Julia Street with Poydras the Parrot

Julia
U.S. Immigration Station in Algiers. Alexander Allison photo courtesy of New Orleans Public Library

Dear Julia,

I have a question about the transport of German prisoners of war through the Port of New Orleans during World War II.

When I was a young boy of nine, I traveled, during the war, by train with my aunt to Memphis, Tennessee to attend the ceremony where her son received his Marine Air Core Wings after graduating from the Naval Reserve Flight Training Center. The train we traveled on was full of German prisoners, guarded by Army MP’s. The prisoners seemed to have a free run of the train, moving from car to car with few restrictions. Being young and having seen the news reels about the war in the theaters every week, I found this very disturbing and uncomfortable.

The trip went without any problems and I was impressed with the ceremony. It made me want to enlist and fight. Be careful what you wish for. I got to serve during the Korean War and fortunately did not have to fight on the front lines.

My question is: was New Orleans a regular port of entry for prisoners coming to the United States during the war? I do not remember seeing, hearing or reading anything about this operation going on in the city.

As a point of interest, we recently lived near Crossville, a small town in Tennessee, where they had a prison camp for German officers. This may have been where the prisoners were headed to back in the 1940s.

I know Poydras is too young to remember this, but maybe his father told him what was going on during that time. I know they had to be careful flying around New Orleans with all of those Navy planes in the air. Thomas Roberts (Fort Mill, South Carolina)

In July 1941, New Orleans was designated a Port of Embarkation for the U.S. Army.  Located at the head of Poland Avenue, the Port of Embarkation was one of several Louisiana military installations to house German prisoners of war during WWII.

Across the river in Algiers, the former U.S. Immigration Station saw wartime service as an Enemy Alien Detention Center. It was located on Patterson Street between Horace and Flanders Streets and was demolished in March 1959.  

In neighboring Jefferson Parish, Camp Plauche also housed German prisoners of war. Located in Harahan near the Huey P. Long bridge, the camp was later demolished.

 

Dear Julia,

While taking a shortcut between River Road and Jefferson Highway, I noticed a line of older oak trees along Brookhollow. Do you happen to know what occupied the site before it became an office park? Fred Bourgeois’ (New Orleans)

Although the oaks are mature, I believe they are relatively young compared to survivors of plantation days like their neighbors at Elmwood. None of them appear to be members of the Live Oak Society, which honors the state’s largest and most venerable oaks. 

For almost half a century, the site was home to the Freiberg Lumber Company. In 1916, the Illinois Central Railroad leased part of its Harahan property to the Freiberg Lumber Company of Cincinnati, Ohio, which made mahogany veneer and other products. In 1965, the Brookhollow Corporation of Dallas, Texas, announced plans to redevelop the 25-acre site, which would become Brookhollow Business Park.

   

Dear Julia and Poydras,

I remember, not too long after Hurricane Camille, when some Mississippi fishermen said they were abducted by space aliens. Do you remember that? Where, exactly, did it happen? R.O. Smith (New Orleans)

In the fall of 1973, Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker, Jr., both of Pascagoula, Mississippi, attracted worldwide attention after claiming that, on the night of October 11, a trio of short reddish extraterrestrial beings abducted them as they fished along the Pascagoula River. The men alleged the beings took them aboard an alien vessel and proceeded to examine them before eventually returning them to their fishing spot. Last summer, the city of Pascagoula dedicated a commemorative historic marker in Lighthouse Park recalling the famous and controversial 1973 incident which is said to have occurred nearby.

 


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