Getting to the hearts and minds of German prisoners of war through American movies and books were not the only propaganda methods used by the War Department. They used music and sports to stimulate the mens’ thinking about individual rights and democracy.
Most of the 500 camps throughout the United States had glee clubs, bands and large orchestras. The prisoners were supplied with instruments but they had little sheet music. Members of the Special Projects Division (SPD), responsible for prisoner reeducation, came up with the idea to influence POWs through music. As a result, the camps began receiving sheet music that was purely American: “Pistol Packin’ Mama” and “Mairzy Doats,” John Philip Sousa marches, Gershwin tunes and cowboy songs. Soon, American music became enormously popular with the prisoners, particularly the song, “Don’t Fence Me In.”
Drama was also used as an reeducation tool. The SPD sent the camps lists of acceptable plays, helped to organize drama clubs, and obtained materials for sets and costumes.
Finally, good old American sports were used another way to teach democracy. Although equipment was supplied for German sports such as soccer, the reeducation program leaned toward all-American sports like baseball, basketball and horeshoes.
Next time: Religion for the POWs
Read my historical novel about Camp Papago Park, The Swastika Tattoo, a German POW camp located on the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona during WWII.
Copyright, Geraldine Birch. All rights reserved