WWII German POWs & Purple Martins in Texas

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Anthony Neira
Posts: 1317
Joined: Wed Jan 15, 2014 1:12 pm
Location: San Antonio /Texas
Martin Colony History: Started in 1992 From neighbors old 1950-60's colonies. Have 8 Trio 6 Room Houses, 4 MPP Poles, 1 Heath Deluxe Gourd with Troyer Porch, 8 NatureLine Gourds with Troyer Porches, 5 Troyer Horizontals ,& 2 S&K 11" WITH Troyer Porches ready for 2019 Season !

Growing up here in Tx. I heard & Read about German POWs in Texas during WWII. I remenber older people telling my family how some German POWs were "loaned out" to local farmers to help out in the field, since some came from farms themselves And that some were fascinated about the Purple Martins & the houses, because of the swallows they have in europe. Does anyone know if this is true ? or is this some thing to enhance a sad & true story ?
4th Gen Martin Fan
Posts: 1483
Joined: Thu Jul 04, 2013 1:19 pm
Location: TN/Collierville
Martin Colony History: I have been exposed to purple martin sounds in utero when my mother went out to get my father away from his martin colony.
I played around the martin colony every summer and watched as my father maintained his colony. In the late 50's until the 70's he did not notice European Starlings in south Texas.
When old enough, I helped maintain his colony. My primary task was eliminating English House Sparrows with a 1956 Benjamin 317 .177 air rifle.
When I settled into my own home, I started my first colony with an original Trio Castle and Trio Grandpa. When I moved again, I did not put up any martin houses. Frustration with European Starlings in the Southeast US was overwhelming.
Found PMCA Forum and learned about modern enlarged compartments and SREHs.
Inherited my father's last martin house, a Trio Grandma, modified it to modern specifications and have had good results since then.

Anthony,
Both of my parents were born in San Antonio in 1929 and 1930. Both lived in San Antonio during WWII.
My mother's heritage is mostly German. Her family arrived in San Antonio in 1850.
I am not sure that either will know the answer to your question. They would have been 11 and 12 years old when WWII started.

I had no idea that both of my maternal grandparents spoke German fluently. Unfortunately because of possible persecution of people of German heritage during WWI and WWII, both of them never spoke German in front of or to their children.

I do know that people who immigrated from Europe were very familiar with swallows from their homelands. I do not believe that purple martins were specifically in Europe.
However, there are several species of swallows in Europe and some of the larger swallows are called martins.

I will speculate that the Spaniards who explored, settled and colonized the New World were familiar with swallows in Spain.
Theoretically, the first Europeans in Texas who could have seen purple martins was 1528 when Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca and his crew shipwrecked on the Texas coast and interacted with the Indians of the Texas coast. Honestly, I suspect these Spaniards were more interested in their survival rather than ornithology and especially the purple martins.

But that is not your question.
My father is my best resource. Luckily his mind is still very sharp at 85 years old. I will ask him but the conversation will be very long. And I am not talking about rambling. Oh my, maybe that is why I talk so much!
I strongly suspect that a first conversation with you would last 3 hours minimum. Yea, better let me ask him the question. You are too interesting to talk to and I mean that as a compliment.
Mark.
Mark.
Firm believer in HOSP/EUST Control, Enlarged Compartments, SREHs, Pole Predator Guards, Owl/Hawk Guards, Mite/Parasite Control, Housing Insulation, and Vents for Compartment Cooling.
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Mike1624
Posts: 180
Joined: Fri Aug 15, 2008 8:10 am
Location: NC Burgaw

