German Airmen visit German Interment Camp at Ft. Stanton
By Millie Wood; photos by Dave Tremblay
Colonel Frank Kiesel, Commander of the German Air Force (GAF) Flying Training Center, stationed at Holloman Air Force Base and thirteen other Team GAF members toured Ft. Stanton Tuesday, April 24 for the first time.
Lynda Sanchez, Lincoln County’s foremost expert on Ft. Stanton history met the group that included DeeDee and Dave Tremblay, MAW’s professional photographer, at the Ft. Stanton Merchant Marine Cemetery.
Lynda presented the colorful history of Lincoln County that pre-dated the late 1850’s and early 1860’s of Ft. Stanton. She pointed out the five graves of Germans in the cemetery. Four who died during their internment at Ft. Stanton and one who chose to be buried beside his fellow country-men. She gave the history of the luxury liner, SS Columbus, which was the flagship of the German shipping company, Norddeutscher Lloyd, which began cruising the Atlantic along the U.S. coastline and the Caribbean in the early 1930’s, leading to the internment of about 410 German seaman.
After the cemetery, the group was directed to the quad and the surrounding buildings. It was pointed out that the chapel was moved to it’s present location and reconstructed with marked sandstone brick. Among the fascinating details of the chapel is the painting of Jesus that was painted by a German seaman.
While viewing the large blow-up photos in the museum of the scuttled SS Columbus and the many photos taken during the Germans internment, Lynda told of the sailors training on “scuttling the ship” rather than turning it over to the British Navy. That scuttling was carried out effectively as planned on December 19, 1939.
Following the quad, Lynda took the group to the German Internment Camp which, in large part, was chosen as a detainment center because barracks were already in place, having been built by the “CCC”, Civilian Conservation Corps.
Ft. Stanton became the first United States Internment Camp when 415 German seaman were transferred, along with their Captain, Wilhelm Dahne, to Ft. Stanton. Officially neutral in the European conflict, the U.S. treated the Germans as “distressed seaman”. Unlike prisoners of war, the seaman were given many freedoms, and the camp’s security was the U.S. Border Patrol, not the military. The detainment period was 1941-1945.
Following the tour, the group of 18 had lunch in Lincoln at The Dolan House. Colonel Kiesel presented Lynda Sanchez, with a GAF military coin for bringing to life Ft. Stanton and the German Internment Camp. While under the trees in the center of the quad, quietly and reverently, Lynda said, “Listen, don’t you hear the bugles?”. Colonel Kiesel presented to Millie Woods, founder of Military Appreciation Weekend (MAW), renamed Military Appreciation Warriors in March 2012, a framed copy of the German Air Force Tornado for organizing the tour. Dave Tremblay captured images of the tour and has created a disc of over 70 photos for posterity. Frank Kiesel and Oliver Fischer, Millie’s GAF point of contact, believes that they and some of their team will be back for Ft. Stanton Days.