Rev. M.S. Reifsnyder - United Church of Christ - 1955
What follows in these pages is a brief history with facts and legend concerning a spot in the Michaux forest that has grown very dear to many of us. Here we have played and studied and experienced deep convictions concerning our faith. It is only a small tract of land that looms large in the life of the camper.
We hope that in this history you may find some interesting facts (and some fiction) concerning Camp Michaux.
The Original Farm
About 250 acres, including Camp Michaux, were originally a farm belonging to the Gardner family. The deed to this property was destroyed when the Confederate Army marched through the North. From natives we learn that the tract was known as the Bunker Hill Farm.
The thick stone wall still standing north of Trail Lodge was a part of the barn on the Gardner farm. The buildings must have been very well constructed judging from this wall, because it is about three feet thick.
The last year this farm was cultivated was 1919. At that time they were harvesting a thousand bushels of wheat from it.
The Baker family owned the first steam traction engine in the South Mountains. They used it in their sawmill.
The Hunting Lodge
Prior to 1850 some businessmen from Carlisle, Mount Holly, and Mount Tabor built a hunting lodge on the farm.
Wooden pegs instead of nails were used in the construction of the lodge. Even the lath were fastened with wooden pegs.
About 25 or 30 years ago Mr. Monk Wagner, a native of these mountains and a great friend of Michaux was a member of this club. The organization was disbanded about 15 years ago. At the time of disbanding this building was known as The Beam Hunting Lodge.
The CCC Camp
In 1931 the Civilian Conservation Corps took possession and cleared the land which had grown over with weeds and briars. At first the corps lived in tents. While tents were the only shelter lightning struck the camp, killing one boy and injuring another. Money found’ in the slain boy’s pocket is still kept in the District Forester’s Office. It is fused into one solid mass. While the CCC boys were occupying the camp they built four log cabins, Honeymoon, Hutch, Tool Shed and Gasoline Storage (these names were given to them later.) A part of the Mess Hall, Headquarters, and the lower Recreation Hall were also constructed at this time. We believe that Calvin Barracks was originally a truck garage. The barracks above the chapel were erected by CCC, also the Pumping House. Two dams with log breasts were added.
There is a legend abroad that the boys would compete in a snake contest for their spending money. They would form a long line at the foot of the mountain and search for snakes as they proceeded to climb to the top. Black snakes, copperheads and rattlers fell before this onslaught. A stone fence came down the mountain from the West and went through the Camp site. It is said that thousands of snakes were killed when this fence was removed.
Camp Pine Grove
A Prisoner of War Camp
The PW Camp was located at Michaux because it was close to the Carlisle Barracks and at the same time only a two-hour drive to Washington, D.C. Perhaps more important was the fact that the site is isolated and could be kept a secret.
It was under supervision of the Intelligence Department of the Army. The camp had a private telephone line from here to Washington, D.C. It was originally intended to house German Naval Officers, but it was enlarged to include prisoners from Rommul’s African Corps. Later Japanese Officers were also imprisoned here.
The camp was occupied by 1500 prisoners and 150 American personnel. The inventor of the German Buzz Bomb was held here.
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 Michaux Prisoner of War Camp is mentioned by President Eisenhower in his book “Crusade in Europe.”
A Religious Education Camp
Camp Michaux came about through the vision and untiring efforts of a few ministers and laymen who were faced with the great need for Christian Youth Training. These men took over the Prisoner of War Camp and equipped the ground in a suitable manner for the adequate training of youth.
Camp Michaux was started July 1st, 1947, through the cooperation and work of many young people who enthusiastically accepted Michaux as their camp and conference grounds, and through the interest, approval, and giving of Christian people in the churches and through the foresight of the denominational bodies concerned. Camp Michaux is today a living reality through the organization of a Board of Directors. This camp is set up for continued and permanent operation. The Board has acquired a ten-year lease from the state. It has employed an all year around caretaker. An efficient management system has been set up and operates on a budget of approximately $40,000 annually.
The present tract contains 65 acres of beautifully landscaped forest land. Evergreen trees border the paths connecting the buildings which consist of staff lodges, campers lodges, sleeping quarters for 500 campers, recreation halls, chapel, headquarters and office, infirmary, camp store, craft shop, toilets and bath houses (with hot and cold running water). All buildings are equipped with electric lights and heating facilities.
Out of doors are found Vesper Hill, a beautiful swimming pool, a fish pond, athletic field, hiking trails, campfire sites, picnic grounds, volley ball, and badminton courts.
The whole property in conservatively valued at a half million dollars. During the past five years 150,000 dollars has been invested in Camp Michaux to make it an effective place for a church camping program.
The New Swimming Pool
(“Old” or “New”?)
For the health and safety of campers a new concrete swimming pool was constructed at a cost of $50,000. It has been designed by competent engineers and is under Red Cross Life Saving supervision. It affords a splendid opportunity for non-swimmers to learn to swim and provides splendid recreation for those who already know how to swim. The water is tested weekly to assure sanitary conditions.
