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Camp Hearne POW Camp -- Hearne, TX
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member Benchmark Blasterz
N 30° 53.145 W 096° 37.204
14R E 727504 N 3419366
Quick Description: The remains of a POW camp for German NCOs at Hearne TX. The coordinates take you to a theatre built by the POWs in the camp. There is a virtual cache here too.
Location: Texas, United States
Date Posted: 10/23/2012 4:07:10 PM
Waymark Code: WMFHY5
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member Striker38
Views: 3

Long Description:
The POW camp at Hearne Texas is well worth exploring. Many ruins of structures that once housed German POWs remain, including an amazing hand-built stone theatre, where prisoners put on stage shows for their fellow prisoners.

The POW camp at Hearne operated for 3 years, from September 1942-January 1946.

From the TAMU Times (an electronic paper published by Texas A&M University):

February 27, 2012
Texas A&M Prof Preserving POW Camp Hearne

Many Texans may not know it, but the state was home to more than 50,000 prisoners of war — more than any other state — in about 70 POW sites during World War II, and Camp Hearne was among the largest, housing almost 5,000 POWS in its brief tenure. A Texas A&M University researcher is helping to preserve the memory of the camp and its colorful history.

Mike Waters, professor of anthropology who has conducted research at Camp Hearne over the past 15 years, has helped to archive documents and preserve artifacts related to the camp, located in the city of Hearne, about 20 miles north of the Texas A&M campus. His book Lone Star Stalag details life at the camp and its unique place in Texas history.

Waters says Hearne city leaders petitioned the government to build the camp as a means of boosting the local economy, which it did. The Army bought 720 acres outside of town and construction started in 1942. The camp opened in early 1943 and was equipped to handle 4,800 prisoners.

“Most of the POWS there were non-commissioned officers, and according to the Geneva Convention, non-coms were not required to work,” Waters says of the facility.

“So only a few hundred prisoners did any actual work while the rest spent the day reading, listening to music, woodworking or playing recreational sports. For them, it was almost a country-club type existence, and many of them later said their time at Camp Hearne was one of the best times of their lives. The local citizens often referred to the camp as the ‘Fritz Ritz.’”

The camp may have been one of the most cultured in the U.S. Some of Camp Hearne’s residents were musicians and part of the famed Afrika Korps under the command of legendary German general Erwin Rommel, known as the “Desert Fox.” Not considered military threats, the musicians were allowed to keep their instruments when captured and frequently gave concerts at Camp Hearne, playing for fellow camp inmates or anyone who would listen.

In fact, quite a few of the camp’s prisoners were part of Rommel’s elite Afrika Korps captured in Tunisia. Rommel himself was later involved in a failed plot to kill Hitler and was allowed to commit suicide.

“Camp Hearne is considered a good representation of a typical POW camp in the U.S.,” Waters notes.
“It was a central post office for all of the other POW camps in the country then, and at one time, there were more than 400,000 POWS scattered all over the U.S. in various camps. The Camp Hearne inmates were taught skills, many learned how to speak English and they were healthy and well-fed, and when they returned home when the war was over, they were in much better shape than most people in Germany.”

Waters says that in early 1943, there was a struggle for power between the Nazi and anti-Nazi elements at the camp that culminated with a murder in December of that year.

“After that, the Nazi element was in charge, and while this created a tense atmosphere, most of the prisoners tried to steer clear of trouble and spent their day reading or engaging in other activities,” he says. “By 1945, the camp had a very nice library of several thousand books.”

The number of prisoners at the camp — reaching between 4,800 and 5,000 before it was closed — far outnumbered the population of the town at the time, which was about 3,500, Waters says.

When Germany surrendered in 1945, the prisoners were gradually shipped out and the camp was dismantled, with many of its buildings sold to local businesses for warehouses, offices and even a home for a local pastor.

Waters says it is important to keep Camp Hearne’s memory alive, especially “for students today, so they can see what a real POW camp was like. Camp Hearne now has museum built on the site and it gets quite a few visitors every year. We are trying to do preservation work, and there is a walking tour of the site which is quite interesting.

“I think anyone who likes Texas or World War II history would enjoy a visit to Camp Hearne.”

For more information, go to (visit link)

[end]

Text of the Historical Marker placed in 2003:

CAMP HEARNE PRISONER OF WAR CAMP

During the Second World War, allied troops captured large numbers of Axis soldiers and transported them to prisoner of war camps established throughout the United States. More than 70 camps in Texas housed some 50,000 prisoners. In March 1942, Hearne Chamber of Commerce President Roy Henry contacted Congressman Luther Johnson to request that a camp be located here. Within a month, U.S. Army staff had inspected the area and selected 720 acres as a prison site. Construction of the camp began in September 1942 and was completed in six months. It was laid out in three sections, each of which included a mess hall, lavatory, company office and eight barracks. The first of almost 5,000 prisoners of war (POWs) arrived in June 1943. Most of the POWs housed here were non-commissioned officers (NCOs) of the famed German Afrika Korps captured in Tunisia. Because NCOs were not required to work in prison camps according to the Geneva Convention, they spent most of their time in recreational and educational activities while the bulk of the work in the camp fell to enlisted men who comprised about twenty percent of the prison population. In 1944, Camp Hearne became the central mail distribution point for all German POWs in the U.S., but poor supervision allowed a small group of Nazi sympathizers to infiltrate the system and intimidate and terrorize both prisoners and their families back in Germany until the scheme was discovered and the operation shut down in July 1945. A few hundred Japanese prisoners were brought here in the summer of 1945 shortly before the end of the War. All POWs were gone and the camp closed by January 1946. [end]
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