Anthony, if you will check the history of Lake Texoma, you will find that the hydo-electric dam was built using a large amount ot German POW labor. That lake was, at one time, the largest man made impoundment in the US. There are plenty of Purple Martins in that area. A beautiful part of Texas.
Mike Morgan
2009-4 Pair,24 Eggs,23 Fledged. 12 Cavities
2010- 18 Pair, 96 Eggs, 86 Fledged. 18 Cavities
2011- 23 Pair, 113 Eggs, 99 Hatched, 93 Fledged 24 Cavities.
2012-22 Pair, 109 Eggs, 95 Hatched, 89 Fledged
2013-19 Pair, 89 Eggs, 77 Hatched, 77 Fledged.
Emil Pampell-Tx
Posts: 6743
Joined: Tue Nov 11, 2003 1:26 pm
Location: Tx, Richmond (SW of Houston)
Martin Colony History: First started in Gretna, La in 1969 with a small homemade house, have had martins ever since at 2 different homes in Texas

I remember one thing that happened. I was like 6 or 8 years old, and we watched the train go by, it was loaded with german prisoners. A girl was standing there near us, the prisoners waved at her, so she waved back. A prisoner took out a photo of a small girl, probably his daughter, and showed it to us.

It was sad, but he was probably showing her that he had a small girl at home. I hate wars.

I know nothing else about them, but heard that they had a camp for the prisoners near Hearne, Texas. I grew up about 50 miles from it.
PMCA Member, 250 gourds, 6 poles, 2traps
Anthony Neira
Posts: 1317
Joined: Wed Jan 15, 2014 1:12 pm
Location: San Antonio /Texas
Martin Colony History: Started in 1992 From neighbors old 1950-60's colonies. Have 8 Trio 6 Room Houses, 4 MPP Poles, 1 Heath Deluxe Gourd with Troyer Porch, 8 NatureLine Gourds with Troyer Porches, 5 Troyer Horizontals ,& 2 S&K 11" WITH Troyer Porches ready for 2019 Season !

THANK YOU, Mark, Mike, & Emil, Yes Mark, it would be great to talk to your dad! Please let us know what he says. Mike & Emil thanks again, we all need to keep history alive , it's interesting all the history in our ( as well as everyone's elses states!) State. And thank you Emil, that was a very touching story , War is terrible. It 's good to think of people in the past getting enjoyment from P.Martins! I have to look up the '70's movie " The Summer of my German Solider" to see If it was filmed in Tx. and see if there Might be P.M houses in the background. The same with "The Great Waldo Pepper", I just got the DVD, & it was filmed in Tx.. Good luck everyone!
KathyF
Posts: 3518
Joined: Thu May 24, 2007 1:57 pm
Location: Missouri/Licking
Martin Colony History: Colony started - 2007 with one pair
As of 2018 - 84 cavities offered, max # of pairs hosted - 82.

Very interesting post, Anthony. :wink:

I had no idea that we brought German POWs to the U.S. I wonder what the reasoning was behind that? Seems like a lot of expense and almost cruel to bring them across the ocean, over a thousand miles from home.

Wonder why they weren't taken to POW camps in some of the other allied countries?
"Sometimes", said Pooh, "the smallest things take up the most room in your heart."
2016 - 82 pair
2015 - 76 pair
2014 - 75 pair
2013 - 75 pair
2012-72 pair
http://kathyfreeze.blogspot.com
Anthony Neira
Posts: 1317
Joined: Wed Jan 15, 2014 1:12 pm
Location: San Antonio /Texas
Martin Colony History: Started in 1992 From neighbors old 1950-60's colonies. Have 8 Trio 6 Room Houses, 4 MPP Poles, 1 Heath Deluxe Gourd with Troyer Porch, 8 NatureLine Gourds with Troyer Porches, 5 Troyer Horizontals ,& 2 S&K 11" WITH Troyer Porches ready for 2019 Season !