Land Marks About the Camp
As a prospective camper turns from route #233 and enters a road leading to Camp Michaux he passes over High Mountain. When he arrives at camp he faces Jerry’s Flat which lies to the North. Vesper Hill is situated at its foot. To the west is Big Rocky Ridge. This ridge is so named because of the huge rocks that lie poised on its crest, ready to be catapulted to the valley beneath. Opposite the valley, to the south of camp, is Little Rocky Ridge. The Appalachian Trail crosses this mountain about one mile south of camp.
The Appalachian Trail passes through the camp along the foot of Big Rocky Ridge Mountain and Jerry’s Flat. The Sunset Trail passes to the south of camp along the foot of Little Rocky Ridge. They meet about a mile northeast of camp and again about a mile to the southwest. Between these two points lies the entire length of the rugged Sunset Trail, but the Appalachian Trail stretches from Maine to Georgia.
The only road through camp is a County Road. This road is improved from route #233 to Camp Michaux. From there it continues up to Jerry’s Flat, where it is known as the Ridge Road. The Ridge Road eventually connects with the Centerville Road.
The stream that runs through Camp Michaux is called Tom’s Run. It has its origin in springs that are located near the Appalachian Shelters about a mile south of camp.
In 1905 slate and bricks were manufactured in the village of Pine Grove Furnace. The old slate and brick mines can still be seen. The industry was managed by Col. J. C. Fuller. In the boom days of 1912 to 1914 about 500 people were employed. Some of the trades represented were charcoal burners, wagoneers, blacksmiths, woodsmen, carpenters and storekeepers.
Fuller Lake was once the ore hole from which the iron ore was mined for the Pine Grove Furnace. Long ago it filled up with water. It is now an ideal spot for vacationers. It is reputed to be more than 90 feet deep. The, mining of iron ore had to be stopped because the water came into the quarry so rapidly that the old type pumps could not pump fast enough. Some of the machinery is still down at the bottom of the lake.
Laurel Lake is a companion to Fuller. It also serves many vacationers. Some think Fuller Lake is warmer than Laurel Lake for swimming, but Laurel is not nearly as dangerous. Laurel Lake slopes gradually into deep water but Fuller Lake drops off suddenly close to the edge.
The Tenant House
About a mile, northeast of the camp, along the Appalachian Trail is an old house. It is now used as a lodge for the hikers on the Trail. Originally it was the tenant house belonging to the Gardner Farm, Tenant houses were used in those days by the hired man’s family. The house and the immediate surroundings are overgrown with a heavy stand of pine trees. Somewhere among these trees are three unmarked graves, bearing the remains of three small children who died of small pox.
Near the tenant house are the remains of a stave mill, only the foundation is in evidence. The staves manufactured here were used to make barrels for salt pork.
The Indian Breast Works
There are two legends in existence concerning the Indian Breast Works. The first of these connects them with the Indians and the second claims that they were used by the settlers living there during the Civil War.
Story # 1—The Indian Story. This story assumes that there was a road where the Appalachian Trail now is. It was used by the early settlers who traveled from Pennsylvania to the South. When these settlers would reach this particular point in their journey the Indians would shoot their arrows from a stone barricade, on big Rocky Ridge. This story is not very plausible because Indians seldom used handmade fortifications. There were plenty natural fortifications about 100 yards up the mountain where many huge boulders lie poised as though ready to be dashed down the mountain side at a moments notice.
Story #2—The Civil War Story. It is more plausible to believe that soldiers of the Confederacy used this valley to proceed from the South towards Chambersburg. It seems more logical that this stone fence (that is all the Indian Breast Works were) was hastily thrown together by people who wished to snipe at an enemy, than by Indians who out of sheer maliciousness wished to kill a few white men.
It wouldn’t surprise me at all if some future historian would discover a bit of evidence that the stone fence was only a stone fence. About 25 feet of it remains. The remainder was destroyed by the CCC boys.
The Charcoal Pits
The Charcoal Pits had their beginning about the same time the furnace was built at Pine Grove Furnace, prior to 1770. The ingredients used in manufacturing iron were charcoal, limestone, and iron ore. Sometimes these ingredients were adulterated with other metallic substances and caused brightly colored slag to come from the furnace. This odd slag can still be found in the refuse from the furnace that was strewn over the Appalachian Trail.
The charcoal was brought out of the mountains and transported to the furnace in bottom drop wagons drawn by six or eight mules.
The remains of the pits can still be seen. They’re circular in form, absolutely level, and about 15 to 20 feet in diameter. There are quite a few of them on the Sunset Trail. Some are found on the Appalachian rj7rail About two miles west of the camp on the Appalachian Trail remains of fireplaces that the charcoal burners used for cooking purposes are still in evidence.
The Frog Pond
Near the Ridge Road about two miles west of camp in Jerry’s Flat is a sluggish pond. The water in it is an accumulation of rainwater. There is no evidence of a spring feeding the pond. Apple trees appear in the vicinity making it possible that an early settler lived near by. Recently a bulldozer dug the pond deeper. The pond is not nearly as picturesque as it once was.
