ALGONA - The fading memories of a little known north central Iowa World War II prisoner of war camp will be preserved in a new museum which open this weekend.
Camp Algona was located just west of the city near U.S. Highway 18 on what is now the municipal airport. As the base camp for 34 satellite facilities in Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, the camp was home to more than 10,000 German prisoners of war between 1943 and 1946.
It housed 3,000 prisoners at a time and a staff of about 600 civilians and military personnel, nearly eclipsing the population of the city of Algona at the time.
The prisoners were used to help reduce the labor shortage created by the war, said Nick Scholer, president of the Camp Algona POW Committee.
POWs in the region worked for 10 cents to 80 cents an hour for up to 12 hours a day. Most of the work was done on area farms, at a local hemp plant and in logging operations in the upper Midwest.
Local historian Jerry Yocum said the prisoners in nearby Sioux Falls did laundry for military installations throughout the region.
"The Army trucked the soiled uniforms and such to Sioux Falls and back at 35 miles an hour. It may not have been efficient. But it was the 'Army' way," Yocum said.
The organizers of the museum said they have no documentation to indicate why Algona was chosen as the POW base camp for the upper Midwest.