My Enemy, My Love is an outgrowth of the non-fiction book, The Enemy among Us: POWs in Missouri during WWII. That book, which was published in 2003, is a history of the 15,000 German and Italian soldiers held as prisoners in two dozen camps in Missouri between 1942 and 1946. The idea for this story, however, has existed all along. Even going back to the very first time I learned of these stateside prisoners, I wondered about what might have taken place among people brought together unexpectedly by the war. The prisoners were in a setting which often offered a great deal of freedom as they worked on farms and factories in small towns across the state, and often with very little supervision.

My first exposure to the existence of German POWs in the United States during WWII came as a young army officer at Camp Bullis, Texas, outside of San Antonio. One warm October day as we took a break from a training exercise, I sat down on a concrete cistern cover to rest for a minute in the shade. I happened to look down and there etched in the concrete next to me was the words “Built by the German soldiers, 1945.” I was astounded at this. German soldiers, our enemy, there in Texas during the war itself? This seemed almost incomprehensible and I wanted to find out more. Later, black and white photos in the engineer museum at Fort Leonard Wood of German soldiers working on farms in the countryside outside the post renewed that fascination with the prisoners of war, and in particular, the 15,000 German and Italian soldiers held in Missouri. Ultimately this carried me down the path that lead to the 2003 publication of The Enemy Among Us, for which I received the Governor’s Award for the Humanities.

This story is based on multiple accounts of romance – some real, some only longed-for — that sprang up between POWs and local people, told to me in the course of my research by those who knew the prisoners firsthand. These stories include a German who borrowed a little girl’s bike to pedal off at night to visit his lover, but who gave himself away when he parked the bike just once in a different spot upon his return. And there are more. A hole in a fence and a path through a field marking the way to a woman’s house whose husband worked away at night. Always forbidden and risky, these love stories happened nonetheless, even among the prisoners of war; yet another validation of that age-old truth that no one can be safe when Cupid starts shooting those arrows.

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