The Ant Hills
Along Ridge Road are huge Ant Hills. Some of them attain a height of 2 or 3 feet. Several groups of Michaux campers have closely studied these ant hills. One of the groups thrust a pane of glass from the top to the bottom through the middle of the hill. Then they carefully scraped the ant hill from one side of the pane. In this way the activity of the ants could be seen. It was quite evident that these ants had a highly organized social existence. They fed aphids for their milk, they had a nursery with trained nurses for the infants, they had storehouses for food, they had a standing army, and many other features of a similar nature. The nature of this organization disturbed some of the campers because it appeared too much like socialism.
Dead Woman’s Hollow Road
This road got its name from the fact that a woman whose identity is no longer known was bitten by a snake and died there. After she was found the natives referred to this road as the Dead Woman’s Hollow Road. It is located about 2 miles south of Camp Michaux.
These rocks are an outcropping of huge boulders about 40 feet high. They are located about 7 miles northeast of the camp on Buck Ridge. They afford a good place from which the surrounding mountains can be surveyed. The scenery is very beautiful.
The location of these rocks is approximately 5 miles west of the camp and is sometimes known as Prospect Place. The site was cleared by the CCC. The rocks are comparatively small and are called flint stone. They cover the entire side of a mountain for about 200 yards. They are supposed to be infested with snakes.
This trail is sometimes known as the “Blue Trail.” The name was given to it because of the blue markings that are painted on the trees indicating the direction of the trail. It is one of the most picturesque of all the trails in Michaux Forest. It is very rugged and demands a good deal of stamina on the part of the traverser. Some of the rocks that must be climbed are as tall as ,a two-story house. (Snakes are not uncommon. The author helped to eradicate a nest of copperheads. The nest contained six mother snakes with 60 little baby snakes. And that is no “snake” story!) It extends from the Appalachian Trail near Pine Grove Furnace south to a place where it again joins the Appalachian Trail about one mile south of the camp.
The Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail which begins at Mt. Katodin, Maine and ends at Mt. Ogelthorpe, Georgia, passes through Camp Michaux. The old tenant house belonging to the Gardner Farm is one of the stations along the route. The key to this house can be obtained from the forest ranger in Caledonia. About 2 miles south of the camp are two lean-tos, which furnish shelter for travelers on the trail.
The half way mark from Maine to Georgia is located near Mt. Holly Springs. 1225 miles stretch either way from this point.
This is the story as it was given to me: A married man living in Pittsburgh ran away with a married woman from the same place. The woman had three children. They finally arrived in the Michaux Mountains. The man was looking for work but could not find any. Becoming desperate and unable to bear the hungry complaints of the children, he killed them and left them in the mountain. A marker identifies the spot where the children were found. The man and woman were later apprehended and brought to justice.
“On the banks of the Conodoguinet Creek, about 1½ miles from Carlisle is a cave, the haunt of David Lewis.” David Lewis was a very romantic figure that lived in the vicinity of Carlisle during the early Colonial period. He is supposed to have stolen from the wealthy and given to the poor. The more realistic story, but still romantic, is that the “poor” was a comely widow that lived in these parts
In a book about David Lewis appears the description of the above-mentioned cave. It had an antechamber 90 yards long and a man could stand erect in it. Three passages branched from it. One of these led to the “Devil’s Dining Room.” Before Lewis took possession of it the Indians were supposed to have used it for a storehouse. It is also possible that parts of it were used for a tomb.
Those who have had the rare pleasure of reading the autobiography of David Lewis find that he was not as romantic a figure as he was reputed to be. He met a very tragic end. He was caught by the authorities and died in prison.
In order that you may become more familiar with the man whose name this forest bears I have asked the Reverend Doctor Addison H. Groff of Baltimore, Maryland to do some research along this line. He has submitted the following: Through the mountain around our camp there passed more than a century and a half ago the romantic figure of Andre’ Michaux. This beautiful state forest is named after him. Our books on botany bear his name on every page. We are indebted to him for his discovery and naming of a host of flowers, shrubs, and trees never before seen by white man. On closer acquaintance we admire his genius and untiring labors not the less, but we love him the more for the man he was, a man with a heavy burden on his heart, and the light of a soul-quest on his face. Those who have dreams will love this lone and gentle man who loved these forest deeps and revealed their pleasures to a wonderful world.
We said “alone,” but Andre’ Michaux did not pass through these silent and virgin woods alone. With him was a boy, a lad of 15, his son Francois, who continued his father’s labors when that unfortunate man was sent by cruel fate, not back to the American Wilderness he loved, but toward the Spice Islands, w hen a sudden fever brought death to the gallant searcher, at the age of 55, on the Isle of Madagascar. The year was 1802, the month November.