Yes Kathy, when I first heard of them, it came from our neighbors who had farms around Kelly A.F.B, I later learned that England could not contain them all at first, so they asked the U.S to help ( also in WWI ) . There were around 700 camps in 46 states, at around 425,000 Germans. They ate better than most ever did back home, were paid for working as alot did work on farms & some did wood work. Who knows, maybe there is /was a old style P.Martin bome/s made by some ? Now THAT would be a positive Brazil connection with them! :grin:
4th Gen Martin Fan
Posts: 1483
Joined: Thu Jul 04, 2013 1:19 pm
Location: TN/Collierville
Martin Colony History: I have been exposed to purple martin sounds in utero when my mother went out to get my father away from his martin colony.
I played around the martin colony every summer and watched as my father maintained his colony. In the late 50's until the 70's he did not notice European Starlings in south Texas.
When old enough, I helped maintain his colony. My primary task was eliminating English House Sparrows with a 1956 Benjamin 317 .177 air rifle.
When I settled into my own home, I started my first colony with an original Trio Castle and Trio Grandpa. When I moved again, I did not put up any martin houses. Frustration with European Starlings in the Southeast US was overwhelming.
Found PMCA Forum and learned about modern enlarged compartments and SREHs.
Inherited my father's last martin house, a Trio Grandma, modified it to modern specifications and have had good results since then.

Anthony,
I spoke with my father about his experience of German POWs.
He relates that his family had moved to Corpus Christi, TX before WWII. While he was a high school student in Corpus Christi in 1944 and 1945, he remembers German POWs were brought from their camp to work on the grounds of their large high school stadium.
He states that the German POWs were dressed in khaki work clothes and were watched by Army soldiers. He never saw the Army soldiers carrying any guns to "guard" the German POWs.
The POWs looked very relaxed, spoke freely among each other and with the Army soldiers as they did their work. He perceived that the POWs were working of their own free will and were not being forced to do any work.
He says that he never spoke to the German POWs or the Army soldiers. They were all told that the German POWs and Army soldiers were not to be interfered with.
He cannot relate any connection to purple martins.
Mark.
Mark.
Firm believer in HOSP/EUST Control, Enlarged Compartments, SREHs, Pole Predator Guards, Owl/Hawk Guards, Mite/Parasite Control, Housing Insulation, and Vents for Compartment Cooling.
PMCA Member.
Tony
Posts: 61
Joined: Tue Jan 11, 2011 4:11 pm
Location: Iowa/Des Moines-Milford

Iowa had two large German POW camps during WW2. One was in Clarinda and another with 10000 POW's was in Algona Iowa. Most of the prisoners were farmers in Germany and worked on the farms in Iowa replacing the many men who were gone to fight in the war. See the attached link of the museum in Algona. Be sure to click on the heading "Nativity" to see the 1/2 life size nativity set that was made by the prisoners as a gift for the city.

http://www.pwcamp.algona.org/nativity.html
mikeinkaty
Posts: 28
Joined: Sun Mar 23, 2014 9:54 am
Location: TX/Katy

We had German prisoners working at our farm when I was 3 and 4 years old. This was in central Oklahoma in 1944/45. They were very happy to be out of the war and for having 3 meals a day. One played with me a lot and I followed him around the fields. They were all nice and friendly (else they would not have been there). Mom would give they vegetables out of our garden. They were brought out in the morning in the back of a truck and picked up before dark.

My parents had a martin box but I have no idea what the Germans thought of the birds.
Mike
Anthony Neira
Posts: 1317
Joined: Wed Jan 15, 2014 1:12 pm
Location: San Antonio /Texas
Martin Colony History: Started in 1992 From neighbors old 1950-60's colonies. Have 8 Trio 6 Room Houses, 4 MPP Poles, 1 Heath Deluxe Gourd with Troyer Porch, 8 NatureLine Gourds with Troyer Porches, 5 Troyer Horizontals ,& 2 S&K 11" WITH Troyer Porches ready for 2019 Season !

