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Camp Michaux

A story about Camp Michaux, a camp that housed POW’s in World War 2. It is located near Pine Grove Furnace in Cumberland County PA.

In 1944 (when I was in diapers) four of my uncles were dodging German bullets in Europe, helping to liberate the French from Nazi Germany. One uncle, Nesber Gilton Brandt had already died in Italy. Two of the four, Vernie Brandt returned unscathed but Ferman McCans, returned with a steel plate replacing bone in his head. The other two, Kenneth Brandt and Robert Heller were not as lucky, they returned with minds scrambled by what they saw and did. My dad (Ralph Roscoe Brandt) was working in the food industry, he was declared vital to the operation and was deferred. That deferral carried a freeze in pay at 1941 level. Part of his job involved picking up a truck load of prisoners each day at Camp Michaux near Gardners, PA. For those who are not familiar with Gardners, it is near Idaville – the Mt. Idy Charlie Weaver talked about. These prisoners worked at the plant my dad did, Adams Apple at Aspers, PA.

During this time there was a traumatic event for him. A German soldier that he said was not an “SS” died at the plant. I am not sure any of the men there were real Waffen SS but he considered the militants SS. The man’s death was ruled a suicide but I know there was one person who was sure it was not, my dad. He had just lost a brother (Nesber Gilton Brandt) in this war and in spite of our German background he had little use for anything German. This one man somehow impressed him so that I don’t think he ever saw him as a German soldier. He saw him as a husband and father who worked hard during work hours and during lunches went off to himself, ate his lunch and looked at pictures of his family. I believe my dad saw him as a representative of the brother he lost in Italy, a farmer and mechanic who somehow wound up on a battlefield much the same as his brother. He called the man one of the best mechanics he ever knew and like me, he respected someone who was skilled in his work. It is possible the man worked to maintain his sanity.

My dad never believed the man took his own life. He felt the “SS” men killed him because he seemed to be cooperating too much.

Some time ago my two older sisters and I spent an evening together working on genealogy. My one sister mentioned that a man had spoken at a meeting she attended about the camp. I mentioned that I wondered who that German soldier was. I never expected an answer.

Two days later I talked to my sister. She checked with the man who gave the speech. He came back with an answer. He believes the man was a Private in the German Army named Georg Hartig, 38 years old, died Nov 3 1944. There is a story about it in the Aspers PA. Gettysburg Compiler. The story says he was hanged which agrees with the account my dad gave. The man made an interesting comment to my sister that puts a light on this. He observed that it would have been difficult for the man to hang himself with his hands tied behind his back. The story clearly says the man’s hands were tied behind his back! (How did his hands get tied I wondered.)

So this man in reading the story came to the same conclusion my dad did and the one the authorities ignored. I now ask a couple of questions. Is there any of this man’s family alive? Has anyone ever told them how he died over 60 years ago? Let’s face it, they could have all been killed in bombings. But I don’t know that. I don’t even have any idea what part of Germany he was from.

There is something about this that feels like unfinished business, something my dad maybe should have done but probably lacked even the place to start.

Other Articles by Ralph Brandt

Obama and Kennedy: BHO and JFK Aug 30, 2008

Churches That Get Government Money

Financial Help in These Trying Times

Anonymous and Irresponsible: the Radical Left

The Comparison of the Assassinations of Kennedy and Lincoln

Relationship of Church and State

An End to Complacency

I’m Going on
Compromise in the Church
Come Away My Beloved
Communion
Contradictions – Science and Religion

Christian Perspective On Hatred Feb 20, 2007

 

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  1. Ralph Brandt

    On May 28, 2007 at 5:01 pm


    This site is the only place I have ever seen this statement and it is wrong. The top secret camp in the area was not Michaux but Kings Gap, which is now the Masland Estate. This is about 5 miles from Michaux and is closer to the Army War College at Carlisle PA. If this was a secret camp, why did the Army unload the prisoners in daylight at the railroad crossing and march them to the camp? Local boys that lived next door to me actually threw stones at the prisoners. One of the historians who has studied Michaux interviewed a man who’s last name was Beam and he told the historian that he and his brother did that. The people who lived next door to us in “Myers’ Row” had a surname of Beam and they were among the boys who stoned prisoners. The army ran them off when they did it. I will be posting more on this – including information about the place…

    BTW, My dad transported prisoners in a truck that he drove home each night, I remember the truck. He told us he picked up prisoners at Michaux and stories about the trips.

  2. Amy Snider

    On April 11, 2009 at 8:57 pm


    Prisoners were interrogated at Michaux, so it is possible Ralph Brandt is correct. I just toured the site today. Our guide was from the Cumberland Valley Historical Society. We were told the prisoners were transported there by buses whose windows were blacked out. They only knew they were somewhere on the eastern coast of the U.S.

  3. Ralph Brandt

    On April 11, 2009 at 11:08 pm


    Amy. The CVHS will not listen to the people who were there and worked with the prisoners, the ones who transported them (My dad did most of it) or anyone else that falls outside what they think. The secrete camp was kings gap.
    There was also a camp at the Gettysburg battlefield that my dad picked up prisoners at and they deny that one existed!
    The G-Burg military park doesn’t want the German camp recognized because that would create conflicts for them.
    Let me give you this. Just this evening my sisters who are 5 and 6 years older than me and were 7-9 during the war remember the prisoners being marched up the road from Hunters Run Railroad Station to the pine grove road and then up to the camp. At times they took them off the train at the pine grove road crossing. They were marched out in the open for 12 miles! Secret camp my foot… And the Beam boys who lived next door to us (Leroy was the one’s first name) threw stones at the prisoners till the guards ran them off.
    We lived this.

  4. Ralph Brandt

    On April 11, 2009 at 11:10 pm


    They came in on a train… If they came in on buses it would not have been necessary to march them up the road.

    One prisoner escaped and they had a tank across the road from my home, I remember that.

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