Andre’s young wife had died in giving birth to her son, and Andre’ sold his estate and rushed toward the East, as if to quiet the pain in his heart. In Persia he was captured by bandits rescued as if by a miracle, and brought back to Europe rare fruit and ornamental trees for the King of France, trees which he later presented to our own George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, among them the Tallow Tree and Chinaberry Tree which now graces our Southern Gardens.
Andre’s King then sent him to America to gather plants for the Royal Gardens. He was 38 years old when his ship landed in New York accompanied by the young Francois. In near by New Jersey he set up his garden and. into the wilds he plunged to gather seeds, leaves, roots, cuttings, and plants for a King who forgot to pay him, and whose gracious Queen was ungraciously to give away his American treasures of flora and fauna to her father the Emperor of Austria. When the traveler returned to Paris after losing almost all his books and diaries, his specimens, and almost his life, when his boat was wrecked off the coast of Holland, he found his King and Queen dead by the hungry Guillotine, and his country in the hands of those who had no interest in things scientific or beautiful.
Eleven years Michaux was to extend his American travels. The courteous French gentleman was to face the wilderness with little armor other than his gentleness, his hunger for knowledge and his love of growing things. “He loved flowers as Audobon loved birds”, says one admirer, He explored the mountains of Carolina, he made hazardous journeys through the swamps and marshes of Florida. Back among the mountains after a voyage to the Bahamas, Michaux discovered Ginseng and taught its commercial value to the mountaineers.
In 1794 the relentless searcher made an expedition to Canada and the Arctic Regions about Hudson Bay and on his return he discussed with Thomas Jefferson the prospects of an exploration of the great West by way of the Missouri River. The Lewis and Clark expedition in the next century followed the Frenchman’s plan and suggestions.
In 1796 Michaux sailed home to France. For seven years he had received no pay from the home government and his own resources were exhausted. After the almost fatal wreck off the coast of Holland Michaux reached Paris to place his precious books of dried plants in the famous museum. His collection of living plants and seeds and most of his notes had been lost at sea. And so to the Pacific and death at Madagascar. while his son Francois returned to the American mountains they had first explored together. The father’s dreams were realized in his son. Francois lived to an advanced age. always happy to receive American visitors and hear of how the wilderness he had loved was now the dwelling place of settlers. And of how great cities now stood at the crossing of the roads which once were trails for the deer and the Indian and a few intrepid men like the Michaux father and son.
If in our walks along the Michaux trails we come upon the stemless Yellow Violet (Viola Rotundifolia Michxj, or the Silvery Gladefern (Asplenium Thelypteroides Micbx.), we shall remember Andre Michaux who loved the woods we love and who first named hundreds of our plants for all who were to come after him. It may well be that those who bring their burdens to these mountains may, like him, find all they are seeking and more.
THE CARROLL RECORD COMPANY, INC.
Word Processed by
The Pine Grove Prisoner of War Camp
Patrick L. Metcalf In May of 1943, as American and British forces were wrapping up their operations in North Africa and preparing for an invasion of Sicily, United States military personnel in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, were making their own unique contribution to the Allied war effort. Deep in the heart of the Michaux State Forest, an abandoned Civilian Conservation Corps camp was being renovated for an entirely new purpose: to detain and interrogate German prisoners. This site, referred to in official War Department documents as the “Pine Grove Prisoner of War Camp,” was classified as “secret,” and its existence and mission (to glean vital strategic intelligence from German prisoners of war) were largely unknown to the local inhabitants. This long-kept secret is perhaps one of Cumberland County’s most intriguing historical events of the Twentieth Century.
The Second World War was the first and only war in which the United States found itself holding a massive number of enemy prisoners on American soil. Men and war material were transported to Europe and North Africa in Amen-can ships; and the empty ships returned to the continental United States with enemy prisoners, thus alleviating the logistical and security crisis presented by the increasing number of Axis prisoners in Allied hands. This gargantuan and unanticipated cask became the responsibility of the Army’s Provost Marshall General’s Office (PCMO).1 The War Department and the PGMO were wholly unprepared to deal with the overwhelming number of enemy troops that were disembarking in Atlantic seaports in the summer of 1943. The War Department had no experience to guide them in establishing the administrative and logistical system required to transport, process, and house a large number of prisoners. In April of 1943 there were 5,007 Axis prisoners in the United States. This number jumped to 130,299 by August of that year, and by 1945 the number had risen to 425,871. Eighty-seven percent of these prisoners were German;2 the remainder were Italian and Japanese. POW camps were established in 44 out of 48 states;there were 16 in Pennsylvania alone, including camps at New Cumberland, Gettysburg, Fort Indiantown Gap, and Pine Grove?
