TULLAHOMA, Tenn. (WKRN)— Reading letters from war written by Nashvillian John Troxler to the family of his wife Irma Troxler.
“We were sweethearts in high school, sophomore year,” Irma says with a smile.
She has fond memories of growing up in what was once a small town. Their lives, like so many other Americans, were forever changed on December 7, 1941.
“I remember that I was in Nashville on a Sunday afternoon when President Roosevelt announced on TV that Pearl Harbor had been bombed,” Irma explains. “It was scary, but then America responded.”
And, so did her husband.
“He left to go and serve on our first wedding anniversary.”
Ms. Irma wanted to contribute while her husband was overseas.
“I took the civil service exam and got a job at Camp Forrest in the prisoner-of-war camp personnel office. I didn’t have a car. Can you imagine that?” she says laughing, “I would walk several blocks and ride with someone else to the camp.”
Camp Forrest, located in Tullahoma, was one of the Army’s largest training bases during World War II. 85,00 acres of land confiscated by the Federal government from area families. It officially became a POW camp on May 12, 1942.
The camp housed Italian and German POWs. Prisoners became laborers working at the camp hospital and on farms in the community. Japanese, German, and Italian American civilians who were arrested under a program called Alien Enemy Control were also held there.
“They kept us pretty busy. Type the names of the prisoners and where they were from, the serial numbers, and what camp they were in,” Irma recalls.
In 1940, the population in Tullahoma was 4,500. By the end of the war, it grew to 75,000, but the camp was no longer needed. The area eventually became Arnold Air Force Base. The Troxler family returned to life post-war.
“He was glad to get home,” she remembers.
The couple had two daughters, who had two sons, and now Irma has four great-grandchildren. John passed away in 2017 after 73 years of marriage. Irma turned 100 this month and she’s ready to party.
“That’s what I’m planning to do,” Irma says with family and friends by her side.