By KEN de la BASTIDE
WINDFALL — It was a long way from the European battlefields of World War II to the rural farming community of Windfall, but for two summers, the Tipton County community was home to a prisoner-of war-camp.
The camp operated during the summer months of 1944 and 1945 and was located in a field next to the Windfall school. The prisoners worked harvesting tomatoes, toiled in local canning factories and detassled corn.
At 7 p.m. Sept. 28 the Tipton County Historical Society will present a program on the camp in the Tri-Central High School auditorium. Included will be a presentation by a former guard at the camp. Historian Helene Heath is looking for people to recall their memories of the POW camp.
Guard Glenn Quarles, 81, who resides in Tennessee, was a guard in Windfall in 1945. He was 20 at the time.
“There were 1,500 prisoners,” Quarles said. “They were all German officers. We would take them out to the fields, where they would pick tomatoes. They would then work in canning factories, there were several places around Windfall.”
This was at a time when the population of Windfall was 835 people according to the 1940 census and only 15,135 people lived in Tipton County.
Guards and prisoners all lived in tents, there were cold water showers and cold water spigots for shaving, he said. The Windfall camp was closed during the winter months because of the cold weather.
“We would guard them at night,” Quarles said. “They would bake pastries and give us sweet rolls.”
All of the guards were accompanied by an interpreter, but most of the prisoners could speak English, Quarles said.
“One prisoner gave me his hat, his name was Ludwig and he had been a school teacher in Munich before entering the Army,” he recalled. “They were all very smart.”
Quarles remembered that Windfall was a small town and he could remember box cars being brought in on railroad tracks to transport the prisoners.
“The camp was next to the school,” he remembered. “We could see the kids outside playing.”
Quarles said he received two passes and went into Windfall where the guards would eat in local restaurants, walk through the town and talk to local residents.
“They done all right by us,” Quarles said of the town’s residents. “They didn’t like the camp being in town. I never had any problems. Once a prisoner was missing, and I found him hiding under a truck. I told him don’t do it again and never reported it.”
When the prisoners were transported back to Germany, Quarles was given the opportunity to make the trip on a volunteer basis.
From Windfall, the prisoners traveled by train to New York, where they boarded a ship and docked in France. From there, they were transported to the German border where new guards took over, according to Quarles.
Quarles returned to Windfall in 2001 looking for the remains of the camp.
“There was a trailer park where the camp was,” he said.
Quarles enlisted in the Army in 1943 and was injured during training as an anti-aircraft gunner and not allowed to go overseas. He spent time at bases in Georgia, Louisiana, Texas and California before arriving in Indiana.
Quarles was discharged in 1945 and returned to Tennessee where he took classes in radio and electronics. He worked in a Sears Department Store, and opened his own business.
“After two years I had to close it because parts weren’t available during the Korean War,” he said. “I worked as a security guard at the Volunteer Ordinance Works, which made TNT [explosives] for the war. When I got laid off, I opened a radio and television shop, and in 1971 went to work for the county, retiring in 1993.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Quarles said of the return to Windfall.
Heath said she could remember seeing the lights from the prison camp when growing up.
“I can remember looking out of the classroom windows and looking into the camp,” Heath said. “I recall walking around the school building and seeing the prisoners.”
Heath said there are a few Windfall residents who can remember the camp. She hopes anyone who lived in the area will come to the meeting and share their memories.