Sunday, December 30, 2007

Camp Guard's Daughter Offers Book Review

I am pleased to post below a review of Guests Behind the Barbed Wire that appeared this morning on It is written by the daughter of Jack Sisty, one of several guards at Camp Aliceville who fell in love with and married young women in the Pickens County area and later returned to Aliceville to make their home:

A Daughter of the Camp, December 30, 2007 I grew up in Aliceville, Alabama, and enjoyed almost idyllic childhood and teenage years there. I am a product of Camp Aliceville. My father was a native of Long Island, New York. He tried many times to enlist in the Army at the beginning of the war, but was turned down because he had a permanent limp from polio as an infant and a ruptured eardrum. Finally, he was allowed to enlist and was sent directly to Aliceville, Alabama, a GI at the prisoner of war camp. There he met my mother, a member of an old family in the area, who was one of the many young women who left their jobs to work at the camp; it was an exciting time for them, a chance to do something completely unexpected, and a chance to serve their country. My Mom and Dad met, courted, and married on one of my Dad's three-day passes. They lived briefly in New York, where my brother and I were born, then moved back to Alabama, to stay. I grew up listening to stories about the camp. Until recently, the history of Camp Aliceville has been largely unknown to the rest of the country. It is wonderful that more people will be made aware of the happenings there, thanks to Ms. Cook and her excellently researched and well-written book. Aliceville became richer because of the influx of GI's from all over the country, many who remained in Aliceville after the war. Aliceville became rich in culture and history, and its citizens developed a great appreciation for the arts and literature. Above all, Aliceville did exhibit a great example of the Golden Rule. It is to our credit that POW's were treated humanely and with respect - things that did not always happen in countries where our veterans were held as prisoners.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Serendipity of Friendship

During the Christmas season, I heard from Mary Lu Keef who was once the eight-year-old little girl who gave me many insights into life at Camp Aliceville during World War II. She wrote, "I have to tell you that, as a result of your book, I heard from two former Aliceville classmates that I had not seen or heard from since we moved away (from Aliceville) in 1945! Thanks to e-mail, I am now in contact with them."

In 1942, Mary Lu's family moved from New York state to Alabama so her father could take a civilian employee position at Camp Aliceville during the war. Her mother also worked at the camp hospital, and Mary Lu attended Aliceville Elementary School during that time. It was quite a change of culture and experience.

Mary Lu also wrote that she had recently found her father's Camp Aliceville pass and other ID cards belonging to him at the time of the war. She is considering visiting Aliceville in May 2008, when former German POW Hermann Blumhardt may visit with his friend John Gaffey. Hermann's wife Katie, who also provided many memories and insights for the book, was hospitalized a few months ago with a heart problem, but she has made a successful recovery and plans to visit their children in Michigan in May.