Camp Flintstone Brought the War to Maryland
Green Ridge State Forest was the Site of a POW Camp
Dec 19, 2008 Jim Rada
A view of Green Ridge State Forest - Courtesy of Green Ridge State Forest
During World War II, German soldiers marched through French streets, fought in North African deserts and cut wood in Allegany County forests.
More than 426,000 POWs were shipped to the U.S. during WWII, according to a 1945 Monthly Labor Review.
In 1943, the Hancock Apple Growers Association applied to the War Food Administration to use POWs as fruit pickers. The request was approved and the former Civilian Conservation Corp camp in Green Ridge Forest in Allegany County, Maryland, became Camp Flintstone.
While the old forestry camp was designed to house a large group of men, it wasn’t designed to hold prisoners.
“Fifteen Mile Creek Road ran right through the camp and they had to relocate it,” said Augustine Diaz, who served as a camp guard.
The road was gated off through the camp and re-routed around the camp.
Camp Flintstone housed around 250 prisoners with 40 U.S. soldiers to watch over them, according to Diaz.
“They had six or seven barracks enclosed in barb wire. They had a dining hall and rec room. We had two towers and two shacks, officers quarters, latrines, a medical building and a supply room,” Diaz said.
Life in the POW Camp
The prisoners worked eight hours a day for pay. They received a portion of the pay in camp credit and the government got the rest to offset camp costs.
The prisoners ate the same food as the guards and sometimes worked as camp cooks. Their clothing was labeled with the letter P sewn on one pants leg and shirtsleeve and the letter W sewn on the other pants legs and shirtsleeve.
Bill Johnson, a forestry official during WWII, recalled in Land of the Living by John Mash, “We were never worried about the prisoners escaping. Guards were in the woods with them and the prisoners were afraid of getting lost, after all, they were in enemy territory.”
Once, a guard fell asleep while watching POWs picking fruit in an orchard. One of the prisoners walked over to the snoozing guard.
“He got the guard’s gun and did the German manual of arms and then gave it back to him,” Diaz said.
And the guard never knew his rifle had been missing. The POWs considered it a great joke.
Such was life at Camp Flintstone. The guards were as hard on the prisoners as needed, but it wasn’t often needed.
“The only problem I ever saw was a young punk,” Diaz said. “He was hard and he wound up in solitary confinement for a week on bread and water. He wasn’t performing. He wouldn’t do anything.”
In their off time, prisoners wrote postcards home, attended church services, played soccer on the ball field next to the camp and even produced plays.
“I don’t remember any incident of spying of sabotage at Camp Flintstone,” former prisonerFranz Boehm said in Land of the Living. “I don’t know what good it would have done anyhow in such a small camp. Nothing would have changed the course of the war. Everyone was happy and content. We escaped the hell of the war. Each POW, even a fanatic at heart, was happy to be in a U.S. prison and not in Siberia.”
Closing the Camp
When the war ended in 1945, the orders came to close the camp. Boehm recalled the prisoners reluctantly left. “Once more a truck came and chauffeured us around the orchard so we could say goodbye to the friends we left behind. We did not know what the future would bring when we left there. Still each one of us shook hands and were not ashamed of the tears we shed.”
Once the prisoners collected their belongings, Diaz said, “We brought them in trucks to the train station, loaded them onto trains and off we went to Camp Shanks in New York.”
Today, Camp Flintstone is the Green Ridge Youth Center for delinquent boys.
Courtesy of: Jim Rada and http://www.suite101.com