sleepy cotton field, two miles
NE of McLean, Texas held 3,000 German
prisoners of war from 1943 to 1945, as part of a national program
Eventually, before the war ended, more than 425,000 prisoners of war
were held in the U.S.A. Texas had 33 camps.
The prison site included 25 to 30 buildings of various sizes designed
to house the prisoners. Guards, and support personnel needed for security
and sustenance. At first, horse-drawn wagons and equipment were used
to save fuel for the war effort. Many local civilians worked at the
camp as secretaries, nurses and in camp maintenance.
The town of McLean gained little from
the camp as supplies were shipped in by the government. Citizens were
invited to attend movies and other programs held at the camp and some
rationed supplies were sometimes contributed to town organizations.
At times, prisoners were allowed to work in leased crews to help pick
cotton or hoe weeds from crops.
The prisoners arrived by train, were lined up on the main street of
McLean by armed guards and marched
two and one-half miles out to the compounds. Citizens were almost
in shock as the troops marched through town as many wore bloody bandages
and empty gun holsters on their belts. Many feared for their families
with the prisoners living close by.
There was little trouble from the prisoners who were only too happy
to be out of the battle zones and safe from injury. A few escapees
were quickly captured and all trouble-makers were shipped to other
prisons immediately after causing trouble. German troops from both
the North African campaign and the Normandy Invasion were housed at
the camp at different times.
Within days after the armistice the prisoners were removed, the camp
declared war surplus and an auction was held to dispose of the camp
and its buildings. Some were torn down for the materials and others
were removed to new locations. The land was sold back to local farmers.
Today, the McLean Public Airport runway cut through the heart of the
old compound. A careful search of the site finds only strange configurations
of trees planted by the prisoners, ditches and concrete foundations
where the wash and shower areas were located. A Texas
historical marker stands at the SE corner of the prison grounds.
A good display of old photos, interviews, letters from both civilians,
guards and former German prisoners and souvenirs made by the prisoners
are featured at the McLean/ Alanreed Area Museum located on main street
in McLean. Read more about the subject
in a book, The McLean P.O.W. Camp by Delbert Trew. [Order
World War II
Prisoner of War Camp at McLean
A permanent alien
interment camp (prisoner of war camp) in the 8th Service Command was
established here during World
War II. Construction began in September 1942 and American military
personnel and German prisoners began to arrive in July 1943. The site
included 25-30 buildings to accommodate the military and civilian
personnel required to operate the camp. Three large compounds housed
the prisoners of war. Other structures included warehouses, engineering
and fire departments, carpenter shop, and water plants. Facilities
for the military were comprised of barracks, nurses' and bachelor
officers' quarters, officers' club, post exchange and commissary,
theater, laundry, and barber shop. A small hospital was shared by
the American military and the prisoners of war. The first group of
prisoners brought to McLean were members
of the famed Afrika Korps commanded by General Erwin Rommel and were
captured in North Africa. By October 1944 the camp exceeded its official
capacity of 3,000 prisoners. The community was closely involved with
the camp, and many local citizens formed lasting friendships with
some of the German prisoners. The camp closed in July 1945.
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Texas, asks that anyone wishing to share their local history, stories,
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