Bushnell Days: POW Branch Camp at Bushnell Hospital
POW Branch Camp at Bushnell Hospital
Bushnell Hospital was chosen as one of several Utah locations that would host branch camps for prisoners of war (POWs) who were considered low risk. Under the Geneva Conventions, non-commissioned POWs could be put to work in jobs that didn’t support the war industry, and America saw the benefit of this in the face of a labor shortage as so many men went to war and women took their positions in war-related industries. The first group who came to Bushnell were Italians, but they were soon moved elsewhere and replaced by German prisoners of war. Their camp was just east of the hospital in the foothills. They mainly worked on the hospital grounds and in the kitchens, though some also cleaned the wards.
Though fraternization was forbidden and few of the POWs spoke English, many POWs tried to flirt with the women working at Bushnell. The Italians were especially notorious for this. Friendships sometimes developed between patients and POWs. Though some patients showed hostility toward the POWs, most of the veterans understood that their former enemies had just been soldiers like themselves.
Many of the POWs enjoyed their time at Bushnell. None were hard-line Nazis, and many were glad to be out of the fighting, though they worried about their families back in the war zone. Though they were prisoners, they were allowed to hike in the mountains and listen to music. The POWs tried to hunt the deer that wandered near their camp, but they never caught anything except a porcupine. They weren’t supposed to have alcohol but made their own wine from some abandoned grape vines they came across. They could also attend church under guard and sometimes got to see the shows put on for the patients at Bushnell.