in pay at 1941 level. Part of his job involved picking up a truck load of prisoners each day at Camp Michaux near Gardners PA. These prisoners worked at the plant my dad did, Adams Apple at Aspers PA.
During this time there was a traumatic event for him. A German soldier that he said was not an "SS" died at the plant. It was ruled a suicide but I know there was one person who was sure it was not, my dad. He had just lost a brother (Nesber Gilton Brandt) in this war and had little for anything German but this one man somehow impressed him so that I don't think he ever saw him as a German soldier. He saw him as a husband and father who worked hard during work hours and during lunches went off to himself, ate and looked at pictures of his family. I believe my dad saw him as a representative of the brother he lost in Italy, a farmer and mechanic who somehow wound up on a battlefield.
My dad never believed the man took his own life. He felt the "SS" men killed him because he seemed to be cooperating too much.
Last week my two older sisters and I spent an evening together working on genealogy. My one sister mentioned that a man had spoken at a meeting about the camp. I mentioned that I wondered who that German soldier was. I never expected an answer.
About an hour ago I talked to my sister. She checked with the man who gave the speech. He came back with an answer. He believes the man was a Private in the German Army named Georg Hartig, 38 years old, died Nov 3 1944. There is a story about it in the Aspers PA. Gettysburg Compiler. The story says he was hanged which agrees with the account my dad gave. The man (I will get his name) made an interesting comment to my sister. He observed that it would have been difficult for the man to hang himself with his hands tied behind his back. (How did his hands get tied I wondered.)
So this man in reading the story came to the same conclusion my dad did and the one the authorities ignored. I now ask a couple of questions. Is there any of this man's family alive? Has anyone ever told them how he died over 60 years ago? Let's face it, they could have all been killed in bombings. But I don't know that. I don't even have any idea what part of Germany he was from.
There is something about this that feels like unfinished business, something my dad maybe should have done but probably lacked even the place to start.
Copyright 2005 Ralph Brandt not to be used without permission.
Sketch Map of the POW Camp by Rex Waite.
Four of the paintings done by POWs on the barrack walls still survive in the new Michaux Lodge at the UCC Hartman Conference Center in Milroy, PA.
List of Prisoners
- Georg Hartig (d. Nov 3 1944) Read his Story
If you have any names to add to this list, or any recollections or photos of those listed, please get in touch.
If you have a story which you would like to share, or a website dedicated to a POW camp or prisoner of World War Two please get in touch. Add Your Story
POW Camps Index
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