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POWs Crave Horse Meat

Last Postcard, we reported a story concerning the World War II prisoner of war camp near Ryan Park. The article was written by Saratoga resident Neal A. Ward. 

Here’s more of the story.

“My dad went to work in one of the horse barns on Brush Creek where the POWs would cut and skid logs to the road for transport to the mills to be cut into lumber. He had two POWs to assist him with horse shoeing, harness repair, feeding and care of the horses.

“He said these men were outstanding horseshoers. They would fit the shoe to the hoof and then heat it and burn it into the hoof to seat it before nailing it in place.

“One of the men’s name I remember was Wilhelm Vogt. My dad called him Bill. He spoke English fairly well, and a friendship developed that I couldn’t begin to understand.

“My brother was in Europe fighting Germans, and my father was treating one of them as if he was one of our neighbors. Wilhelm told my dad that he was from a fairly well off family, and his parents had sent him to Switzerland to avoid the war. He said one day he received a letter telling him to return to Germany and the Army or his parents would be executed.

“Eating horse meat had long been a common practice in Europe but was looked upon as the ultimate, despicable sin in the United States, and especially in the western United States. A tree fell on a skid horse breaking its back, and it had to be shot. Some of the prisoners immediately started to butcher it but were sent back to work by the guards. At every opportunity the POWs cut meat from the dead horse. It became such a problem that the Commanding Officer finally posted a guard near the horse to keep the prisoners from eating it.

“The two men working for my dad obtained some of the meat some way or another and asked if they could use his skillet to cook the ‘horse flesh.’ He was horrified that anyone would even eat horsemeat but to call it flesh made it sound even worse to him. I don’t recall, but I don’t think he let them use his skillet.

“When the POWs first started skidding logs with horses, at the end of the day when they took the harness off, they unbuckled every strap on every harness. The following morning every harness had to be put back together before they could go to work. This went on for several days. Some people thought the prisoners didn’t know much about working horses, but one must wonder if this wasn’t a planned work slow down, as workhorses were in common every day use in Germany.

“Gordy Nordin and I were on a fishing trip to South Brush Creek with his parents, my sister Ruth Brock and her husband Avon. All of a sudden several jeeps with armed soldiers were racing up and down the roads. We were told that several prisoners had escaped . . .”

Look for the rest of the story in a future “Postcard.”