4 months ago

Camp Aliceville housed thousands of German POWs in Alabama during WWII

During World War II, the battles raging overseas must have seemed a world away for most Americans. But the conflict was closer to home than they realized, with thousands of German prisoners of war housed at an internment camp in a small rural community in west central Alabama.

In Aliceville, 36 miles west of Tuscaloosa, the more than 830-acre camp held up to 6,000 POWs and was one of the largest of its kind in the United States. Although the camp opened in 1942, it was not until the following summer that the first trainload of POWs arrived in town.

Camp Aliceville, which remained in operation until 1945, was almost a home away from home for the POWs, said John Gillum, executive director of the Aliceville Museum. Along with barracks for the prisoners, there was a hospital, mess halls, several small theaters and a recreation area. The prisoners had their own orchestra and brass band, produced plays, grew flowers and vegetables, and held gardening competitions.

“The United States government had resolved to maintain a high level of treatment for prisoners in hopes that the countries holding our men would do the same for them,” Gillum said. “When German visitors come to our museum, they tell us to a person that their father or grandfather who stayed at the camp said it was the best time of his life.”

Gillum said a former POW told him that his positive introduction to America persuaded him to make the U.S. his permanent home. Although authorities had asked Aliceville citizens to stay home, most everyone in town turned out at the train depot to greet the newcomers.

“He told me the Germans thought they were being taken to the United States to be killed,” Gillum said. “When they got off the train in Aliceville, there was a mob scene, but nothing actually happened. That’s when he thought, ‘If this is how Americans treat their enemies, I’m going to come back here.’”

Aliceville Museum showcases Alabama city’s history, from pop to patriots to POWs from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

The little that remains of the camp is now part of the Aliceville Industrial Park. A historic marker is near what was once the camp’s main entrance. Otherwise, there is a lone chimney that was part of the noncommissioned officers club as well as the now partially collapsed maintenance building.

Although there’s not much to see at the camp, visitors can travel about one mile to the Aliceville Museum, where the German POW Camp collection is one of four featured exhibits. The hundreds of artifacts on display include POW letters, books, furniture and musical instruments, as well as their paintings, sculptures, ceramics, woodworking, metal crafts and newsletters.

Another popular exhibit is the Coca-Cola collection. It’s no wonder. The museum is housed in the old Aliceville Coca-Cola bottling plant, which operated from 1948 until 1978.

The only remaining intact small-town bottling company in the nation, the building still contains all the original equipment just as it was installed when the facility opened. Coca-Cola memorabilia, photos and documents are on display.

“The room is set up so you could walk in there and get a real good idea of how the plant was run in the 1940s,” Gillum said.

The museum features two other exhibits – the American Heroes and the City of Aliceville collections. The American Heroes room is filled with memorabilia and artifacts dating from World War I to the present and honors Alabama patriots from every branch of the military.

The City of Aliceville exhibit traces the history of the community from its founding in 1902. It includes a general store with 1930s vintage clothing, merchandise and documents from an Aliceville mercantile and hundreds of photos taken by one of Alabama’s first female professional photographers, Willie Gardner.

The Alabama Power Foundation is a longtime supporter of the museum and has provided funding to help with various improvements and upgrades, such as replacing an old air-conditioning system and installing window blinds.

“We are very pleased and thankful to have Alabama Power as one of our corporate sponsors,” Gillum said. “Their donations have been valuable in allowing us to maintain the exhibits and the building.”

Alabama Power Reform Office Manager Andrea Ellis said the company and the foundation are proud to have a hand in helping the museum share the story of Aliceville.

“The museum plays an integral part in preserving the city’s history and provides visitors a unique perspective through its various exhibits,” Ellis said. “The financial support the foundation provides allows the museum to bring in new exhibits and expand its existing exhibits with new artifacts and photographs that help further enrich the stories being told there. We are pleased that we can play a small part in helping to make that happen.”

The museum began in one room of the local public library. Today, it is housed in its own large facility in downtown Aliceville, with three buildings, a courtyard and a plaza.

Between 2,000 and 3,000 people from all over the world tour the museum every year, Gillum said. In just the past six months, visitors have included people from one-third of Alabama’s counties, 25 states, Puerto Rico, Germany, Canada, the Philippines and Israel. Many of them are family members of former German POWs or others connected with the camp.

