What happened: Odin Odegard submitted a request for 100 Axis prisoners of war to help with potato farming near Princeton, Minn. He got them, too. Odegard was the former secretary of the National Potato Advisory Board, so he might have had some pull.

When: July 23, 1943.

Back story: The war had drained away able-bodied men, and Minnesota farmers needed hands to plant and harvest. The U.S. government supplied POWs to Odegard’s farm, stipulating that they be paid a wage of $3 a day. Not that the men could head into town to spend it, of course. They were confined to camps.

Not the only imports: It’s likely that Odin also had Italian dogs that had been brought over with the Italians who’d surrendered in North Africa. They were named Arno and Poocie. After life in the army, a Minnesota farm must have seemed like heaven to them.


Food for thought: The POWs did all their own cooking. The guards were so impressed by their culinary skills that they preferred to eat with the prisoners who were, it should be noted, Italian.

James Lileks