Lesson Plan: Overview

The Enemy in Our Own Backyard!

Grade Level: High School
POW Coupon Book

Academic Standards

Standard USHC-8: The student will demonstrate an understanding of the impact of World War II on United States’ foreign and domestic policies.

8.3  Summarize the impact of World War II and war mobilization on the home front, including war bond drives, rationing, the role of women and minorities in the workforce, and racial and ethnic tensions such as those caused by the internment of Japanese Americans.

Social Studies Literacy Elements

I. Use maps to observe and interpret geographic information and relationships.

K. Use texts, photographs, and documents to observe and interpret social studies trends and relationships.

L. Interpret calendars, time lines, maps, charts, tables, graphs, flow charts, diagrams, photographs, paintings, cartoons, architectural drawings, documents, letters, censuses, and other artifacts.

Q. Interpret information obtained from maps, aerial photographs, satellite-produced images, and geographic information systems.

S. Interpret and synthesize information obtained from a variety of sources—graphs, charts, tables, diagrams, texts, photographs, documents, and interviews.

Essential Questions

1. Why were German P.O.W.s held in South Carolina?

2. How were they treated?

3. What impact did they have on South Carolina’s economy?

Historical Background Notes

With thousands of young men off fighting the Second World War, many towns across the country were experiencing a labor shortage.  Some of these jobs could be filled by women, but in the agricultural industries of the south their numbers were not enough. In the early years of the Second World War, the economy of South Carolina was muddling by despite these labor shortages all the while hearing the mostly negative reports of the war’s progress against Germany.  Hitler had built such a stronghold over most of Europe in the early days of the war that it seemed almost impossible to break. For many rural counties, the only exposure to the infamous Nazis was from newspapers, newsreels, and other war time propaganda which portrayed these soldiers as arrogant, deceitful, and even evil. However, by 1943 the tide of the war was beginning to turn and rural South Carolinians, including Florence residents would come face to face with Hitler’s so called “Supermen” and have many of their labor needs met as well.

After the invasion of Nazi-occupied North Africa, the allies had captured many German prisoners which they intended to send back to the United States. The location of Prison of War (POW) camps was determined largely by cost. Most POW camps were located in the South and Southwest due to the moderate climate which made camp construction and operating costs cheaper. (Segal 48) Many POWs were housed on abandoned Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps, unused military installations or fairgrounds. (28) Most of these camps were “temporary, make-shift affairs” consisting of mostly tents and a few buildings. (Moore 315) Security was the largest factor in determining the location of POW camps. Camps were to be in rural areas that were easily guarded, away from black-out areas, at least 150 miles from the Canadian or Mexican border or vital-war industries, and 70 miles from the coast. (Segal 28) However, “lack of funds for construction and security provisions” made it necessary to locate some camps in Myrtle Beach and Charleston, South Carolina. (29) The first German POWs arrived in South Carolina in September of 1943. (29) What they would do and how they would be treated when they arrived in South Carolina were largely dictated by location and guidelines set down by the Geneva Convention.

The Geneva Convention signed on 27 July 1929 by the United States (US) and many of her allies and future enemies, defined "Prisoner of War" and outlined how they were and were not to be treated. (23-24) Throughout the war, the US strived to set an example for enemy nations in their treatment of prisoners. (24) Military personnel in South Carolina followed the guidelines of the Geneva Convention closely. It was hoped that by following these international laws that American POWs held by the Germans would be treated humanely. (Mclaughlin 140)

These international laws stated that POWs could not be assigned to work that they were physically unsuited to perform. They were not required to work for more than twelve hours each day, and they were to be given twenty-four hours of rest each week. Their work could also not provide any direct benefit to the war effort. Military officers were not required to work (Segal 47) but were paid based on rank (51). Non-commissioned officers were only supposed to serve as supervisors. (47)

According to Segal approximately two-thirds of prisoners worked on their respective camps or bases as clerks, bakers, carpenters, laundry, road repair and other various duties. (48) There was no compensation for this work which was expected. (Moore 307)  The other one-third performed manual labor including cutting pulp wood (Segal 55), harvesting fruit, picking cotton and tobacco and various other field labor. (57) It was these later tasks that POWs in Florence performed for farmers in the area.

