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The foods available in Northern Thailand certainly rank among the most interesting and amazing in the world. There are influences from throughout Asia including China and India and the fragrant dishes of Malaysia, Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam and Southern Thailand (the old Siam). It is a giddy mixture and a life's work to get to know and understand them all.....
Keep reading: The Food of Northern Thailand
Book ReviewNebraska POW Camps: A History of World War II Prisoners in the Heartland, by Melissa Amateis Marsh. (Review by Mark Kahn.)
This is an outstanding book on a interesting niche of WWII history. If you aren't familiar or, like I was, are only vaguely familiar with the who, what and why of POWs in the United States during WWII, then you'll find "Nebraska POW Camps" enlightening and enjoyable. If you are well versed in the mainstream WWII history books, then this book will add a US home-front element of the story to your overall war narrative.
As Amaties points out, the book is neither a straight scholarly study nor general history, but a combination of the two. As a reader, you'll notice that some parts are fact-based like scholarly papers and can be, not boring, but more "dry", while other parts sing with the anecdotal stories and personal observations that make history come alive.
While the scope of the POWs in the US - about 400,000 Germans, 51,000 Italians and 5,000 Japanese - wasn't small, the detailed historical record, as Amateis highlights, is thin, especially as she focuses on just those POW camps in Nebraska. That said, her diligent work brings out the details needed to understand the story behind why they were brought here - the UK was running out of room and resources (could not have been fun for the British official who had to call and ask the US for one whopper of a favor) - and the logistical and political challenges of housing POWs in the US.
As you move through this relatively short book, you'll learn how the camps were built, who commanded them, who guarded them, the day-to-day lives of the prisoners and the US military's compliance with the Geneva Conventions on the treatment of POWs (overall, taken very seriously, if for no other reason than the US wanted American POWs treated well in Axis POW camps). You'll also learn about the work the POWs did while here - mainly much needed agricultural, but also, at least one example of - and in direct violation of the Geneva Conventions - munitions factory work. Further, the book analyzes how the system dealt with the hardcore Nazis (mainly by corralling and isolating them from the rest of the POW population) and what efforts were made at re-education (sincere, inconsistent and lacking the necessary records to make conclusive statements as to their effectiveness).
Away from all that, you'll get an intimate feel for the life of the POWs and their interactions with the local populations that they were, quite often, working for day in and day out. Here is where the fun stories and humanity come through the loudest: despite the rules, farm families were constantly giving the POWs extra food during long work days (strawberry shortcake parties were a hit) or having marksmanship competitions (yes, shocking, but it highlights the trusting bonds that were formed). Ameteis also relates how many POWs kept in touch for decades with their American friends and some - when able - emigrated to the US and moved to Nebraska to start new and successful lives after the war.
This last fact is less surprising -- Ameties points out that she could find no instances of prisoners complaining about their imprisonment. It seems that many POWs were happy to spend the duration of the war in POW camps (escape attempts were rare), the US military, largely, played by the rules and the local populations who employed the POWs were good to and happy with (actually, desperate for) the added manpower.
While WWII histories are usually about colossal battles, ideological and philosophical conflicts writ large, massive loss of life and treasure, geopolitical machinations and out-sized personalities and leaders, "Nebraska POW Camps" provides a poignant view into a very human, somewhat removed and, at times, quixotic corner of the 20th Century's defining war.