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Mortensen, Marcel

About | Abstract


Mortensen's work as a carpenter's helper installing cabinets in the prisoner of war (POW) compound at Lordsburg and his experiences driving Italian prisoners to Virden, where they worked cleaning irrigation ditches and picking potatoes and onions.

Interviewee Marcel Mortensen, male, born in 1923
Date Range 1941-1945
Date & Location July 26, 2000, Mortensen Residence, Cotton City, N.M.
Project Prisoners of War in New Mexico Agriculture
Region Southwest New Mexico
Number of Tapes 1
Transcribed August 9, 2000
Download Abstract


Tape 1, Side A

Mortensen was born in Virden, N.M., in 1923 and lived there most of his life. When he heard about the camp being built in Lordsburg, he and some friends went there and applied for jobs. They were hired as apprentice carpenters and worked with men installing cabinets in the compound. After this work was completed and before the prisoners arrived, he went back to work on the farm.

His uncle, Marion Mortensen, was a farmer in Virden growing onions, potatoes, and small grain. These are labor-intensive crops, requiring extra help at harvest time. In addition to harvesting the crops, they cleaned the irrigation ditches out by hand, an annual job. The consultant drove his uncle's pickup truck (which had a flatbed with seats rigged on it) to bring fifteen to twenty POWs from Lordsburg to Virden and back. He believes these prisoners were Italian.

One of his most vivid memories is hearing the POWs sing in harmony as they drove through Lordsburg. He reports the POWs brought their own lunches with them and while he does not remember what they ate, his impression was that it wasn't a very large lunch.

There was only one guard for the POWs and the consultant felt they did not do much — "just there as (laughs) decoration, I think." He felt the prisoners would not try to escape, as they had no place to go. He said the farmers "were tickled to death to have them." He had no opinion on how well administered the camp was or if the prisoners were being coddled, although he believes they were treated well.