Camp Rupert was a World War II prisoner of war camp near Paul, Idaho. It was built for $1.5 million, which was everything needed for a city of 3,000: barracks, water, sewer, and a hospital. The first POWs were Italian and were received in May 1944. In September 1944, 500 German POWs arrived.
POWs would set up an army-style branch camp to plant and harvest a crop, or to simply harvest the crop. They would be transported from camp to the field in a truck. Approximately 15 prisoners were in a truck with one guard. The POWs, requested by a farmer, would be transported by the farmer to his field. The farmer and the War Labor Board assigned a quota to the POWs.
It was administered by Fort Douglas, Utah, and was a disciplinary camp German and Italian forces with disciplinary issues such as prisoners who had attempted sit-down strikes and recaptured escapees. By December 1945, it contained hundreds of the Waffen SS. An estimated 15,000 POWs were attached to Camp Rupert.
After the end of World War II in Europe in May 1945, work assignments became heavier, and logistical challenges meant that food rations were meager. As images and reports from the Nazi concentration camps made it to the public, camp staff were less tolerant towards their POWs. Threats were made towards prisoners who failed to complete their assigned quotas, and non-labor activities were sharply limited.
At some time, a branch camp in Wyoming went on strike due to poor transportation to fields and leaky barracks roofs. And in the summer of 1945, 297 POWs went on strike for harsh work conditions. Three prisoners hit an American guard, and prisoners reported that an American sergeant was striking and kicking prisoners.
In the peak of October 1945, Camp Rupert was responsible for 15,047 prisoners. In part due to labor shortages in the United States, many POWs did not return to Europe until after the fall 1946 harvest.
- World War II POWs in Idaho Falls (photos)