06 May 2005
Although the battles of World War II were fought on foreign shores, many of the soldiers who were captured in those battles ended up on U.S. soil… as all across the country, high school gyms, local fairgrounds and remote military bases were converted into POW camps. One of them was at an Army Airbase just outside Houlton, Maine, in the northeastern most tip of the United States.
The road to Houlton began in the harbor of Portland, Maine. Today, in historic "old port," seagulls soar just above the roof-tops, and early summer tourists meander along cobblestone streets, window shopping as they walk. Hans Krueger saw a much different sight in the summer of 1944 as he and his fellow POWs stepped off a boat and onto American soil for the first time. "When we marched through the town, there were lots of people standing on both sides of the street, and a lot of women were crying… so that struck me, they did not throw stones or insults, it was a very quiet affair."
A small, properly dressed man, with bright blue eyes framed by long wisps of white hair, Mr. Krueger was one of nearly 500,000 German and Italian prisoners who were transferred to the United States as the Normandy invasion force overwhelmed Axis positions, and captured troops filled European POW camps.