The primary concern of the War Department was to ensure that the standards set by the Geneva Convention of 1929 were met in full lest substandard treatment of Axis prisoners would result in retribution against American prisoners held by the German military) To make matters more difficult, all American assets, including food, housing, energy, transportation, and personnel were in limited supply during the war. These pressures forced the PGMO to conduct only basic interrogations of prisoners before sorting them by rank and branch of service and transporting them to the appropriate camp. As a result, the PGMO made a tragic mistake in assuming that all German prisoners held similar political views. The truth was that not all Germans were hardened Nazis; in fact, some of them detested Hitler and his National Socialist regime. Many of these anti-Nazi prisoners were subjected to persecution and some were even murdered by the Nazi hierarchy that came to control the internal workings of many POW camps in the United States.5 Despite the fact that the War Department was not prepared for the large number of prisoners that it would receive, the United States used the situation to its advantage. As more and more Americans volunteered or were drafted to fight the war in Europe and in the South Pacific, labor became increasingly scarce and precious. To help alleviate this crisis and to increase the production of materials needed to sustain the war effort, many prisoners were put to work in American agriculture and industry. The Masland Company in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, received a contingent of over one hundred German prisoners and the necessary guards from the Fort Indiantown Gap POW Camp to augment its work force in producing war materials in the late summer and autumn of 1944. The prisoners who worked at the Masland factory were housed in tents on the grounds of the Carlisle Barracks.6 This sort of use of Axis prisoners was common in the United States during World War IL.
‘While prisoner-of-war labor played an important role in sustaining the rate of American industrial production, prisoners of war in the United States played an even more crucial role by providing important strategic information for the Allied forces. The War Department established two major Strategic Defense Interrogation Centers, which were modeled after the system that the British had established for the same purpose. Of such interrogation centers in the United States, (there were others located in various theaters of operation outside the United States), one was located in Byron Springs, California, and another was at Camp Hunt, Virginia. These interrogation centers were created by a joint effort of the Army’s Military Intelligence Service (MIS) and the Office of Naval Intelligence (0NI)7 The purpose of these Strategic Defense Interrogation Centers was to obtain strategic rather than tactical intelligence. Tactical intelligence is battlefield information, such as the location, strength, equipment, and intent of various enemy combat elements. It must be obtained on or near the front lines and utilized as soon possible after enemy personnel are captured, as this information quickly loses its value on a rapidly changing battlefield. Strategic information can be gleaned from enemy personnel long after their capture. It concerns the industrial capabilities, technologies, morale, and long term military strategies of the enemy.8 Of all the POW camps in the United States, Pine Grove was one of only three used for interrogations. It was classified as “secret” and no civilians were employed there or even allowed to have knowledge of the camp, which could house as many as 2,000 prisoners at a time.9 The prisoners who were shipped to Pine Grove, which was activated in May of 1943, either came directly from Atlantic seaports where they disembarked, or from other POW camps across the country. They were of undetermined intelligence value, and it was the responsibility of interrogators at Pine Grove to determine which prisoners were worth sending to Camp Hunt for detailed interrogation. At times, as few as 20 percent were deemed to be worth further interrogation.10 This “weeding out” process, which took as little as a few days or as long as several months, improved the overall efficiency of the system, and conserved valuable manpower and transportation resources. Those prisoners not sent to Camp Hunt were sent to various camps across the United States as dictated by their rank, branch of service, and political disposition.
Political ideology was not originally one of the criteria that the War Department used to segregate prisoners into various camps. As a result of this oversight, a minority of hard-core Nazis were able to seize control of the German military hierarchies in POW camps across the United States. These fanatical Nazis waged a reign of terror against anti-Nazi and apolitical German prisoners in order to ensure loyalty to their fascist ideals and to Adolf Hitler. At least five murders and an unknown number of “forced suicides” were attributed to such elements in camps throughout the United States.1’ There is no evidence of such activity in the Pine Grove camp. It seems unlikely that any such organization could have materialized due to the short amount of time that the prisoners stayed in the camp and the fact that many prisoners attempted to conceal their identities, military and political, in the face of interrogation. Pine Grove did, however, assist in the process of sorting such radicals through the interrogation process.
In addition to these tasks, Pine Grove also served to improve the overall efficiency of interrogation. When prisoners thought to possess strategic intelligence disembarked at some Eastern seaport, they were immediately sent to Pine Grove to be screened and to have preliminary interrogations conducted. These prisoners susceptibility to questioning would have dramatically declined if they had had the opportunity to interact with, and become “contaminated” by, prisoners from other camps who were familiar with American interrogation techniques.12 Pine Grove was a desirable location for an interrogation camp for several reasons. The first was its relative isolation.13 Prisoners were transported to the camp in vehicles (buses or trucks) with covered windows during the night.” Prisoners were deterred from making an escape because they did not know where they were but thought that they were in the middle of a vast wilderness. This location was also selected to save time and money. The Pine Grove POW camp was previously the Pine Grove Civilian Conservation Corps camp. The installation was not a particularly large one, composed of 30 or so buildings. Because of the limited size of the installation, the government was able to utilize many buildings and facilities already in existence. This was a fairly common practice in constructing POW camps across the United States. The last reason for choosing Pine Grove was its relative proximity to both Carlisle Barracks and Camp Hunt, Virginia.15 The command structure of Pine Grove and the two Strategic Defense Interrogation Centers was, in a sense, schizophrenic. The Third Service Command under the Provost Marshall General’s Office was responsible for providing for such practical day-to-day concerns at Pine Grove as transporting, feeding, housing, and guarding the prisoners. Officers from the Military Intelligence Service and the Office of Naval Intelligence conducted interrogations and decided how prisoners of intelligence value were to be handled. This joint command, between the various Service Commands under the PGMO and the intelligence services of the Army and the Navy, was a unique facet of the SDIC facilities.
