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Germans Salvage Hurricane Timber

4 Sawmills Cut Trees Into Lumber In Camp Edwards Prisoner of War Project

The Falmouth Enterprise - May 18, 1945

Four whirring sawmills at Camp Edwards [Massachusetts] are turning out about 28,000 board feet of hurricane-felled lumber a day, with prisoners of war supplying manpower.

When the hurricane last September swept over southeastern New England it left 8,000,000 feet of timber in Cape Cod area alone. This timber, mostly pine, lay in every timbered section of the Cape, a huge loss of essential lumber and acute fire hazard. Major General Sherman Miles, Commanding General for First Service Command, sought consent of the War Department to use German Prisoners of War, imprisoned at Camp Edwards, in salvaging the wind-felled timber.

Massachusetts Department of Conservation and the War Department conducted a survey of the hurricane timber on the Cape, and the decision was made to undertake the salvage project as outlined by General Miles.

The first step was to find experienced lumber men to train prisoner crews. Stationed at East Coast Processing Center was Major E. G. Hamlin, veteran lumberman with 30 years experience in timberlands. Major Hamlin was given the task of setting up the sawmill and lumberyard.

The Camp Commander, Colonel Howard S. Patterson, arranged for mechanical equipment and saw that qualified enlisted personnel were provided to supervise yard operation. Sawmills were located in an Army engineer camp in the state of Washington. Four of these mills were shipped 3700 miles across the country to be set up at Edwards.

Training of the prisoners was completed in January and on Feb. 1 the first logs were milled. In April nearly a million feet of logs were piled in the sawmill yard. More than 200,000 running feet of lumber has been turned out and much of it has already been shipped.

Assisting Major Hamlin is 1st Lieut. Harold Snyder of McMillan, Mich., and a crew of more than 20 soldiers, some with logging experience in Maine. Lieut. Snyder was in the lumber business before entering the Army and like Major Hamlin is a graduate of University of Michigan.

The Army purchases timber from owners of property on which the felled timber lies. Pricing differs according to condition of timber. Up to $3.00 a thousand feet is paid for stumpage; up to $11.00 for logs that have been skidded and decked and are accessible by road; and up to $16.00 for logs delivered at the sawmill.

All the work of preparing stumpage and loading logs outside of the camp is done by more than 200 German prisoners. All prices paid for logs by the Army are below ceiling prices set for civilian sawmills so there is no competition with private industry sawmills in operation all of which pay more for logs than does the Army.

The lumber produced by the Cape sawmill is of course used for building purposes and is much in demand by the Army.

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