Camp Wallace - Hitchcock, TX
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member jhuoni
N 29° 22.374 W 095° 02.898
15R E 301193 N 3251044
Quick Description: Located in the back of Jack Brooks Park, in Hitchcock, Texas, is the remains of Camp Wallace. In 1944, Camp Wallace became one of seven sites in Texas specifically for World War II Prisoners of War.
Location: Texas, United States
Date Posted: 5/16/2020 7:22:48 PM
Waymark Code: WM12FKD
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member Tante.Hossi
Views: 2

Long Description:

Hitchcock Public Library

Named for World War I army Colonel Elmer J. Wallace, Camp Wallace was established as a training facility for military personnel during World War II. The U. S. government acquired more than 3,300 acres of land between the towns of Hitchcock and Alta Loma on State Highway 6 for placement of the facility. Construction began in November 1940. Before the erection of structures, 17 miles of access roads were built, 29 miles of electrical lines were installed, and a 2.9-mile spur rail track from the main rail line were laid. The site contained a total of 399 structures. Some buildings were constructed at Galveston's Fort Crockett and transported to the site, including a cold storage depot, bakery, laundry, and morgue. The camp contained a medical facility, 161 barracks, and a service club. By May 1941 the camp accommodated 10,250 people, including officers, enlisted personnel, and civilian staff. Training continued through World War II. The site also housed German Prisoners of War. In April 1945, Camp Wallace was transferred to naval supervision, and later served as a distribution center releasing veterans back into civilian life. The site was used by the Red Cross in 1947 following the explosions at Texas City. The camp was declared surplus by the U. S. government in 1947.

Camp Wallace was located at the present site of Jack Brooks Park in Hitchcock. It was an Army Basic Training Camp that was completed June 1, 1941.There were 399 buildings. From 1941 to 1946 thousands of young men received training in the military skills that they would need to survive and win World War Two. The camp served as an Army Basic Training Camp and later as a Naval Separation Center.

Santa Fe Area Historical Foundation via Facebook 12/25/2015.

CAMP WALLACE located in Hitchcock, Texas, was named after Colonel Elmer J. Wallace (See Photo), of the Fifty-ninth Coast Artillery, who was fatally wounded in 1918. The national government announced in 1940 that it would construct a major military establishment in Galveston County. A site was chosen between Hitchcock and Alta Loma, Texas (Note: Alta Loma is now called Santa Fe, Texas). The Santa Fe Railway installed a 4-mile track from their mainline onto the site, 17 miles of oyster-shell roads were built, and 29 miles of electric lines were installed. When completed it had 400 buildings, including 161 barracks, a medical facility, several churches, a cold storage depot, bakery, laundry, morgue, & service club. Construction of Camp Wallace at times involved as many boats as trucks, due to what seemed like "record rainfall". With the rainfall came mud and relentless swarms of mosquitoes. The building of Camp Wallace is still remembered as a treatment rather than a treat.

Camp Wallace officially opened February 1st, 1941. It's original mission was as a U.S. Army Coast Artillery Replacement Center. It was known to Army men as the No. 1 anti aircraft Replacement Training Center of the nation. It's mission was to train men for duty as highly skilled soldiers in anti aircraft combat. This included expert marksmanship of the highly technical antiaircraft guns, the rapid-fire 50mm., and the powerful 90mm. guns. Before a soldier completed his training, he had marched on at least one 25 mile hike, camped overnight in temporary camps with no cover, and then eventually over time, became a highly capable fighting man.

Shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, the US entered into WWII. Many of our local young men joined military service at that time. Most returned home, but some did not.

In 1944, seven POW camps were built on military bases. Camp Wallace was chosen as one of the bases. The advantages were that the prisoners could be easily guarded since towers and fences were already in place; the prisoners could be used to help maintain the bases, thus freeing numerous American soldiers for other tasks and nearby communities would be calmed to know that the thousands of possibly hostile enemy captives were surrounded by many armed American soldiers.

