Monday, August 4, 2008

My Town Monday: The Rayne Continues

Many POW camps were located throughout Louisiana during WWII, including Camp Ruston which was one of the largest camps in the United States. Photo: Louisiana Tech University Digital Library.It seems like there's no end to Rayne, Louisiana's charming trivia. In earlier posts, I highlighted the town's unique obsession with frogs and a cemetery that made Ripley's for facing the wrong direction. Recently, I had the pleasure of talking to local residents, Jerry and Josette, about another interesting facet to the town. Jerry explains...

As told by my father-in-law, Harold Hoffpauir, who lived his entire life in Rayne except for his tour of duty in the Navy during the Korean War.

During WWII, there was a POW Camp in Rayne. According to what I was told, it would be near where the Frog Festival Grounds are now; adjacent to I-10.

My father-in-law and one of his good friends, upon hearing about the German POW Camp, became curious and were anxious to see what a German soldier looked like, as they only knew what they heard on the radio and read in the newspapers. They rode their bicycles out to the camp. When they arrived, there were soldiers guarding the prisoners. They talked to one guard and he allowed them to peek through the fence to see the POW’s. They were stunned to see that they (the prisoners) looked like ordinary people. They had envisioned that the prisoners were some sort of “beast-like” creatures, based on what they had gathered from the media and their own imagination. While there, another soldier (dressed differently) drove up in a jeep. He must have been some type of U.S. officer and made the boys leave immediately. My father-in-law said that the officer then started chewing out the soldier who had allowed them to peek through the fence. He told me he could still hear the officer yelling for a long distance as he rode his bike home.

It should be noted that my father-in-law was about 13 years old at the time. There were over 279 prisoners held in Rayne [link to photos]. It should also be noted that Rayne was probably strategically selected, as the nearby village of Robert’s Cove was settled by German immigrants who even in the mid 20th century spoke primarily German. Robert’s Cove today is bilingual and holds an annual German Fest.


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9 comments:

Terrie Farley Moran said...

David,

Thanks for this post. That we had POW camps all over this country during WWII has long since faded from our collective memory.

Thanks for this reminder.

Terrie

pattinase (abbott) said...

Interesting post, David. We don't think about this enough.

Darlene Ryan said...

Hey David, you're one of our weekend winners at Poe's Deadly Daughters. Send me you snail mail address and I'll get the books in the mail to you.

Travis Erwin said...

We had an Italian POW camp near Amarillo that I might do a MTM post on at a later date.

David Cranmer said...

Terrie and Patti,
I couldn't agree more, and it would be a shame if we lose the memories of the older generations when there is so much we can learn from them.

Travis,
Hope you decide to post on the POW camp in TX. I'll be on the lookout for it.

Reb said...

It seems very strange that POW's would be transported all the way back to the States.

I agree that we should do all we can to keep the memories of the previous generations.

David Cranmer said...

Reb, I was amazed myself at the number of camps and POWs in this country. It was only sixty years ago and the history is already fading.

debra said...

Documenting the memories of older veterans is so important. My father-in-law, who is 86, has shared many memories of his WWII experiences. This is an interesting and important post. Thanks, David.

David Cranmer said...

Debra,
It must be great to listen to your father-in-law share his stories and memories. My parents were a bit older when they had me so I've always been able to appreciate conversations with older generations... it's a great lesson in history.