York County Women Capture German Prisoners
The July 12, 1944 front page of the Gazette and Daily shows two smiling women looking over the gate to the back yard at their farm near Indian Rock dam. Their adventure of the day before started when two men came up to that gate asking for food and water.
Mrs. Wilbur Bentzel was doing the laundry in a small outbuilding and her daughter-in-law, Grace Bentzel, was playing with her eight-month-baby in the yard when the men stopped by. They explained “in broken English,” that they were prisoners of war from Gettysburg. (A sizable POW camp had opened at Gettysburg, about 30 miles away, a short time before, providing prisoners to help harvest vegetables and fruit.)
Mrs. Bentzel and her nine-year-old, Arlene, gave the men sandwiches and applesauce, while Grace hurried to the next farm to telephone the police. David Stambaugh, one of a work crew doing repairs on the house at another farm a mile or so away, happened to pick up the party line phone where he was and overheard Grace’s call. He and six other men, Roy Jacobs, Clair Shields, Morgan Gemmill, Robert Shields, Lloyd Sipe and G. W. Robison rushed to the Bentzel farm to help out until Spring Garden Township and Pennsylvania State Police arrived. The workmen searched the Germans to make sure they weren’t armed.
Mrs. Bentzel said the prisoners were friendly, playing with the baby, and even showing her a Gazette and Daily clipping about their escape. One of the Germans may have been wearing part of his German uniform, but they were said to be also outfitted with U.S. issued shoes, blankets and raincoats.
One of the workmen, Robert Shields, was fluent in Pennsylvania Dutch. He translated that they had been captured in North Africa and had been in the U.S. for a year and a half. They said they had been hiding in the woods since their escape, which had been about a week before. The workmen had already loaded the Germans into one of their automobiles to take them to the authorities when the police arrived.
The state police turned the POWs over to the military police, who returned them to camp. The officer in charge of the camp, Captain Lawrence Thomas, said they would not be due any punishment because they had not broken any “International Law.”