“We get a lot of people here who are curious about what went on at the camp,” Gillum said. “We show them that we took care of our prisoners 75 years ago and, as a result, they leave with a good impression of our country. The neat thing is we’re a positive story with positive outcomes.”

For a closer look at the museum, check out http://www.alicevillemuseum.org/.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

47 mins ago

Doug Jones on Trump impeachment inquiry: ‘Not a witch hunt … not a hoax, it’s not fake news’

Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) continues to say he has not made up his mind one way or the other on the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, however on Thursday he made it very clear that he believes in the need for the process to play out, pushing back on Republican arguments that this is a political exercise by Democrats.

Per WHNT, Jones in a conference call with reporters on Thursday once again noted his role essentially as a juror in the Senate if the House impeaches the president. Jones has said it would be improper for him or any of his colleagues to have made up their minds on whether they would vote to convict Trump already, as the trial needs to be held, evidence examined and witnesses heard from.

Yet, Alabama’s junior senator did seem to land on one side of the aisle when it comes to his remarks on the ongoing impeachment inquiry in the House, which was launched with no Republicans voting for it and even two Democrats voting against it.

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“Everything that you’re seeing, though, is not a witch hunt. It’s not a hoax, it’s not fake news,” Jones said, according to WHNT.

“This is a serious constitutional matter the founders of this country envisioned a long time ago,” he added. “This is not about an individual. It is not about one person. It is about the conduct of the presidency and how we want future presidents to conduct themselves while in office.”

Republicans across the nation — including many Alabama elected officials — have sharply criticized the impeachment inquiry.

In a statement to WHNT, Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) — well respected as one of the country’s preeminent statesmen — shared a divergent view from Jones on the impeachment inquiry.

“This effort to impeach the President is a political circus engineered by the Democrats, distracting us from the important work we need to complete for the American people,” Shelby stated.

“If and when an impeachment resolution comes to the Senate, I will sit as a juror and carefully consider any evidence presented to reach a conclusion based on the facts – as outlined in our Constitution,” Alabama’s senior senator concluded.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

2 hours ago

Tagovailoa on injury recovery odds: ‘Bible says walk by faith and not by sight’

University of Alabama star quarterback Tua Tagovailoa held a press conference on Thursday in Tuscaloosa, answering a wide range of questions on topics such as being injured last month against Mississippi State; his decision making process related to whether he will leave for the NFL Draft or not; and what his recovery prospects look like.

After beginning the press conference with a seeming impersonation of Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban, Tagovailoa began answering questions, many similar to ones he addressed earlier this week on whether he will opt to enter the NFL Draft or come back to UA for his senior season.

He described the immediate moments after he injured his right hip — when he was still down lying on the field. The QB called the injury “traumatic” and explained that since he was also concussed, it was essentially a blur other than remembering he was in significant pain.

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Tagovailoa was soon thereafter asked what it is like now, not knowing whether he will truly be able to recover from the injury after surgery — or play football at or near the level he is accustomed to.

The Hawaii native, who has never been shy to speak about his deep faith in God, gave a very frank answer.

“I firmly believe in the Bible, and the Bible says you walk by faith and not by sight. So, that’s pretty much what I’m holding onto — just trusting the good Lord. He’s the best doctor for me and what I believe in,” Tagovailoa said. “I feel this is something that is bigger than me.”

He also expressed his confidence in the many medical professionals and athletic training staff helping him throughout the process.

Dr. Lyle Cain, Bama’s team orthopedic surgeon from Andrews Sports Medicine and Orthopedic Clinic at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Birmingham, has previously said that Tagovailoa’s “prognosis is excellent” after the surgery, which the doctor called “successful.”

“[W]e expect him to make a full recovery,” Cain added.

Tagovailoa on Thursday added, “I feel like I’ll still be able to come back 100% and be able to play to the capability that I’m able to play at.”

He concluded the press conference by noting he is now probably facing “the biggest decision” of his life when it comes to staying at UA or leaving.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

14 hours ago

Tuberville campaign offering plastic straws as stocking stuffers — ‘Can you believe Democrats won’t even say Merry Christmas?’

