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POW Guard Relates Experiences

Last week, a short history of a World War II Prisoner of War (POW) camp near Ryan Park was published. 

This week, we feature a personal account of the camp as related by Meryle Hansen, one of the guards, or technically, a “timber operations instructor,” at the compound located on the west side of the Snowy Range in south central Carbon County.

In an interview Hansen noted:

“The first time we had Italians, and the second time we had Germans and Austrians. Our first prisoners were Italians arriving in 1943. The camp usually had 60 to 100 at a time.

“We enjoyed them all, and the Italians were very, very good – coming from the professional side – some being doctors, dentists, lawyers, etc. They talked a lot about their families and had pictures to show us of them.

“They loved to sing and dance and do acrobatics, paint, draw pictures and recite poetry a lot, so on the weekends, that was mostly what they did. Most of us that were instructing these prisoners got together and put some money from our paycheck every week, into a ‘kitty’ and decided to buy them musical instruments.

“They always had something new to do or show us. In fact I have carvings that were given to me, plus some of the pictures that were painted.The boys were very easy to get along with but didn’t care much about work.

“The Italians and Germans were hired to work in the timber by the timber company, which was R.R. Crow and Co. Seven of us were picked out to work with the boys and were furnished trucks by the lumber company. They (the POWs) were paid 80 cents a day to work in the timber.

“So many of them said they were going to come back to America, as they had never seen a country like this. In 1944, the Italian boys left, and we got German and Austrian boys. They did not get along too well, and we had some problems with some of them.

“The German boys did a lot of work around the camp with flowerbeds, gardens and a water wheel, including work at the Brush Creek Ranch headquarters.

“We worked these boys in the woods up above North Brush Creek up to what we used to call ‘Jippo Park.’ It was quite a ways up there, and the company put up two large barns for horses. The Germans skidded the logs, as well as cut them, onto where the roads were to be built and to deck them. A lot of timber was taken out of there by both the German and Italian boys.”

An article in the April 1, 1989 issue of the Rawlins Daily Times reads, “Between 190 and 299 prisoners were working in the Ryan Park area during the winter of 1943-44.

“The workers cut, skidded and decked lumber . . . under the supervision of Mr. Hansen and similar trainers . . . and others served as cooks and camp attendants. They were guarded by army personnel.”

Another of those familiar with POWs at Ryan Park was Art Bergquist, a railroad tie inspector from Saratoga, but then, that another closely-guarded scoop for the next Postcard.