5 Prisoner of War Camps in the United States During World War II

German POWs at a camp in the U.S. during World War II. All Day

During World War II, the American home front was changed in many ways. Many women went to work for the first time, filling in for men in factories and on farms while they served their country overseas. Rationing of everything from sugar to gasoline to meat forced Americans to sacrifice for the good of their country. Every U.S. citizen was called upon to help out with the war effort in one way or another.

Another noticeable change during the war was the vast network of Prisoner of War camps spread throughout the United States. Over 400,000 foreign POWs, mostly Germans, but also some Italian and Japanese prisoners, lived and worked in the U.S. in over 700 camps. Here are 5 examples of POW camps in the United States during World War II.

Camp Concordia

An aerial view of Camp Concordia. POW Camp Concordia Museum

Camp Concordia held roughly 4,000 prisoners on a large swath of land in north-central Kansas. The camp was the largest out of the 16 in the state of Kansas, with over 800 U.S. soldiers keeping watch on German soldiers and officers on a daily basis. Camp Concordia was built very quickly. It took only 90 days for construction crews to put up over 300 buildings, including a hospital, a fire department, barracks and warehouses for both the prisoners and American soldiers. Most of the German POWs at the camp were captured during battles in North Africa. Many locals initially feared the Germans, believing that the thousands of former Nazi soldiers presented a threat to the community. Eventually, a working relationship between citizens and prisoners was forged.

Being located in rural Kansas meant the German POWs would focus on one type of work: farming. With so many young local men fighting overseas, the residents around Concordia agreed to let the former German soldiers assist with the crucial farming necessary to help sustain the community. Prisoners began arriving and working at Camp Concordia in July 1943. Compared to the fate of many of their fellow Nazi soldiers, who were on the front lines in Europe, or laboring in a Soviet gulag, life in Kansas was not bad for the German POWs. They worked, played sports, and were even allowed to take classes offered by the University of Kansas.

Life was not always peaceful at Camp Concordia, however. On at least two occasions, the German POWs took matters into their own hands and executed fellow prisoners for treason. A so-called “honor court” was organized, and prisoners carried out vigilante justice.

After the war ended, the German soldiers were sent back to their homeland in the fall of 1945. A couple POWs who spent time at Camp Concordia left a mark on German society after they returned home. Harald Deilmann became a respected architect who designed public buildings in Germany, and Reinhard Mohn became a prominent businessman in Germany, and turned Bertelsmann into one of the largest media conglomerates in the world.

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  • Jack Gibbons

    Kapitan Wattenberg became the managing director for Becks Beer after the war!

  • Melinda Yantis

    Aliceville has a POW museum.

  • Michael DeMeo

    You forgot Camp Shanks in Orangeburg, NY

  • Susan Skelton Filgo

    there were others. Not sure of the name, but 1 was in or near Greenville, MS

  • Stephen Crumb

    There were over 700 camps of various sizes all over the country and many in Canada as well.

    • A Kosmetatos

      My dad was in the US army and spent some time at Camp Carson Colorado. He said the Italian prisoners were glad to be there and out of the war but you had to be careful around the Germans.

      • Keith1941

        Yes. One of my brothers was put in charge of the stables at a hospital in Torrance, California. He had a couple of Italian prisoners who were more than happy to be out of the war. An old Italian lady lived next door, he would take the prisoners home with him to visit her…made her day. Some of the German prisoners were very arrogant.

        • Jim Ruiz

          That POW camp in Torrance was on the grounds of Harbor General – UCLA hospital. There are still sections of the perimeter fencing with barbed wire on Carson Blvd. The trench next to the fence has slowly disappeared. What was the name of that camp?

          • Keith1941

            Thanks for the info. I was about two years old. Parents came to California from Oklahoma to make enough money to return to Oklahoma and buy a farm, which we did in 1945. Dad worked at North American where they built B-25’s, some P-51’s. Mom worked at the General Petroleum refinery in Torrance, now Exxon-Mobil. After Torrance, my brother was on the U.S.S. Comfort, a hospital ship. He had stories to tell about the POW’s they picked up in the Philippines…later their ship was hit by a Kamakazi at Okinawa.

