David Fiedler, a former captain in the U. S. Army Reserve, is now an independent writer living in St. Louis, Missouri. He is currently working on his newest historical fiction and counter part novel My Enemy, My Love, is the author of The Enemy Among Us, and is our latest author spotlight!
Why was MO chosen as a place to host POWs?
Missouri was chosen as a place to host POWs since its relatively sparse population and distance from the coasts made government planners think that there would be less chance for successful escape and/or sabotage attempts. Plus a heavy agricultural economy meant that their was a great need for POW labor. Eventually German and Italian prisoners were housed in virtually every state in the continental US.
What is (was?) your specialty or role in the U.S. Army Reserve?
In the U.S. Army Reserve, I served as an officer in a field hospital. I was responsible for the non-medical side of hospital operations, i.e., hospital defense, vehicles, supply, food service, etc. We joked that our job was to draw fire away from the doctors and nurses.
It was in training for this position that I first encountered physical traces of the POWs here in the U.S. when I saw etched into the concrete of a well cover on a Texas army post the words, “Built by the German soldiers, 1945” And at annual training (the two-week summer camp duty that reservists perform) at Fort Leonard Wood, I saw a handful of black and white photos of German POWs working outside the post in towns nearby like St. James and Waynesville that drove my interest in this story here.
What is your favorite place you have travelled to?
Related to my interest in this story, I have had the good fortune to spend some time in Germany. A summer language program in Goettingen in 1991 gave me useful skills in this research, and a two-week summer exchange with a German army medical unit in 1997 helped both develop valuable contacts and gave me real-life context for use in the fictional counterpart, a novel that is paired with The Enemy Among Us that came out this past fall.
What was your favorite book in college?
Anything that didn’t have heavy mathematics.
What other historical events fascinate you/spark your interest?
I am interested in relatively recent Missouri history (i.e., 20th century) and how these events still influence us today. For instance, the story of Harry Truman and his rise from relative obscurity into prominence and power in part thanks to the backing of the Pendergast political machine is very fascinating to me. I have been reading about Charles Lindbergh a lot lately too with his ties to Missouri. His flight across the Atlantic propelled him to a fame that he didn’t seem to enjoy and his fate as a private individual (who sometime expressed unpopular opinions) who was thrust very much into the spotlight is interesting to me as well.
How was it finding and interviewing people who experienced/knew about the POW situation for both of your books?
A very nice aspect about this story for me was in talking to people who were excited and usually glad to talk about their role in the POW history. It didn’t hold the same difficult and tragic memories of wartime experiences that others faced who spent longer time in battle. For many people, they saw it as a very positive dimension of the war, both surprising and touching that people could make these heartfelt connections and very pleasant memories when it was in fact the war that brought them together, initially as enemies, and if nothing else, as people inclined to be suspicious/distrustful/hateful toward the other.