As a result, even the American military personnel who guarded the prisoners had very little knowledge of individual prisoners or their interrogations. William Myers was a corporal at Pine Grove. He told a reporter from the Chambersburg Public Opinion in 1986 that soldiers were not even told where they were being assigned or what they would do until they arrived. Myers saw action in North Africa, Sicily, and Italy before he was wounded and sent back to the United States. Joseph Tarquino, also a guard at the camp, was a private, and like Myers had seen action in North Africa and Sicily before he was wounded. Tarquino was from Chambersburg, but rarely had the opportunity to go home. “We had our usual times off We were still in the Army and we did things the Army way.“16 Another guard, Robert Chastulik, was the first sergeant of the Pine Grove camp in 1944 and 1945. He was wounded in France and sent back to the United States, where he expected to be discharged. His discharge never came through and he found himself placed in charge of the enlisted men who guarded the Pine Grove camp. As one would expect, Sergeant Chastulik had mixed feelings about guarding the Germans.
‘Well, when I first went in there, I was bitter. And I also told them, when we did anything with them outside, if one of them tried to escape, I would shoot him. And they knew that. But then we also had classes and lectures on that they were prisoners and they were to be treated as prisoners. After you’ve been there a while it leaves you.17 Leo Groeger remembered the Pine Grove camp, though his brief stay there (several weeks) in 1943 was spent on the opposite side on the wire. He was a captain in Erwin Rommel’s famed Afrika Korps before being captured by American forces. He was transported from Casablanca to some unknown port in the United States before arriving at Pine Grove, where he was interrogated for the first time. From Pine Grove he was transported to Montana to harvest potatoes and then to Arizona to pick cotton. He remembered that there was “absolutely no contact with civilians and the guards would not talk to us.“ 18 The relationship between the prisoners and guards at Pine Grove was an uneasy one. Many of the guards, like Chastulik, Tarquino, and Myers, were combat veterans. They had fought the Germans and many had either been wounded or lost close friends in combat. They were not eager to establish friendly relations with the Germans. The guards were ordered not to fraternize with the prisoners, though many of the Germans spoke at least some English.19 Many of those who did speak English pretended not to, as they were in an interrogation camp and were suspicious of the soldiers who guarded them. Nevertheless, many of the prisoners were described as friendly, and sometimes carved wooden boxes and other such novelties to trade with the guards.20 However, the previously mentioned factors, along with the larger context of the war, diminished the possibility that friendships might have been established.
In 1945, a separate and smaller compound was built to house prisoners from an entirely different theater of the war, the South Pacific.21 Little information is available about the Japanese who were held and interrogated at Pine Grove. One can only surmise that they were of extraordinary intelligence value to be shipped all the way from the West Coast for interrogation. Cultural and language barriers probably decreased the already minimal amount of interaction between the guards and the prisoners.
Of all the prisoners at the camp, the Germans who were kept for special duties were those whom the guards became the friendliest with. These prisoners were enlisted men who were not ardent Nazis and who possessed some sort of talent that made them useful. Those that were good cooks were kept to prepare meals for the guards. Those that had experience with horses were kept to work in the stables. (Horses were kept to facilitate searches in case of an escape.) But even these prisoners were not allowed to stay long at Pine Grove for security reasons.
Work details were a part of the daily routine for prisoners. There were both enlisted men and officers at the camp, and though the Geneva Convention dictated that officers were not required to work, many volunteered for labor parties. Many POW camps compensated prisoners for work by giving them credit at the camp canteen, where they could buy such necessities as cigarettes. It is likely that Pine Grove operated in the same manner. Routine tasks such as cutting firewood, shoveling snow, cutting grass, and general maintenance of the camp were required of the prisoners. There was also a detail of prisoners who were sent to the Carlisle Army Barracks to work on the grounds and in the hospital there.
Though there was interaction between the Pine Grove camp and the Carlisle Barracks, few people knew that the Pine Grove camp even existed. When First Sergeant Chastulik interacted with civilians in Chambersburg, where he lived, he told them that he was stationed at the Carlisle Barracks. “That was our address. That’s where we got our mail and, for essential purposes, that’s where we were.”22 According to Private Tarquino, many Chambersburg area people knew POWs were being kept in the area, although they did not know where. Corporal Myers stated that measures were taken to keep the public away. Food and provisions were brought by truck from Carlisle and work around the camp was done by guards and POWs. No civilians were involved.
The guards at Pine Grove sometimes made trips to Carlisle or other local towns when they were on liberty. The drives to and from the mountain outpost were made dangerous due to the exhausted state of the soldiers who worked on four-hour shifts with only four hours off duty in between. This excruciating routine was maintained because of a shortage of manpower due to the demands of the war. Joseph Tarquino spent Christmas of 1944 at the Pine Grove camp, though his family was only a short distance away in Chambersburg. Though a traditional Christmas meal was served for the guards, Tarquino stated, “I remember it was a very rainy and freezing day. The chaplain came in and had a service for us. It was pretty much routine.23 There were no successful escape attempts by prisoners from Pine Grove, thanks to the vigilance of the men who guarded the camp. Six-foot high fences around the prisoner compound and machine gun towers armed with automatic weapons and spotlights assisted in ensuring security. However, there was an incident in which two prisoners who were believed to have diphtheria were transported to the Carlisle Barracks infirmary for treatment. They escaped from the prison cell there and were reported to have been captured shortly thereafter.24
That no prisoners ever escaped from Pine Grove is an impressive fact when one considers the fact that there were 2,803 escapes from the various POW camps across the United States during the war.25 Nor was any prisoner shot. (There were 56 prisoners shot while attempting to escape from prison camps in the United States, 34 of whom died.)26
Though guarding the prisoners at the camp was a crucial task, it was not the primary one. The ultimate purpose of the camp was to interrogate enemy prisoners. Paul Gross, a German soldier, experienced interrogation at the camp first-hand. He was captured in France shortly after the invasion of Normandy. Though he was only a private in the German Wehrmacht, he was probably sent to Pine Grove because of his attempts to befuddle American field interrogators who tried to procure tactical intelligence from him when he was captured. They may have suspected him of being a German officer posing as an enlisted man. Once he arrived at Pine Grove, it required only a fifteen-minute interrogation for the Americans to realize that Private Gross knew very little in the way of strategic intelligence. They asked him questions such as:
“Have you been a member of the Hitler Youth?”
“How did you come to it — voluntarily or were you compelled to join it?”
“What about the hours of duty in this organization — did you enjoy them or had you an aversion to this duty — and why?”
“What profession has your father?”
“Is he a member of the Nazi party or one of its organizations?”
“What does he think of the Nazis and their policies?”
“Do you personally believe that Germany will win this war?”27
After answering these questions to the interrogator’s satisfaction, Gross was returned to the compound. He spent only four days at Pine Grove before being transferred to Carlisle to work at the Masland factory to make canvas tank covers.
Contrary to popular perception, interrogations during the Second World War were often a simple matter of asking pertinent questions and recording the answers. Most did not involve deception, coercion, or physical or psychological torture. For example, the records of three I.P.W Teams (Interrogation of Prisoners of War Teams attached to combat units to extract and disseminate tactical information from enemy prisoners on or near the battlefield) who operated from D-Day to ME. Day in Europe indicated that 80% of German prisoners gave information freely and voluntarily. Ten percent gave information under pressure, either physical or mental, seven percent were tricked into revealing information, and only three percent were successful in protecting their secrets.28 These figures roughly correspond to the extraction of strategic information at the Strategic Defense Interrogation Centers in the United States. Records and documentation indicate that the most effective way to gain valuable information from prisoners was simply to ask them. Of course, this was not always the case.
As mentioned earlier, knowledge of how interrogations were conducted or what information they revealed was not known to the vast majority of personnel who worked at Pine Grove. Only the intelligence officers from the Military Intelligence Service and the Office of Naval Intelligence were privy to such information. The records available at the National Archive give some insight as to what went on in the interrogation building at Pine Grove. Boxes of interrogation reports describe various battles from the German point of view. They describe tactics, morale, and German experiences with and opinions of both their enemies and allies. Maps and blueprints illustrate battle plans and experimental weapons systems. It is clear from these artifacts that the interrogators at Pine Grove learned much about the Nazi war machine from these prisoners.
One unconfirmed rumor about the Pine Grove Prisoner of War camp is that it held the inventor of the German “buzz bomb”, also known as the V-l rocket.29 This device was essentially an unmanned aircraft that the Germans launched from the mainland of Europe to bomb cities in England. Its devastating strike was preceded by a terrifying buzzing noise, which gave it its name. Most of its victims were English civilians, as the V-I was not accurate enough to employ against specific military targets. Though there is evidence to suggest that German prisoners of war gave away secrets about German military technology, there is none to substantiate the claim that such an illustrious prisoner as the inventor of the buzz bomb ever resided within the wire of the Pine Grove facility.