Thanks Tony & Mike, it's good to keep history alive. Even if the German P.O.Ws may or may not have made Purple Martin houses, it's still a gopd thought to think that some could have heard the Martins, in the fields! Thsnks again, for sharing history, Good luck with your birds.
Emil Pampell-Tx
Posts: 6743
Joined: Tue Nov 11, 2003 1:26 pm
Location: Tx, Richmond (SW of Houston)
Martin Colony History: First started in Gretna, La in 1969 with a small homemade house, have had martins ever since at 2 different homes in Texas

We had a lot of martins in our area. I got my first BB gun about 1940, I was 8 years old. I saw a bunch of martins, and I was sneaking up on the martin house when I was stopped quickly. "Don't ever shoot at the martins", and was threatened to take the BB gun away from me. That was the very first time that I remember martins. I cannot believe that I did that!
PMCA Member, 250 gourds, 6 poles, 2traps
Anthony Neira
Posts: 1317
Joined: Wed Jan 15, 2014 1:12 pm
Location: San Antonio /Texas
Martin Colony History: Started in 1992 From neighbors old 1950-60's colonies. Have 8 Trio 6 Room Houses, 4 MPP Poles, 1 Heath Deluxe Gourd with Troyer Porch, 8 NatureLine Gourds with Troyer Porches, 5 Troyer Horizontals ,& 2 S&K 11" WITH Troyer Porches ready for 2019 Season !

Thanks Emil, that was some story, really nice how things worked out! I too remember trying to "track" a Purple Martin with my BB gun ( I was already told not to shoot the "swallows") but I was just seeing if I could keep my sights on one right over my head, No Way! They were soaring side to side too well! Then my mom yelled at me .." Mom! I really was'nt going to..I was just...." :lol:
Scully
Posts: 2008
Joined: Mon Jan 26, 2004 5:35 pm
Location: Texas/San Antonio

I grew up in England until I was thirteen and I recall two species of familiar swallows around town.

One was the Barn Swallow with its long forked tail, very similar to ours but whiter underneath. As they do here, barn swallows built cup nets of mud in barns and under porches.

The other was the House Martin, as you can see a beautiful little swallow about the size of a sparrow....

Image

Single pairs of these quiet little birds would build their nests under the eaves of houses. I'm recalling they were not as common as barn swallows.

Point of interest there are no swallows in Europe that nest in woodpecker holes, gourds or man-made housing, they all build their own mud nests.

In England the barn swallow is simply called the swallow. Other species of swallow lacking the long forked tail are all called "martins".

Mike
...if the gentlemen of Virginia shall send us a dozen of their sons, we would take great care in their education, instruct them in all we know, and make men of them. Canasatego 1744
Emil Pampell-Tx
Posts: 6743
Joined: Tue Nov 11, 2003 1:26 pm
Location: Tx, Richmond (SW of Houston)
Martin Colony History: First started in Gretna, La in 1969 with a small homemade house, have had martins ever since at 2 different homes in Texas

One reason that there were so many prisoners was this:

We treated them good, we protected them, and they did not like the war, they did not want to fight the war, they surrendered if they got a chance. A friend said that he talked to a German commander that wanted to surrender, about 1000 Germans surrendered to 3 American soldiers, they were ready to give up. This occurred late in the war.
PMCA Member, 250 gourds, 6 poles, 2traps
Anthony Neira
Posts: 1317
Joined: Wed Jan 15, 2014 1:12 pm
Location: San Antonio /Texas
Martin Colony History: Started in 1992 From neighbors old 1950-60's colonies. Have 8 Trio 6 Room Houses, 4 MPP Poles, 1 Heath Deluxe Gourd with Troyer Porch, 8 NatureLine Gourds with Troyer Porches, 5 Troyer Horizontals ,& 2 S&K 11" WITH Troyer Porches ready for 2019 Season !

Thanks Mike & Emil, Those pic.s of the swallows are.great, neat to see any relative of the P.Martin! & Thanks Emil, you paint such wonderful pictures in my/ our mind/s! As a side note the Messerschmitt Me 262 , the first operational jet powered fighter,.was named "Schwallbe", (Swallow). and if you look at a picture or model of one ( or even a real & or reproduction one), you can see how it looks like a member of the swallow family!
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