On April 15, 1944, the camp was officially transferred to the United States Navy as a naval training and distribution center. Between September 1, 1945 and August 31, 1946, Camp Wallace became known as the U. S. Naval Separation Center. Many thousands of sailors were separated from active duty. Hundreds of civilian personnel, including college students and high school graduates worked through the hot summer of 1946, processing the records. Camp Wallace ended with the closing on August 31, 1946.

It was declared surplus in 1946, and within a year all 400 of the structures on the base were put on the market. Some were too large to be moved successfully, but over a period of two years, hundreds of structures were bought and moved to nearby communities to relieve the severe shortages of building materials for homes, schools, churches, and businesses. Many of the buildings are still standing 70+ years later. Some of the buildings were cut in half, or into thirds and separate homes were made. So, if you see a long slender building, or a long wood framed home, chances are it was one of the Camp Wallace buildings.

On November 9, 1997, a State of Texas Historical Marker dedication ceremony was held. The marker is located .2 miles east of the Jack Brooks entrance on Highway 6, in Hitchcock, Texas. Some of the concrete pillars of the building floors can still be seen inside of Jack Brooks Park, along with a wooden marker showing the location.

(see link)The last picture/document/poem sums up life at Camp Wallace. "We've washed a million mess kits, and we've peeled a million spuds. We have marched a million miles or more, with mud smeared on our duds. We've killed a million bugs and ants which tried to steal our eats. We've shoved a million centipedes out of our snow white sheets. When our work on earth is finished then our friend behind will tell, that we surely went to heaven for we've served our hitch in hell".

If you would like to view more information and photos on Camp Wallace, they can be seen at the following location: (see link above)

Handbook of Texas Online By Arnold P. Krammer

GERMAN PRISONERS OF WAR

When the United States went to war in 1941, what to do with enemy prisoners of war was among the last considerations of a country reeling from a Japanese attack and preparing for war in Europe. The nation had never held large numbers of foreign prisoners and was unprepared for the many tasks involved, which included registration, food, clothing, housing, entertainment, and even reeducation. But prepared or not, the country suddenly found itself on the receiving end of massive waves of German and Italian prisoners of war. More than 150,000 men arrived after the surrender of Gen. Erwin Rommel's Afrika Korps in April 1943, followed by an average of 20,000 new POWs a month. From the Normandy invasion in June 1944 through December 30,000 prisoners a month arrived; for the last few months of the war 60,000 were arriving each month. When the war was over, there were 425,000 enemy prisoners in 511 main and branch camps throughout the United States.

Texas had approximately twice as many POW camps as any other state, first because of the available space, and second, curiously, because of the climate. The Geneva Convention of 1929 requires that prisoners of war be moved to a climate similar to that where they are captured; apparently it was thought that the climate of Texas is similar to that of North Africa. In August 1943 there were already twelve main camps in Texas, and by June 1, 1944, there were thirty-three. At the end of the war Texas held 78,982 enemy prisoners, mainly Germans, at fourteen military installations: Camp Barkeley (Taylor County), Camp Bowie (Brown County), Camp Fannin (Smith County), Camp Hood (Bell County), Camp Howze (Cooke County), Camp Hulen (Matagorda County), Camp Maxey (Lamar County), Camp Swift (Bastrop County), Camp Wolters (Palo Pinto County), Fort Bliss (El Paso County), Fort Brown (Cameron County), Fort Crockett (Galveston County), Fort D. A. Russell (Presidio County), and Fort Sam Houston (Bexar County).

In addition, seven base camps were set up especially for POWs: Brady (McCulloch County), Hearne (Robertson County), Hereford (Deaf Smith County), Huntsville (Walker County), McLean (Gray County), Mexia (Limestone County), and Wallace (Galveston County). The Hereford camp alone contained Italian POWs (2,580 men), and a few Japanese POWs were kept in Hearne (323), Huntsville (182), and Kenedy (560).

