‘13,000 Nights: Kossuth County Men in Axis POW Camps in WWII’

ALGONA — A new book telling the stories of the Kossuth County men who were prisoners of war during World War II is now available for purchase.

The book, “13,000 Nights: Kossuth County Men in Axis POW Camps in WWII,” tells the stories of the 29 Kossuth County men who were POWs during the war.

Jerry Yocum, vice president of the Camp Algona POW Museum Committee, was the lead writer for the book.

He said the research for the book has been done over the past four years.

One of the book’s purposes was to show the treatment of the American prisoners of war in the German and Japanese camps as compared to the POWs that were in American camps.

“It’s really the story of their confinement and how it compared to the way the German prisoners were treated here in Algona,” he said. “We had a German prison camp here that housed up to 10,000 prisoners of war. This story is a comparison of their treatment.”

According to Yocum, the prisoners that were kept in both camps weren’t treated very well, but those held in Japanese camps were treated more harshly.

“The treatment by the Japanese was far worse than the Germans,” he said. “And there was one of our prisoners from our country who died in German hands, and two in Japanese hands.”

The stories of the 29 POWs from Kossuth County vary in length, as Yocum said sometimes it was difficult to find documentation of each soldier’s experience.

“Maybe families moved away or the person hasn’t given any information about their experiences in the prison camp,” Yocum said. “Several of them kept diaries, and that was very helpful.”

Additionally, the book talks about the five men from Iowa who were prisoners of war in Germany, but once they were liberated, they came to Camp Algona to serve as prison guards.

One of those men was Melvin Yetmar, who was from Fort Dodge.

Yocum said Yetmar served with the 79th Infantry Division and spent 186 nights in a prison camp before he was brought to Camp Algona.

Though Yetmar has since passed away, Yocum said he and the book’s other contributors were able to interview him on four occasions about his experiences.

Yetmar’s brother, Eugene Yetmar, also served as a Camp Algona guard.

Those interested in purchasing the book can do so at the Camp Algona POW Museum, 114 S. Thorington St., on weekends. It can also be purchased daily at the Algona Chamber of Commerce, 123 E. State St. The book is $15.

The book can also be ordered by sending $20 cash or check to the Camp Algona POW Museum.

Yocum said right now there are 500 copies available, but there have been 500 more that have been ordered.

In addition to Yocum, the book’s contributors include Richard Schiek as contributing writer and Don Hansen as editor. Steven Ross King, who serves on the museum’s committee, was a writer, as was Annette Scherber and Jay Stowater. Allie Baker served as citation editor and Meghan Selke was citation writer.