Not much was made public about the former POW camp here until recent events brought to light the area's history.
In the 1940's the entire area around here consisted of the 640 acre Marion Engineer Depot, and a 13,000 acre munitions facility. Most of this land was purchased by the U.S. Government from local families and land owners. In all, almost 200 people were bought out and had to relocate. The Marion Engineer Depot continued in operation until 1961, however the munitions facility closed just months after the end of World War II. Most of the buildings and land from the munitions facility were sold back to local civilians who used the buildings for barns and homes. The Marion Engineer Depot was turned into the industrial center that it is today. The eastern end of the land was sold to build River Valley Middle and High School.
During the short time between its closing in 1961, and the late 1990's little was known or said about the former POW camp that was here. It wasn't well known, and the information wasn't made readily public until it was noticed that there was a higher than normal cancer rate among students who had graduated from River Valley High School. It was soon noted that the land upon which the school was built was part of a dump for the Marion Engineer Depot. During the many soil and air quality tests that were done, the EPA found high levels of arsenic in a particular area of the school grounds. After researching why this may be it was realized that the area used to be a rail entrance for the German POW camp that was once here. When the Germans were brought into the camp they were taken off of the train and sprayed with a delousing agent. The arsenic that was being found was one of the ingredients in that delousing agent. Soon after more information was revealed about the camp.
Eventually in 2007, an Ohio Historical Marker was placed near the site. It tells of the history of the POW camp. During the unveiling of the marker, Charles Mosher, who worked at the camp as a teenager spoke of his memories. Especially considering the times and circumstances it sounded as though the prisoners who were kept there were actually treated very well, and many friendships were made between the prisoners and guards. The prisoners were often allowed to leave the camp to help with work on nearby farms.
The text of the Historical Marker reads:
Side A :
"Camp Marion, World War II Prisoners of War, 1944-1946 "
This site was once a twenty-four acre camp for Prisoners of War established on the grounds of the Marion Engineer Depot. The Depot was a major supply and logistics site of the U.S. Army Engineers during World War II. The first contingent of POWs arrived in December 1944, consisting of two hundred and fifty men, many of them Germans who had served in the Afrika Korps Panzer Division. POWs served in many capacities during their time at Camp Marion. Some worked in construction, others cooked, cleaned, and performed maintenance and office tasks around the depot. Many worked on local farms, where farmers provided food to supplement their sometimes inadequate rations so that they would have energy to be able to work a full day. By 1946 five hundred Prisoners of War could be held at Camp Marion. (Continued on other side)
Side B :
"Camp Marion, World War II Prisoners of War, 1944-1946"
(Continued from other side) Camp Marion included housing, recreational areas, a canteen, and a small store where the POWs could buy items with coupons they received for their pay of eighty cents a day. They also had soccer teams, the POWs favorite sport. An arts and crafts center was provided for their use and some POWs made gifts for locals including oil paintings and jewelry boxes. The cultural exchanges that occurred were a positive experience for the Marion area. Regardless of rules against fraternizing, friendships were established with the POWs that continued into the 1990s. By March 1946, Camp Marion had closed and in 1960 the Marion Engineer Depot closed. In 1989 the site was purchased from the United States government and developed as the Marion Industrial Center.
Much of the history of the area has been immortalized in Ohio Historical Markers. Which can be found Waymarked. There is the Camp Marion marker, the Marion Engineer Depot marker, the World War II Displacement marker, and the history of River Valley High and Middle Schools