The main camps were generally built to standard specifications: they were military barracks covered by tar paper or corrugated sheet iron; inside were rows of cots and footlockers. A potbellied stove sat in the center aisle. Each camp held an average of 3,000 to 4,000 prisoners. In fact, the only real differences between these POW camps and any normal army training installation were the watchtowers located along a double barbed-wire fence, floodlights, and, at some camps, dog patrols. Guards were kept to a minimum number and were usually GIs who, for reasons of health, lack of training, or psychological makeup, were not needed overseas. The actual discipline among the prisoners was rigidly enforced by German officers and sergeants themselves. However uncomfortable, the POW camps were sometimes considered too good for the captive Germans, and many a Texas community called its local camp the "Fritz Ritz."

Since the war had drawn most of the nation's young men overseas, the War Department authorized a major program to allow labor-starved farmers to utilize the POWs. Consequently, in addition to the base camps, Texas had twenty-two branch camps, some containing as few as thirty-five or forty prisoners, to provide labor to farms and factories located too far from the main POW camps. The branch camps, like the labor program, were temporary and often housed in school buildings, old Civilian Conservation Corps facilities, fairgrounds, even circus tents like those erected for the Navasota branch camp. Grateful farmers paid the government the prevailing wage of $1.50 per day, and the prisoner was paid eighty cents in canteen coupons. The difference went to the federal treasury to pay for the POW program. German officers, like their American counterparts in enemy hands, were not required to work, and few volunteered. German POWs worked on such projects as the Denison Dam reservoir and the construction of state roads; they also served as orderlies at Harmon General Hospital (now LeTourneau College in Longview). Their greatest contribution, however, was to agriculture. From 1943, when the POWs arrived in large numbers, until the end of the war in 1945, the POWs in Texas picked peaches and citrus fruits, harvested rice, cut wood, baled hay, threshed grain, gathered pecans, and chopped records amounts of cotton. Many Texas farmers recalled their POW laborers with admiration and even affection; indeed, many farmers maintained warm friendships with them, and periodic reunions often saw entire communities turn out to renew those memories.

Daily life for the prisoners was basically the same at all base camps. Reveille was at 5:45 A.M., and lights were turned off at 10:00 P.M. Between those times, the prisoners worked, took care of their own needs, and entertained themselves with a large variety of handicraft and educational programs. Every camp had an impressive selection of POW-taught courses, ranging from English to engineering, a POW orchestra, a theater group, a camp newspaper, and a soccer team. Some prisoners even took correspondence courses through local colleges and universities, and their academic credits were accepted by the Germans upon their return. Apparently the majority of German prisoners who spent the war years in Texas remembered their experience as one of the greatest adventures of their lives.

A few prisoners wanted to escape despite the insurmountable odds against success-the vast countryside, the language difference, and the absence of an underground railroad or safe haven. The records indicate that only twenty-one POWs escaped, the majority from Hearne and Mexia, and that every escapee was caught within three weeks, most of them much sooner. Motivated by boredom, the need for privacy, or a desire to meet girls, the prisoners often simply wandered away from their work parties and were picked up within a few hours, confused and helpless. Most escapes were comical affairs: a prisoner from Mexia calling for help after having been chased up a tree by an angry Brahman bull; three from Hearne who were found on the Brazos River in a crude raft hoping somehow to sail back to Germany; and another from Hearne who was picked up along U.S. Highway 79, near Franklin, heartily singing German army marching songs. There is no evidence that any of the escapees committed any act of sabotage while on the loose.

After World War II ended, the prisoners were readied for repatriation. They were moved from the smaller branch camps to the base camps, and from there to the military installations at Forts Bliss, Sam Houston, and Hood. Beginning in November 1945 the former POWs were returned to Europe at the rate of 50,000 a month, though most were used to help rebuild war-damaged France and Britain before their ultimate return to Germany. As the POWs left Texas by the trainload, the camps began to close. In Hearne the campsite and its 200 buildings were put up for public auction; in the 1980s the space comprised a small municipal airport and a proposed industrial park. The camp in Huntsville became part of Sam Houston State Teachers College (now Sam Houston State University); in April 1946 Camp Mexia became the site of Mexia State School for the Mentally Retarded; and Camp Swift in Bastrop later comprised scattered housing developments, a University of Texas cancer research center, a unit of the Texas National Guard, and an $11 million medium-security prison for first offenders.

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