In order for farmers to hire prisoners to work for them they had to “establish that no local labor was available” for the work they required and then pay the prisoners’ wages to the US government. (Moore 307) Funds from the War Department paid POWs $3.50 per day. Eighty cents went to the POW in the form of coupons that could be redeemed at the camp canteen. The remaining money was used for “prisoner upkeep.” Segal notes that if you consider that POW facilities were paid for and that minimum wage in the timber industry (which many POWs were a part of) was forty-eight cents per hour, POWs were paid just a little less than civilians. (Segal 65)

If prisoners refused to work (and were able), they could be put on a restricted diet known as the “no work- no eat” policy. They would only be given eighteen ounces of bread per day and water to drink. (59) There were recorded cases of low morale or anger among prisoners due to sharing a mess hall with the prison guards, a restriction on sun bathing, and in some cases inadequate facilities. (63) On one occasion prisoners were fed bean soup for lunch every day for eight weeks at the Shaw Field Camp in Sumter. (Mclaughlin 141)

Despite the predictable complaints and low morale of any Prisoner of War, we have strong evidence that, in general, POWs in South Carolina were treated very well. John Hammond Moore reports that many prisoners returned home to Germany with “fond memories of South Carolina.” (Moore 315) There are also several letters, postcards, and pictures sent by former German prisoners to local residents, months and even years after the war testifying to the excellent treatment and fond memories of their time in South Carolina.

By the end of World War II there were over 20 camps in 17 counties that housed anywhere from 8,000 to 11,000 German POWs. (Segal 1) As the war was coming to an end, there was significant pressure to close these camps so that more jobs would be available for returning GIs. (Moore 311) For a short time during the Second World War, it was the infamous Nazi troopers who provided the much-needed labor that saved many farms and businesses across South Carolina.

Cultural Institution Partner

Darlington County Historical Commission


Primary Sources

Coupon Book for Prisoner of War Camp Canteen, Fort Jackson, South Carolina. September 1945. Darlington County Historical Commission, Darlington, South Carolina.

German Prisoners Hard at Work On Farms In County.” Florence Morning News. 10 June 1945.

Hand-drawn map of Florence and the surrounding area by a German P.O.W. 1945. Darlington County Historical Commission, Darlington, South Carolina.

Hand-drawn map of Florence Army Airbase and P.O.W. camp by a German P.O.W. 1945. Darlington County Historical Commission, Darlington, South Carolina.

Items which may be sold in prisoner of war canteens. 29 August 1945. Appendix A. Darlington County Historical Commission, Darlington, South Carolina.

Manning, Lt. Col. Wyndham. "400 Prisoners of War Arrive Here; Setup Explained." Florence Morning News. 31 May 1945. Darlington County Historical Commission, Darlington, South Carolina.

Meier, Adolf. Letter to Mr. Rudisill 15 April 1946. Copy of original from Darlington County Historical Commission, Darlington, South Carolina.

Montgomery, John A. “Hitlerite Youth Are Snakes To Watch in Postwar Reich.” Florence Morning News. Darlington County Historical Commission, Darlington, South Carolina

Photographs of German POWs in South Carolina. 1945. Darlington County Historical Commission, Darlington, South Carolina.

Photograph of Florence Army Airbase. 1945. Darlington County Historical Commission, Darlington, South Carolina.

Secondary Sources

Mclaughlin, J. Michael. It Happened In South Carolina. “Nazi POWs in Our Own Back Yard.” Vol. 1. Two Dot Books. Guilford, Conn. Nov 2003. Print.

Moore, John Hammond. "Nazi Troopers in South Carolina 1944-1946." South Carolina Historical Magazine vol. 81 1980: Print.

Segal, Deann Bice. The German POWs in South Carolina. Studies in American History vol. 56. The Edwin Mellen Press, 2004. Print.


• German POWs - Primary Source Questions
• German POW postcards (blank)
• Pen/pencil

Lesson Plans

(Lesson will take place after a lecture and notes on the United States home front during WWII.)

1. Students will be divided into groups of four or five and given all of the primary sources (see Primary Sources section above) and the list of Primary Source Questions.

2. Using the primary sources, students will work together in their groups to answer questions ranging from supplying factual information, to questions that require them to make inferences, to questions that require them to make personal judgments.

3. After the students have completed the questions and have turned them in, the teacher will review the questions with the class as a whole, noting where the information could have been found or how the inference could have been made based on the sources.