Former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville, currently a Republican U.S. Senate candidate in Alabama, on Thursday took on Democrats on two issues unique to the times.

First, his online campaign store is now selling plastic straws with “Tuberville 2020” printed on them as stocking stuffers, per a Facebook post. This comes amid the national movement towards paper straws from the left. Plastic straws are even being banned from restaurant usage in Democrat controlled cities like Seattle and Washington, D.C., as well as the state of California.

“While liberals are banning straws, we’re making them the perfect stocking gift for Christmas! Show your support for Coach Tuberville this Christmas season,” his campaign posted.

Additionally, the very premise of saying “Merry Christmas” — or celebrating it at all– is once again making the rounds on social media after Salon in recent days published an article from one of its “reporters” about how President Donald Trump supposedly “ruined” Christmas. In this article, this reporter claims she will now not celebrate the holiday because of Trump and his supporters, asserting that Christmas has become symbolic of “white supremacist America.”

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“Can you believe Democrats won’t even say Merry Christmas?” Tuberville lamented to conclude his Facebook post.

This came on the day of the annual National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony on the Ellipse at President’s Park in front of the White House.

Watch:

Trump is also set to hold at least one “Merry Christmas rally” this month.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

15 hours ago

Rogers: ‘Nancy Pelosi has fully surrendered all control of the House to the Socialist horde’

In a Thursday statement, Congressman Mike Rogers (AL-03) blasted U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) decision to proceed with articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump.

“Sadly, but with confidence and humility, with allegiance to our founders and our heart full of love for America, today, I am asking our chairmen (of relevant committees) to proceed with articles of impeachment,” Pelosi announced in a brief televised statement from the Capitol earlier in the day.

Rogers tore into the announcement.

“Even after all of Adam Schiff’s disastrous lies to the American people, Speaker Pelosi has decided to proceed with the partisan coup attempt against President Trump,” he stated. “The Democrats in Congress should be ashamed of themselves. They are using impeachment as means to try and nullify the 2016 election and erase the votes of almost 63 million Americans just because of their pathetic hatred of our president.”

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“In her statement, Speaker Pelosi cited our Founding Fathers and declared no one is above the law,” Rogers continued. “I am curious if she ever asked that question about Hillary Clinton or Joe Biden?”

The east Alabama congressman outlined a few of the important priorities Democrats are ignoring to instead conduct this “coup attempt.”

“Instead of working on behalf of the American people by passing a bipartisan Defense Authorization bill, USMCA or a full year spending bill, Nancy Pelosi has fully surrendered all control of the House to the Socialist horde running the Democratic Party,” Rogers concluded. “Their shameful action today casts a stain on our Constitution. The American people will remember their despicable behavior next November. I will continue to stand and defend President Trump.”

Former independent prosecutor Ken Starr, best known for leading the investigation into then-President Bill Clinton that resulted in his impeachment, appeared on Fox News Channel on Thursday and decried Pelosi’s decision as an “abuse of power.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

15 hours ago

Alabama Power, C Spire announce broadband partnership coming to Birmingham area

BIRMINGHAM — More broadband services will soon be coming to Alabamians in the Birmingham metropolitan area, including parts of Shelby County, thanks to Alabama Power Company and C Spire.

At a Thursday press conference at Regions Field, a new partnership was announce between the two companies similar to one they announced in Jasper last month.

Alabama Power’s existing fiber infrastructure will be used for what is called “the middle mile,” while C Spire will in some areas build out “the last mile,” which is an industry term meaning the final portion connecting the service to a consumer’s residence or business (the length is not always a mile or even close to it — it can be a matter of feet or several miles).

Executives from both companies attended the press conference, along with Alabama Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper), Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin and Jasper Mayor David O’Mary.

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Tony Smoke, Birmingham division vice president for Alabama Power, said that even though the company itself is not the broadband service provider, Alabama Power is proud to be able to help bring the service to their customers — as “customers are at the center” of everything they do.

“We are thrilled to welcome C Spire to Birmingham and other parts of our state,” Smoke stated, saying being able to provide this type of positive economic impact “is what we’re all about.”

