The Germans and the Riverbed

Informant: The subject in question is a 20 year old girl studying screenwriting at USC. She hails from Phoenix, Arizona, while most of her extended family comes from Western Kansas.

So, I’m from Arizona and Arizona is very hot. There’s not a lot of water. Arizona likes to pretend though that it’s not hot and it has a lot of water. It likes to pretend that it’s like everywhere else and not dry. Except with Daylight Savings. This was true back in WWII and before, when they named places. Like calling them fields or valleys or rivers even though they weren’t what you’d think of as a field or valley or river. And back in WWII the U.S. government used to use a place in Arizona as a place to hold German prisoners of war. And there were three German POWs who were captured and taken to Arizona. And like anyone in Arizona, they desperately wanted to get out, in addition to the whole POW thing. And they found this map, of the Phoenix area. And they saw that there was a river that would run away. And if they went to it and took a boat they could just float away and escape. So they plan an elaborate escape and they get to where the river is. But there is no river. Just a riverbed. Or what used to be a riverbed. Or just a long dirt path. So then they were recaptured and became reprisoners of war.
Why is this story significant to you?
I just think it’s funny. And it makes my hometown memorable, like it’s never what it seems. And twists convention. Like we had a heat day. Never had a snow day, just a heat day in Arizona.                               Who did you hear this from?
I either heard it from my dad or one of my Arizona history buff friends.


This story serves as a sort of local flavor, something passed around a geographical community. It is inextricably tied to the location that birthed it, commenting as it does on the idiosyncratic nature of the area and exploring how that nature might have impacted somebody. In addition to these Phoenix-specific traits, the story also caters to feelings of American nationalism by portraying the Nazi characters within it as bumbling and incompetent, like characters out of Hogan’s Heroes.