Teacher Reflections

Practical, relevant, useful, realistic, beneficial, saturated with information, fun, fascinating, motivating…These are a few of the characteristics that come to mind as I reflect on my experiences in the Teaching American History in South Carolina (TAHSC) Summer Institute. As most teachers know, many workshops, in-service meetings, and graduate courses can be dull, unrealistic, too theoretical, or useless. TAHSC not only increased my knowledge of American history from Reconstruction to the present, but I was actually able to use the information in my classroom. It also provided me with fun, creative, engaging, and rigorous activities, lessons, and techniques that I have also actually used in the classroom.

After completing my first year of teaching, I knew that I had increased my content knowledge a lot since graduating college but I knew that there were still areas where I needed to increase my knowledge. Having the privilege to participate in the Summer Institute was part of that increase in knowledge. One of the beneficial and interesting aspects of the institute was being able to hear lectures from Kevin Witherspoon who was essentially teaching the same material that I would teach in a semester. Of course, Kevin’s lectures started at Reconstruction and led up to the present and my course covers all of US History. It was encouraging to know that I was teaching some of the same information in a similar way. When we would get to some topics, I would stop taking notes because I taught almost the exact same information. It was helpful to see another teacher’s perspective on the same topic and the additional information that he presented was also very useful.

As we would cover a topic like Reconstruction, I vigorously wrote down names, stories, statistics, and concepts that I had never heard of or never included in my lessons. Afterwards, I was able to incorporate some of these stories into my own lessons to make them more interesting or strengthen an area in which I was not as knowledgeable. Through Kevin’s lectures, I discovered that I had failed to mention in the past that there were a few different plans for Reconstruction based on political stances. I made sure to briefly mention these different plans the following semester. I also learned a little more about the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) which students always find fascinating. Kevin explained the many reasons for the rise of the KKK which students must understand was a reaction to Radical Republican policies and the fact that southern society had been turned upside down.

I was also able to use specific information and statistics from Kevin’s lectures on immigration in my own classroom lesson. I was also enlightened to the animosity that Americans felt towards Germans during the First World War. My students loved hearing about how some places in America called sauerkraut, Liberty Cabbage, banned teaching German in schools and stoned Dachshunds. I was able to draw parallels between these incidents and how the Japanese were treated in WWII and animosity or suspicion directed at Arabs after September 11th.

After reading Summer for the Gods, I discovered that there was another argument surrounding the infamous “Monkey Trial” that didn’t involve science or religion. While this debate can quickly turn ugly in a room full of ill-informed teenagers, the more relevant debate that I was able to moderate with my students was the tension between majority rule and minority rights. Lastly, I have used many of the pictures, posters, and political cartoons that Kevin used in his Powerpoint presentations in my own lessons. These were just a few of the areas in which I was able to enrich my lessons because of the Master scholar’s instruction. The only improvements that could be made to his lectures would be to have a little more time or cover a little less material.

Wardie Sanders was an excellent Master Teacher with infectious enthusiasm. Many of the lessons, activities, and handouts that she presented were not only relevant but fun. The only thing that could be improved upon would be allowing more time to finish the activities that she had planned. Her first lesson on using primary and secondary sources to piece together the events of the Darlington Riot was challenging and interesting. I had personally never heard of this event. I’m sure that my students would instantly be interested in this topic because it involves bloodshed, alcohol, and is local. I liked that it requires students to read, analyze, collaborate and infer. After teaching my lesson using primary sources, I have found that students enjoy interacting with texts, photos, and other objects from the time period being discussed.

One of the other great ideas that I plan on using in my classroom are the Mini Dramas that require students to use primary sources to create a short skit as if they are people in a particular scenario during a particular time period. Not only do they have to analyze, infer, and empathize, it allows students to get out of their desks and move, be a little silly, and showcase their creative sides. The assignment can also be designed in such a way that students who are more shy may not have to say as much.

Some of the most useful and adaptable forms that she gave us were on analyzing primary source material. These sheets allow students to consider the origin, purpose, value, and limitations of a text. She offers guiding questions under each category. This simple sheet with its questions can be used with any primary source text from any time period. I plan to use these documents later in the semester. She also gave us a sheet on possible questions to consider when analyzing artifacts. These were not the only useful documents I received.

