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New volume examines WWII internment camp chits

The Coin & Currency Institute has announced the release of a groundbreaking new book on the money used by World War II prisoners of war in the United States.

WWII Chits-cover

Titled The Complete Book of World War II USA POW & Internment Camp Chits, the volume details an often forgotten piece of World War II history.

Between 1942 and 1946, some 425,000 German, Italian, and even some Japanese prisoners of war were held at 700 POW camps in 46 U.S. states. All except the Japanese got here on troop transport ships that would have otherwise returned from Europe empty.

Authors Dave Frank and David E. Seelye provide a comprehensive look at one of the overlooked but intriguing aspects of the camps' operations: the money, or “chits,” that POWs used for discretionary expenses in their camps, such cigarettes, candy, paper and postage, 3.2% beer, or other items.

Why did prisoners of war have or even need money? Enlisted POWs, the book explains, were allowed to work on non-military tasks such as farming, construction, and manufacturing. For this, they were paid on a scale based on the U.S. equivalent of their military rank.

For example, a private in 1941 got 80 cents a day and an additional gratuitous 10 cents per day for necessities. Officers got paid whether they worked or not. If they chose to, they got paid extra. Some of the pay could be used to purchase canteen coupons in the form of booklets with face values of from 20 cents to $20 that could be used in the camp.

Rather than employing a unified payments system, the camps issued their own ticket-like chits in booklets prepared under contract by private printers. The first accounting of these chits was in Die Kantinenschecks der Deutschen Kriegsgefangenen in den U.S.A., written in 1953 by Albert Pick, himself a former German POW, who would go on to become a legend in world paper money.

A few other books followed, the last over 20 years ago. This latest effort by Frank and Seelye, both recognized experts on the topic, has been years in the making and is by far the most comprehensive work ever done on the subject.

WWII Chits-Interiors

The book contains brief histories for most of the camps, as well as some anecdotes. Chits and the booklets they came in are illustrated in color. Prices are given in used and new conditions, with a new numbering system devised by the authors. Historical maps, documents, and over 900 photographs are interspersed throughout.

The Complete Book of World War II USA POW & Internment Camp Chits (ISBN 978-0-87184-404-0), which runs 256 pages, is available for $39.99 from book stores, coin and paper money dealers, and internet book sellers. An e-Book version (ISBN 978-0-87184-006-6) costs $19.99.

Copies may also be obtained from the Coin & Currency Institute at P.O. Box 399, Williston, VT 05495. Add $5.75 to each order for shipping and handling. Orders may also be placed via phone at 800-421-1866, via fax at 802-536-4787, or via e-mail at Major credit cards are accepted. Sample pages may be previewed at

This article was originally printed in Bank Note Reporter. >> Subscribe today.

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