“Where you been? I’ve got inches to fill.”
“Took a field trip to the Army depot. Where they’re holding the German POWs.”
“Yeah? What for?”
“Wanted to see what was like. Talk with them. Get inside the head of the enemy, I guess.”
“I met this one kid. Couldn’t be more than 19. Got drafted. Ended up driving trucks for Rommel. He’s seen Rome, been to Turkey, trekked across all across Africa. And now he’s all the way across the Atlantic. Kid’s younger than I am, and an inadvertent peripatetic because of the war.”
“Know what he does now?
“Picks cotton. They’ve got him working in the fields because everyone else is working on stuff for the war. The stories this kid’s got could fill a book.”
“And you think we’re gonna run something like this? A bit on a Kraut kid living it up over here while our boys are dying over there?”
“I just thought – ”
“You want to write that, fine. Put it in a book, paper your wall with rejection letters. But this paper won’t publish that crap. Find me something else, or I find some one else do to your job.”
During World War II, thousands of Axis POWs were shipped stateside. Some of them, mostly from Rommel’s Africa Korp, ended up in Memphis at the Shelby County Depot. They lived well compared to the hard life they’d had fighting in Africa, some of them even making themselves sick by eating too much food. They were assigned work details in agricultural jobs, since nearly everyone who had done those jobs had shifted into manufacturing for the war, or had been drafted to fight.