History

WWII POWs: This Special Military History has a Home at Camp Hearne

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During World War II, camps for prisoners-of-war (POWs) were common throughout the United States. The height of these internment sites was around May 1945, when there were 425,871 POWs being held. Overall, the U.S. was home to 650 prisoners-of-war camps. The state of Texas had 70 camps, including Camp Hearne, a 720-acre site in east Texas. Per the Geneva Convention, prisoners of war were to be kept in climates similar to their capture site, therefore the United States military paired the climate of Texas with that of Southern Europe and Northern Africa.

WWII POWs: This Special Military History has a Home at Camp Hearne

Photo: envato elements

Commissioned in 1942 and built in six months, Camp Hearne was unique in that it contained nearly 5,000 POWs from Germany, Italy, and Japan, which were the three Axis powers during the conflict. Prisoners here provided labor for local famers. This site was also the central postal service for POWs, ultimately distributing mail to other POW camps across the United States. Prisoners worked, preformed music and plays, and even built a replica of a Bavarian castle! Stationed U.S. military officers had many connections with the surrounding community and even played nearby Texas A&M students in athletic events.

WWII POWs: This Special Military History has a Home at Camp Hearne

Photo: envato elements

After being decommissioned in January 1946 and abandoned for over 45 years, an individual barrack replica was built. The site also features a guard tower, museum, education center, and archive, all maintained by the nonprofit group Friends of Camp Hearne. Tour from a car or walk along the trails to discover areas such as the hospital area, the POW compound, and relics of a prisoner-built theater and fountains. Follow the Camp Hearne Exhibit & Visitor Center social media pages for living history exhibits and holiday programs. Normal operating hours are Wednesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 12424 Camp Hearne Road, Hearne, TX 77859. However, due to the COVID-19, check via website or phone before driving out to the site.