German Prisoners of War at Camp Cooke, California
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German Prisoners of War at Camp Cooke, California

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  • Item #: 9781620067505
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Camp Cooke was established as an armored and infantry training installation on October 5, 1941. Three years later on June 16, 1944, the Army added a prisoner of war camp at Cooke for German POWs. It was one of more than 600 German POW camps spread across America. The base camp operated sixteen branch POW camps in six of California’s 58 counties, and is today the site of Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County. The six counties were Kern, Kings, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura.

Within California, Camp Cooke generally held the largest number of German POWs, operated more branch POW camps, and existed longer than any other base camp in the state.

A large number of the prisoners at Cooke were from the Afrika Korps, as well as from other military formations including the Luftwaffe and Waffen SS. The prisoners received comfortable quarters and excellent care. In return, they filled critical wartime labor shortages inside the main Army camp at Cooke and in the outlying civilian communities performing agricultural work. Many entertainment, recreational, and educational opportunities were available to the prisoners to occupy their spare time. These activities also became the cornerstone of the Army's secret national program to "denazify" the POWs.

The book follows the lives of fourteen former POWs from their entry into the military, their capture, transport to Camp Cooke, and repatriation in 1946. It is a firsthand account of life as a POW at Camp Cooke and the lasting impression it had on the prisoners' lives.

About the Author:

Jeffrey E. Geiger is the retired chief civilian historian at Vandenberg AFB.

by Jeffrey E. Geiger
Trade paperback - 6 x 9 x .7
Est. 300 Pages
HISTORY / Military / World War II
HISTORY / United States / State & Local / West
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