German Prisoners of War at Camp Cooke, California

In 1943, the first great wave of Hitler’s soldier’s came to America, not as goose-stepping conquering heroes, but as prisoners of war. By the time World War II ended in 1945, more than six hundred German POW camps had sprung up across America holding a total of 371,683 POWs. One of these camps was established at the U.S. Army’s training installation Camp Cooke on June 16, 1944.

The POW base camp at Cooke operated sixteen branch camps in six of California’s fifty-eight counties and is today the site of Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County. Compared to other prisoner of war camps in California, Camp Cooke generally held the largest number of German POWs and operated the most branch camps in the state.

A large number of the prisoners were from Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps, as well as from other military formations. Under the terms of the Geneva Convention, the prisoners received comfortable quarters and excellent care. They filled critical wartime labor shortages inside the main Army post at Cooke and in the outlying civilian communities, performing agricultural work for which they were paid. On weekends and evenings, they enjoyed many recreational entertainment and educational opportunities available to them in the camp. For many POWs, the American experience helped reshape their worldview and gave them a profound appreciation of American democracy.

This book follows the military experiences of fourteen German soldiers who were captured during the campaigns in North Africa and Europe and then sat out the remainder of the war as POWs in California. It is a firsthand account of life as a POW at Camp Cooke and the lasting impression it had on the prisoners.

What Others Are Saying: 

"... this is a book that is well worth ordering. Recommended!" -- Robert Redd, historian 

"German POWs met labor needs of Central Coast farms ..." -- Colleen Cason, editor of Central Coast Farm and Ranch  

"A read of this book will restore your faith in humanity, and given our current global conflicts, we all need to know that throughout history there are good people, quietly making the world a little better; be they prisoners, guards, or simply people caught up in a global conflict not of their own making." -- Michael Cervin, Cervin's Central Coast 

"A little-discussed period are the WWII years when German prisoners of war were sent to America. Jeffrey E. Geiger has written German Prisoners of War at Camp Cooke, California, that is a history better and unlike what you see in the movies or on TV."   -- German-American League of Los Angeles 

"... We think that German Prisoners of War at Camp Cooke, California is excellent and give it all five stars. If you are a WWII buff, this is a must-read." -- David and Suzanne McClendon

About the Author:

Jeffrey E. Geiger is the retired chief civilian historian from Vandenberg Air Force Base, formerly Camp Cooke. He is the author of Camp Cooke and Vandenberg Air Force Base, 1941-1966 and has published articles on historical topics in several magazines and newspapers.

by Jeffrey E. Geiger
Trade paperback - 6 x 9 x .7
280 Pages
HISTORY / Military / World War II
HISTORY / United States / State & Local / West
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Price $19.95
Availability In-Stock

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