The Saratoga Sun -

By Dick Perue
Special to the Saratoga Sun 

Behind the barbed wire

Dick Perue presents a look into the history of Ryan Park Prisoner of War camp Sept. 28 at BLM Field office in Rawlins

 


Manpower shortages during World War II led to establishment of a prisoner of war camp at Ryan Park, Wyo., in the Medicine Bow mountains of southern Wyoming, according to a 1943 article in the Saratoga Sun. While a camp, the facility housed Italian, German and Austrian prisoners, the article said.

Much has been written about the Heart Mountain detention camp in northern Wyoming. Yet, little is known about two prisoner of war camps located near Douglas and Ryan Park. The Ryan Park camp operated from 1943 through 1945.

History of the Ryan Park World War II POW camp is the subject of a video presentation by Saratoga historian Dick Perue, scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28 in the BLM Field Office at 1300 N. 3rd St. in Rawlins, Wyo.

Perue’s research shows the prisoners were brought to Ryan Park on the west side of the Snowy Range at the behest of lumberman R.R. Crow who needed men to harvest timber from the Medicine Bow National Forest.

The Oct. 28, 1943, issue of The Saratoga Sun reports, “A caravan of more than a dozen buses carrying Italian prisoners of war and their guards passed through Saratoga Sunday, enroute to Ryan Park, where the prisoners are now employed by R.R. Crow & Co., in timber operations there.”

The original 114 prisoners were guarded by 40 Army guards and housed at the former Ryan Park Civilian Conservation Corps camp. A month later another 50 prisoners arrived at the camp, the Sun reported.

“Although interned behind barbed wire fences at the Ryan Park compound, the Italian and German soldiers created beautiful gardens, played classical music, and made intricate wood carvings, as well as toiled in the timber,” Meryle Hansen, who worked with the prisoners, recalls in an 1988 oral history interview. This intriguing history of both the POW compound and its predecessor, a CCC camp, will be related by Perue during the slide show, which is open to the public.

 

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