Scrip is a form of currency that was often used by the US Army in the past. It was essentially a substitute for regular currency, and was used primarily in situations where traditional forms of payment were not available or feasible.
Obviously, giving German prisoners US dollars would not be a good idea. So, the War Department issued each enlisted man or NCO $3.00 in Camp scrip in 1-cent and 5-cent coupons allotments each month. Since the Geneva Convention required equal treatment between U.S. and enemy soldiers, each prisoner compound included common buildings to house their infirmary, canteen/post exchange and administrative offices. This provided the “company store” where prisoners purchased items from their post-exchange that you might find in a hotel gift shop today. Various brands of personal hygiene items, writing supplies, tobacco, candies, etc. were routinely stocked. Prisoners could even buy postcards with pictures of the Camp activities to send home.
A favorite item of the POW canteen was a pint beer. Unfortunately for them, the War Department limited each prisoner to only one pint per day. As any resourceful man will tell you when it comes to beer, “Where there is a will, there is a way.” Groups would pool their coupons to allow one in the group a sufficient number of pints to get an occasional good buzz.
Although NCOs were not required to work except to supervise, enlisted prisoners might be ordered to work doing general house-keeping or maintenance chores around the camp for $.80 (80-cents) per day. Some worked in their own barber shops, kitchens, infirmaries, post office or clerical offices to earn a few “cents.” Others might join crews to work chopping or picking crops for neighboring farms. A few even worked in one of the downtown cafes.
Earned tallies would be recorded by Camp bookkeepers and the equivalent scrip coupons issued to each prisoner accordingly. The more coupons earned, the more services and goodies they could purchase.
Read more about Camp Hearne’s POW canteen, post-exchange and utilization of labor in Michael Waters book, Lone Star Stalag: German Prisoners of War at Camp Hearne.
The Geneva Conventions of 1929 allowed prisoners to send and receive personal correspondence, including packages. Of course, all in-coming and out-going mail was examined and censored according to War Department instructions. The postage was free, but correspondence was restricted to War Department-issued POW stationery. Other rules related to the type of ink and number of letters and/or postcards that could be sent by each prisoner varied throughout the war due to backlogs and inability to efficiently process the high volume of correspondence. By 1944, each enlisted or NCO prisoner was allowed two letters and four postcards per month.1
Former POW Heino Erichsen remembers the news was always late and the censoring from both sides of the pond left some recipients with little more that a date and greeting.2
To facilitate notification of a prisoner’s internment assignment, he was issued a “Card of Capture” within a week of his arrival to each new Camp location. This dispatch allowed the prisoner to give the Camp’s name and address to his family and to specify the state of his health.
The International Red Cross Committee served as intermediary between warring nations, delivering correspondence and packages. They were also responsible for the internment camps’ inspections to insure compliance to the Geneva Conventions.
—Card of Capture, Front & Back
__________________________________________________________1 Waters, Michael R. with Mark Long & et.al. Lone Star Stalog: German Prisoners of War at Camp Hearne, 1st ed. College Station, TX: TAMU Press, 2004, p62.
Upon arrival at the prisoner’s base camp, he was issued a “ditty bag.” This was in response to the Geneva Conventions of 1929 that required treatment of prisoners to be equal to that of our own soldiers.1
The contents included basic hygiene items: • Tooth brush • Tooth powder/paste • Shaving cream • Razor and blades • Hair brush/comb • Shampoo • Bar soap
Former US Army Military Police Escort, Mr. Warlow, was stationed at Camp Hearne when the first prisoners arrived. He remembered the first group deboarding the train as wearing the same battlefield uniforms in which they were captured, dirty and bloodied. The stench was overwhelming.
Prisoner-of-war, Mr. Karl Blumenthal, remembered being very afraid of what the future held in the US camps as enemy POWs. They were surprised that they were issued new clothing, a ditty bag, a bunk bed with clean sheets, and most rememberable, HOT WATER in the showers.2
Life was not going to be too bad at Camp Hearne.
1Geneva Convention of 1929, Section II. Prisoners-of-war Camps, Chapter 1, Article 10: “Prisoners of war shall be lodged in buildings or in barracks affording all possible guarantees of hygiene and healthfulness.” 2Geneva Convention of 1929, Section II. Prisoners-of-war Camps, Chapter 3, Article 13:“…prisoners shall be furnished a sufficient quantity of water for the care of their own bodily cleanliness.”