Toward the end of the war it wasn’t certain when the war would actually come to an end. An invasion of the island of Japan was still a very real possibility. Therefore, the efficient use of all available manpower was essential. In addition to Americans who were not eligible for the draft, there were Jamaicans and German prisoners of war in the mix. Two camps of Jamaicans had been established at the Mattydale Army Air Base and the POWs were housed at the old CCC camp at Green Lakes State Park. The image of the POW camps in Europe, where captured Allied soldiers were kept, seemed very high security installations compared to the one at Green Lakes. The U. S. government would provide the German POWs if the need could be justified and a place for them to live could be found and of course throw up a fence around it. After all those World War II movies, the old CCC camp sure seemed like a low security operation by comparison. There was never any mention of guards or security in all the preparations. It all just seemed like a business process.  

By the end of 1944 there were two camps of Jamaicans on the Army Air Base that were located about two miles apart. Whether there was a reason for the separation is unknown. At the first camp were 58 who were working at Oberdorfer Brass Works and 25 working at the Iroquois China Co. At the second camp were 40 who were working for the Crucible Steel Co., 20 who were working at Syracuse Chilled Plow Co. and 37 who were working at several small plants in the city. The total number of Jamaicans at the end of 1944 was about 180.

The U. S. government had made an arrangement with the British government to bring 18,000 Jamaicans to the U.S. to help alleviate the manpower shortage. Syracuse businesses managed to get their share.

§  “ Jamaica Help Takes Up Shortage in War Plants,” The Herald-Journal, Syracuse, NY, Tuesday, December 5, 1944


A city engineer and a military officer, who was in charge of prisoner of war camps, visited the former CCC camp at Green Lakes State Park. They determined that it wouldn’t take much work to ready the camp for the arrival of the German POWs[1].

This article describes in detail the methodology for justifying the need for POW labor and the process for setting up a non-profit corporation for managing the POW labor camp. The whole process seemed more like a business operation than a security detail.

§  “New Factory Needs Offset Labor Gains,” Syracuse Journal, Syracuse, NY, December 17, 1944


The Manufacturers Association of Syracuse agreed to form a non-profit membership corporation to establish a prison labor camp.

§  “Industrialist Plan Prison Labor Camp,” The Herald-Journal, Syracuse, NY, Friday, December 22, 1944


Five of the Jamaicans that were being housed at the Mattydale Army Air Base had participated in what has become a dangerous and sometimes deadly Mattydale tradition. It seems that just about everyone in Mattydale knows someone who has had an accident involving the railroad underpass on Wolf Street.

§  “ 7 Injured in Head-On Auto Crash,” The Herald-Journal, Syracuse, NY, Friday, September 14, 1945


Syracuse was facing an imminent housing shortage with the end of the war and the return of the servicemen from overseas. Every possible source of housing was being investigated. The German POWs that had been housed in the former CCC camp at Green Lakes State Park were soon to be moved to Port Byron[2]. There is some irony in the fact that POWs were being displaced to make room for returning veterans. A prison of war interment camp was becoming Veteran housing. The barracks just needed to be made into separate apartments and of course, the fence could now be taken down.



[1] “Few Repairs Needed To Use CCC Camp For War Prisoners,” The Syracuse Herald, Syracuse, NY, December 7, 1944


[2] “Green Lakes Park Urged for Housing.” The Herald-Journal, Syracuse, NY, Friday, December 7, 1945



Jamaican Laborers and German POWs