|Texas had twice as many
prisoners of war during W.W.II than any other state. This was due
to the number
of military bases available
to house the prisoners and to the mild climate available in Texas.
After the war most of the
prisoners were returned to their native countries. Over 100 prisoners
are still buried in the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio.
21 Permanent Prisoner Base
Camps, mostly located on military bases
20 Temporary Branch Camps
45,000 German, Italian, and
Japanese Prisoners were interned in Texas from 1942-1945
27,000 were used in Agricultural
tasks, picking cotton, pulling corn, harvesting rice.
Others were used in the local
communities for various jobs.
Here at Camp Bowie, Brownwood,
Texas, the prisoners were buried in the Jordan Springs Cemetery as it was
located on Camp Bowie property. After the war, they were returned
to Germany. Only five men were
buried there. A
section of the Jordan Springs Cemetery was fenced off from the rest of
the cemetery and reserved exclusively for Italian prisoners of war who
succumbed to illness while interned at Camp Bowie.
Camp Bowie POW Camp
Formerly called the "Camp
Bowie Internment Camp."
Life in the POW Camp
The Camp Bowie prisoner of
war camp was activated on July 10, 1943. The camp was built in 30
days by Charley Oehler, a contractor from Galveston, Texas. The camp was
located in the valley immediately below the dam on the Brownwood Country
The camp was built inside
a wire fence with heavy barbs on top of the wire.
Camp had wooden military
style barracks, mess halls, a medical facility and a command building.
Each compound was built to routine specifications, which consisted of 72
buildings, divided into three compounds, of which 56 were barracks.
Each building measure 48'x16' and housed 18 men. This gaveCamp Bowie
a capacity for 3,000 men.
Each compound would include
four latrines, four company offices and various other buildings such as
alibrary, recreational room, shop and administration building. Large type
guard towers were located at each corner of the compound with guards, machine
guns, and dog patrols.
The first prisoners arrived
from the European Theater and consisted of 70 enlisted men and a handful
of officers. Within a month that number climbed to 1,800. By September
1943 there were 2,724 prisoners housed at the camp. Most of the prisoners
were members of Field Marshall Erwin Rommell's Afrika Korps.
The prisoners came by train
and were unloaded at the Brownwood Santa Fe Depot, and marched to the campsite,
a distance of 3 1/2 miles. The prisoners were dressed in their woolen
field gear and wearing knee-high boots, with taps on the heels. They
sang German Army marching songs as they marched to the compound.
In 1945 the camp was changed
from Army POWs to a camp for German Naval personnel.
A roster of all the prisoners
held at Camp Bowie, giving their name, rank, unit, date and when they were
The prisoners had reveille
at 5:45 am and lights were turned out at 10:00 pm. In the morning, two
classes of beginners english, then two classes for advanced english were
taught. In the afternoon, shorthand, farming, forestry, building, metal
work, electrical, radio, bookkeeping, political economy, law, history,
geography and education were taught.
Evening classes consisted
of educational lectures, special reports, organization of music groups
andmusical programs. Usually the session ended with group singing.
Each compound had a theater,
woodworking shop, and in the day rooms, were ping pong tables, billiards
tables, and three card tables. A canteen building 66'x48' was available
to the prisoners. A beer garden,measuring 130' x 60' was also available.
There were regular size soccer fields and tennis courts.
Movies were shown twice a
week, both American and German films. The camps' 10 piece orchestra
played for evening entertainment and the theater group performed at least
every two months. The orchestra became a very professional group
of musicians. The entire POW camp would attend their performances.
They had an outside farm,
which encompassed 125 acres. This farm was located very near the
prisoner compound, and today houses the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's
T. R. Havins Unit. They produced most of their own fruit and vegetables.
On the first inspection by
the U.S. Provost Marshall's office and the Swiss Legation they noted that
"Camp Bowie was not very attractive and presented a somewhat drab appearance."
On the second inspection
they stated that "Considerable improvement of the area within the stockade
has been made by the prisoners."
Last inspection of the camp
was held on July 1-3, 1945 and stated that "The camp consisting of threecompounds,
of which only two are being used today, in which 2,032 men are detained
as follows: Officers - 2, N.C.O.'s - 143, Enlisted Men - 1,828 and protected
personnel - 59, all Germans."
There were in the hospital
98 patients, 74 of whom were battle casualties. A large number of
patients are being treated from the fact that last October 685 battle casualties
were brought to Camp Bowie for treatment. On duty was one American
doctor, one American dentist, three German doctors and one German Dental
captured, is posted in
the Annex of the Brown County Museum of History in Brownwood. Included
in the prisoners were General Rommel's North African units, Cherbourg Area
(Normandy), Hamburg Area - most were Nazi U-boat and Submarine Units, the
famous SS (Elite Detachment) and the SA (Storm Detachment) Divisions, 87
mine sweepers and three German Air Force personnel.
The prisoners were generally
cooperative and obedient. They seemed to wish to please very much.
discipline among the
prisoners were rigidly enforced by German officers and N.C.O.'s.
Heinrich Krahforst Story | POW Ernest
Gies Story | Play "Minna von Barnhelm"
of Murals | Equipment List | POW
Cemetery | Interesting Stories |
Information for this
page was obtained from many differerent sources including stories in the
Bulletin, documents from the Army Service Forces, Eighth Service Command,
The Handbook of Texas Online, the Louene Bishop Collection and personal
to Brown County History Home Page