Though most information was contributed voluntarily by the prisoners, there is some evidence that indicates that some Germans remained loyal to their Fuhrer and the Fatherland even after capture. Interrogation reports from Pine Grove reveal that hardened Nazis of Hitler’s fanatical SS divisions were interrogated at Pine Grove, and furthermore, that they were rather arrogant during such interviews. Another “legend” of the Pine Grove camp is that one particularly resilient German naval officer refused to reveal any information even after two weeks of interrogation. American interrogators decided to employ a new tactic to trick the German into revealing what he knew. Someone discovered that this officer was very fond of American whiskey. They placed him in a room with another German officer and gave them two bottles of whiskey. The two became inebriated and the resulting conversation was secretly recorded through a Dictaphone concealed in the ceiling. As a result, a few days later a German submarine pen, whose location had long been a secret, was bombed for the first time.30 While the veracity of such a tale is certainly questionable, it does contain an element of truth. Take, for example, a very similar and completely factual account of a British naval interrogator at the Strategic Interrogation Center No. 2, in England. The British had captured an overly confident German U-boat officer who refused to yield to any conventional method of interrogation. The British officer, after repeated failures, decided to pursue a different strategy. He went to the German’s cell with some beer and cigars which he shared with the man. They began a casual conversation which inevitably turned into a debate about the outcome of the war. The British officer at one point stated that in order to win the war the Germans would need to invent U-boats that would not need to re-charge their batteries above water. At that, the German gave a hoarse laugh and stated, “Just wait, soon we’ll have that too. The quick-minded interrogator retorted rather nonchalantly, “Well, as a matter of fact, we know about that too.” This comment shook the German prisoner so badly that as soon as he was reunited with his cellmate he began a worried conversation about whether or not he had revealed any such information during his interrogations. This discussion was recorded secretly through hidden microphones and gave the Allies the first indication that such a device existed.31 These deceptive tactics were commonly used by both British and American interrogators, and suggest that the legend about the inebriated German at Pine Grove may be true. Another form of deception used by British and American interrogators was to have Germans who wished to overthrow Hitler impersonate German officers in order to acquire information. Chastulik, who was the first sergeant at Pine Grove, reported that he saw Germans who weren’t German military personnel dressing in uniform and mingling in with the population at the camp.32 Though this was probably an effective method, it was also a dangerous one that resulted in the murder of a prisoner by the name of Johann Kunze at Camp Tonkawa in Oklahoma in 1945.33 It was unusual for American interrogators to resort to violence to procure information, though the threat of violence was commonly used. A former guard named Rex Waite drew a map of the Pine Grove camp in a 1993 interview with a reporter from the Shippensburg News Chronicle. In his rough depiction of the camp, which looked very much like a crude representation of the Army Corps of Engineers map of the same installation, was a building near the mess hall labeled as the “sweat box.” Though it was not a common tactic, it is not entirely beyond the realm of plausibility, especially when considering the context of the time, that American military personnel utilized a more severe tactic with some of the more obstinate prisoners. Though sweat boxes were used occasionally by both the British and Americans, the utilization of this method at Pine Grove is purely speculation.
The surrender of Germany on May 7, 1945 and the surrender of Japan on August 13 of that same year brought the Second World War to a close. The defeat of the Axis powers and the end of the war made the Pine Grove Prisoner of War Camp obsolete, and it was closed in May of 1946.34 The post was abandoned by the military and the camp remained unoccupied until 1947. That summer members of the Presbyterian and Evangelical and Reformed Churches leased the camp from the government for $600 a year on the condition that they keep the buildings in good repair. The camp was renovated and became a church camp. It was renamed, “Camp Michaux” and served in that capacity until 1972, when the property reverted to the control of the Pine Grove State Park.35 The buildings were torn down and since then the site has become overgrown with vegetation.
Evidence of the camp still exists. Located along the Appalachian Trail on Michaux Road, weathered foundations of the buildings that once housed German and Japanese prisoners can be found beneath dense vegetation and pine trees. It is a strange and quiet place with a rich history. Few of the people who stumble upon it can imagine that the site was once a secret military installation vital to national security Pine Grove holds its secrets well.
1. Origin Of The Interrogation Centers For The Interrogation Of War Prisoners (United
States War Department, Military Intelligence Division), 2.
Charles Muskiet, Educating The Afrika Korps: The Political Reeducation of German
ROWs in America During the Second World War. (MA Thesis, Baylor University, 1995),
3. List of P0W camps in the United States as of] June 1943 (Army Service Forces,
Office of the Commanding General.)
4. A.J. Barker, Prisoners of War (New York: Universe Books, 1975), 87
5. Muskiet, EducatingtheAfrikaKorps, 3.
6. Diane Reed, German POW in Carlisle Pennsylvania, 1944-1945 (MA thesis, PA
State University, Harrisburg, 1989), 17.
7. Origin of the Interrogation Centers For the Interrogation of war Prisoners, (U.S.
Army, Military Intelligence Division), 3.
8. FM 30-15; Examination of Enemy Personnel, Repatriates, Civilians, Documents, and
Materiel (U.S. War Department Field Manual, 1945), 32.
9. Diane Reed (Interview with Robert Chasrulik, 1983), 85.
10. Origin of the Interrogation Centers for the Interrogation of War Prisoners, 26.
11. Judith Gansberg, Stalag USA (New York: Cromwell, 1977), 52.