After German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel's North African Army surrendered on May 13, 1943, the allies had approximately 275,000 prisoners-of-war in their possession.
During 1945, 15,000 of the prisoners lived and worked in Idaho.
Rupert, Idaho served as the base camp with over twenty branch agricultural camps established throughout the state.
The first prisoners were Italians who came by train to Rupert in May 1944.
Four months later, 500 German prisoners arrived.
A camp of 250 prisoners was placed on the property known as the Westbank Hotel. Five hundred additional prisoners were housed at Tautphaus Park in a large log exhibit building.
The prisoners provided support to the local economy by preventing crop loss, increasing production and reducing the labor shortage.
The prisoners were bused to the field in the morning and returned to camps when the day's work was done.
The prisoners-of-war in the Idaho Falls camps cut and harvested potatoes, thinned and harvested sugar beets, and hauled dirt to fill holes and cover lava along the west side of the present greenbelt.
The farmers contracted for laborers through the U.S. Army, paying the prevailing wages in the locality for similar work.
The prisoners-of-war were paid 80 cents a day, with the balance going directly into the U.S. Treasury.
prisoners spent up to two years in these camps. In late fall of 1946, the prisoners were moved back to the main camp at Rupert, transported by train to New York and returned to their native countries.
Some of the prisoners found American sponsors, thus allowing them to return to Idaho Falls and to become U.S. citizens.