The cultural institutions were fun, enlightening, and valuable resources as well. I’m not sure that there are any improvements that could be made to them. I had never been to most of the locations and learned a little at each one. Being a native of Florence and teaching in Florence, I was particularly interested in the history of the “Magic City” which I learned was its former nickname and the background story that followed. I was excited to think of how heads would rise off of desks and ears would perk up when I integrated the history of Florence with the history of the United States in my classroom. This has since come true as I have mentioned in class how Florence began as a small railroad town and gradually grew into the town it is today. It was at the Florence Museum that I first learned that Florence held several German POWs during World War II. As I talked to the curator, I became more and more fascinated with the topic and decided to teach a lesson on it to my students. In the process of researching, I ran across several personal letters from a former German POW to a local farmer after the war. I was sure that these letters would spark interest with my students because they were not only local but were written by average people in their own community.

The other cultural institution that was invaluable to teaching a lesson on German POWs in Florence was the Darlington County Historical Commission. They were able to supply me with boxes of information on POWs stationed in Florence. I found newspaper articles, photos, coupon books, letters, postcards, devotional books written in German, and many other fascinating primary sources. I was in an historian’s heaven. These were the items that I would use to teach my lesson.

My lesson required students to analyze several primary sources to discover why German POWs were held in South Carolina, what they did while they were here and how they were generally treated. Using primary sources, including most of the ones listed above, the students answered a series of questions concerning German POWs held in Florence. The first several answers were simple facts that could be found in the primary sources. The answers to other questions were not as obvious. The students had to make inferences based on the information before them. And finally the students were required to make personal judgments.

Overall, I felt as though the lesson went well. Most of the students seemed to be moderately interested in using primary sources which were not out of a text book. No one slept and most students were on task. It was exciting to see them discovering surprising or funny information in the sources. It was also fun to watch the interaction between the students as some explained to others how they inferred answers based on a map, picture, or article. After each group had answered the questions that I had presented them with, they had to write a postcard to their family or friends as if they were a German POW living in South Carolina. I was encouraged to see that most of the students understood that German POWs in South Carolina were not treated harshly. Some of them wrote very creative messages describing what they did and how they felt.

There were however a few things that did not go so well. The average high school student is not used to having to dig to find answers. Somewhere along the way, they have fallen into the habit of looking for “THE ANSWER” that should be in bold letters and worded the same way the question is asked. When asked how many hours per day most prisoners worked, many students told me that they worked 40 hours per week. This was at the beginning of a short article so they simply wrote the answer without looking at what the question was really asking. The next time that I ask them to use primary sources I will explain that they must read the questions carefully and may have to read closely to find the answers. Another problem that usually comes along with group work is that one or two students do most of the work and the other members of the group just copy the answers. This was the case for most of the groups in my classroom. The next time I teach this lesson, I may assign a few questions to each student in the group so that they will be held accountable. One final problem with the lesson was that many of my students were not used to inferring information. When asked what German POWs did in their spare time, many students did not understand that they could infer what prisoners did by simply looking at a list of items that German POWs could buy at the canteen. Many students also had a difficult time reading the hand-drawn maps of Florence and the airfield because the words were in German, and then some of the students themselves were not familiar with the major highways in the area. I foresaw these last two problems which is why I put the students in groups. I was hoping that some of the students could explain to the others how they found a particular answer. Before I teach this lesson again, I would like for my students to have had practice inferring information on other assignments.

Despite some to the weaknesses of the lesson, seeing students awake, engaged, curious, and thinking was evidence that some learning was taking place. Most of the students demonstrated that they had learned a lot about German POWs in South Carolina because they answered almost all of the questions correctly, even the ones that required them to infer information. Lastly, most students proved that they truly understood what kind of work German POWs did, what they did in their spare time, and how they were treated in general. One student wrote as a POW, “I thought there camps would be horrible places but to my surprise I was treated very well.”

Based on the results I had from teaching a lesson using local primary sources, I will definitely use more primary sources in the future. I believe that it does increase student interest and involvement and does encourage the highly sought after “higher order thinking.” This institute has increased my content knowledge, given me ideas and teaching techniques to use in the classroom, and shown me how to use primary sources effectively. To put it simply, The Teaching American History in South Carolina Summer Institute has made me a better teacher.

Student Assessment

Based on the information they gathered, students will write a message on a copy of an actual POW postcard to a family member or friend as if they are a German POW living in South Carolina. They must include information on what type of work they do, what they do in their spare time, and how they are being treated in general.

Examples of Students Work

Analyzing Primary Sources Sheet
Analyzing Primary Sources Sheet 2
POW Post Card-Student Work
POW Post Card-Student Work 2
POW Post Card-Student Work 3
POW Post Card-Student Work 4


Ross Hill
South Florence High School
Florence, South Carolina