“We are committed to communities across our state,” he emphasized, explaining that even in northern areas of Alabama where the company does not provide electric services, Alabama Power still actively helps with economic development projects. “We do this because we care about Alabama. Our employees are in these cities, are in these communities. They live there. So, this kind of project … is huge for our employees, huge for our communities. We are proud and honored to serve in that role.”

“It may be a pun, but we do believe that fiber infrastructure helps us have better connections with our communities and makes our communities stronger,” he added.

This type of partnership, in which a broadband provider can utilize an electric utility’s existing infrastructure and right-of-ways, was made possible through legislation championed by the likes of the Alabama Rural Broadband Coalition this past session — HB 400, which was sponsored by State Rep. Randall Shedd (R-Cullman) and championed by Reed. Additionally, SB 90 was passed to expand eligibility for and update a state grant program for broadband expansion.

“I’m proud of the role we played in creating this opportunity for Alabama communities,” Reed said. “But I am even prouder of the partnerships that we have forged with C Spire, Alabama Power and others and the investment they are making in our state. That investment will pay dividends for consumers and businesses.”

He emphasized the importance of high-speed internet access to the present and future success of the state.

“If Alabama is going to be everything we want her to be economically, we must include all the areas of our state in that boon — in that opportunity and that growth,” Reed stressed. “And as we’ve seen Alabama’s economy be super strong, it is not as strong in certain urban areas, it is not as strong in some rural areas. And some of the reason [for that] is because we don’t have internet services … it’s a must for us to be able to move Alabama forward.”

Reed and O’Mary both touched on the fact that while Jasper is certainly a very different size and type of city than Birmingham, they are bonded together because they both face a “digital divide.”

Woodfin explained that while many people assume all of the City of Birmingham has ideal internet access, that is simply not the case. Reed reiterated this and said this applies to other larger population centers across the state, as well as more rural areas.

“You would think in certain areas of the state where you have [interstate] highways and the like, that there would be easy access to the internet superhighway. That’s not always the case,” Reed commented.

“As I’ve said before, no matter where they live, every single student, family, worker and business owner in Alabama should have access to fast, reliable internet that allows them to thrive in the 21st-century economy,” he added. “It’s through partnerships like this one that we are working to make that a reality.”

C Spire is a privately-held Mississippi-based telecommunications and technology company, with no affiliation with the gas company Spire. C Spire’s president and CEO Hu Meena spoke during the press conference and with members of the media after the event.

Meena encouraged other municipal leaders from across the Birmingham area and Alabama as a whole to reach out to them to express their desire to have the company come in and offer broadband services.

The company will offer all-fiber Gigabit speed broadband internet access and related services to homes and businesses in Alabama beginning in 2020, and Meena stressed that exact service locations and timelines will primarily be determined by customer demand. Meena said another announcement will be coming on how municipal leaders — and potential customers — can express their interest in the services.

“Today is a big day in the life of our company,” Meena stated. “While we’ve had a presence in southern Alabama (Mobile) for decades and our Alabama headquarters are here in the Birmingham area, we plan to make our all-fiber broadband services available to homes and businesses across the state next year.”

C Spire is looking for areas of Alabama enthusiastic about broadband services, similar to the high level of interest expressed by both O’Mary and Woodfin.

“The communities that want this game-changing infrastructure and services the most will get it first,” Meena explained.

Woodfin certainly showed his enthusiasm during his speech, as well as beforehand — energetically making his way throughout the standing-room-only crowd and thanking seemingly each and every person for attending.

“This is a great investment in the future of Birmingham and our metro area,” Woodfin said at the podium.

The Magic City mayor delivered powerful remarks on how important high-speed broadband services are to not just the modern digital economy but to quality of life in general — as well as other areas like education.

“In Birmingham, we are committed to creating an inclusive economy that provides the best opportunities in education, workforce development and entrepreneurship for everyone,” Woodfin advised, noting that technology investment and broadband infrastructure by C Spire are critical to the city’s economic future.

Reed added that especially in rural areas, broadband is increasingly important for healthcare through telemedicine.

“The city of Birmingham has always been a city of builders,” Woodfin concluded, saying that this partnership in building out fiber infrastructure is just the latest example.

For more information about C Spire’s broadband plans in Alabama, click here.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn