'Playing With the Enemy' based on Ruston's WWII POW camp - shollis, Tech Talk
An informal group of authors, historians and archivists gathered at Louisiana Tech on Wednesday, Feb. 27, to discuss the university's role in documenting this area's distinctive World War II story -- that of Camp Ruston, the second largest U.S. prisoner of war site during that era.
Camp Ruston was located in Lincoln Parish about seven miles northwest of Ruston at the site of what is now the Ruston Developmental Center, 2776 Highway 150 W.
One of the participants in the gathering was Gary Moore of Bourbonnais, Ill., author of "Playing with the Enemy," a book recounting his father’s involvement with Camp Ruston. A movie of the same name is set to be released in the near future.
Moore’s book chronicles how his father, Gene Moore, served in the Navy during World War II and overcame communication barriers between Americans and the German prisoners of war by using baseball.
While Gary Moore used mostly oral history to document his father's saga, he is also interested in Tech's extensive Camp Ruston collection housed in Prescott Library's department of special collections, manuscripts and archives.
Tech archivist Peggy Carter said when one of the camp's remaining buildings was razed in recent years, three truckloads of information was brought to the Tech archives.
Ruston resident Wesley Harris, also the author of a book on Camp Ruston, said of Tech's collection: "I've been looking at it for years, and I haven't seen it all yet."
Carter said with so much going on in the world today, Moore's book and movie are extremely timely.
"This (Camp Ruston) has touched the lives of everyone in this area," she said, citing the tales told by both employees and prisoners, the remaining memorabilia, and other facets of the Camp Ruston experience.
Moore spoke of the marketing principle "lack of availability creates demand." World War II veterans are dying every day, he said, and taking their history with them.
Carter concurred: "It's still sitting around in attics." If only the veterans and their families knew what to look for, she added, more donations might be made to the archives. "Don't trash our history," she pleaded.
Moore hopes the Camp Ruston-based movie will generate somebody who says, "Oh, I've got something in my trunk that relates to that."
In fact, many North Louisiana residents have never heard of the camp. In a Shreveport meeting of lawyers last week at which Moore spoke, less than one-half the audience even knew of its existence.
Yet at its peak, the camp housed between 3,000 and 4,000 prisoners. Many came from North Africa; others came from the captured German U-505 submarine. The latter were sent to the camp and kept in isolation to prevent word from spreading that the Allies had obtained secret German naval codes.
In book form, only 30 percent of "Playing With the Enemy" occurs at Camp Ruston. In the movie 90 percent occurs there, Moore said, explaining that a reconstruction of the site is being built in British Columbia.
"Playing With the Enemy," which has won an award from The Military Writer’s Society of America, is scheduled to come out in paperback this month.
It's based on true events concerning Moore's father, who had a promising pro baseball career as a catcher that was interrupted by World War II. An injury during the final days of Camp Ruston prevented him from fulfilling that dream.
"The book is very historically correct," Carter said. "The t's are crossed and the i's are dotted." She believes it can be used in secondary schools as a teaching instrument. "It's appealing to all ages," she said. "It's all about second chances. I'm thankful we at Louisiana Tech have a part to play in it."
The Web site, playingwiththeenemy.com/movie.htm, says the producer is Gerald Molen, who has produced or co-produced "Shindler's List," "Jurassic Park," "Rain Man," "Minority Report" and other movies.
Ted Savas of Savas Beatie publishing company also attended Wednesday's meeting in the archives and said Harris' book on Camp Ruston, "Fish out of Water," has been licensed by the movie studio as one of the sources for the book. Savas said his company plans to release an expanded version of the book, perhaps doubled or tripled in size, that will come out under a new title in 2009.
Source: Playing With The Enemy