          • mark risser

            my uncle was on the Comfort waiting for surgery when a Kamakazi hit. He was the sole survivor from his unit, that had been overrun by the Japs and left for dead. (on the island)

          • Keith1941

            My brother who was on the Comfort passed away in November (16). The Kamakazi hit the surgery area killing all that were there. My brother was in the Ward giving shots..was lucky to be there instead of the surgery area, which he was at times. Your uncle was fortunate he wasn’t there yet. Actually there was another Kamikazi that was shot down tryingto hit the ship. After the attack, the ship went to Guam. On the way, Tokyo Rose broadcast news of the attack, telling them they’d never get there. There was a scare of a possible sub…the ship soon had some destroyers circling the ship. As you probably know, the ship was marked and had all the lights on…should not have been attacked by the rules of war.

  • callmebob

    We had a US soldier go nuts with a Browning .30 cal from a guard tower in one her near Salina UT (on I-70 and US 89) , 2 months after the war was over and they were waiting to re-patriate them Killed 9, wounded another 20 or so. They just opened a small museum at the site this past fall. The fellow was deemed insane and hospitalized. The deceased were buried in un-flagged US military uniforms at the US Military cemetery at Ft. Douglas (which is basically on the UofU campus) and there’s a nice monument there to them and they’re remembered yearly on Volkstrauertag (kind of the German equivalent of Memorial Day)…

  • doninkansas

    when I was about 20 I knew a little old lady at Holy Name Church in Topeka. she had been a farm wife near Scranton, KS during the war. she would tell stories about the German POW’s helping on the farm and how much she enjoyed having them around. she said most of them had been farm boys and knew what they were doing. she also said that most of them homesick and that working on the farm made them feel at home. she had nothing but good things to say about the boys.

  • Jay Daves

    Camp Chaffee near Fort Smith, Arkansas apparently housed POWs during WW2.

    • Tinsley Grey Sammons

      The last Ivory-billed Woodpeckers might have been heard and seen by German POWs in Arkansas. As the hardwoods were felled the few remaining woodpeckers perished. A veritable CRIME AGAINST NATURE. / Somehow the magficent Pileated Woodpecker still survives. Perhaps it fills a different environmental niche. / Another thing that contributes to the decimation of willd critters is surely hunters, especially still hunters. Woodpeckers that have fallen to the bored squirrel hunters in the last 200 years surely number in the millions

      • Jim Southerland

        You are dead wrong. I killed the last ivory billed woodpecker in 2002. I was hunting deer in Arkansas county, AR the the damned thing kept scaring the bamibis. No taxidermist would mount for me. I cooked it and fed it to the dogs.

        • Metis

          I hope you’re only kidding. This is downright horrifying.

  • Cal D.

    We had camps (2) in Newport News, VA. and the prisoners were treated better than our black citizens. They could get passes to go downtown to movie theaters and restaurants where we (blacks) were not allowed. And some say “those were the good old days”.

    • Johnny Turner

      That wasn’t right. no citizen should be treated worse than POWs.

      • disqus_v3SHzvCspj

        Virginia? 1940s? It was segregated; like it or not, that was the South until after the war. Blacks served in the military in black units, and gradually were introduced into other units also. By 1945 (and by Presidential Order in 1947 I believe) the military was officially desegregated. Segregation was officially outlawed during the Eisenhower administration, often reinforced against civilian resistance by military troops.

        • Lazybum

          Troops were fully re-segregated by Wilson. Truman advocated for, then actually desegregated the military.

          A news guy, while interviewing a prominent Democrat Politician after
          FDR’s asked the anti-Truman Senator why he hated Truman. The Democrat responded “because he is for desegregating the military. When the media guy pointed out that so was FDR, the Democrat said “Yes, but Truman MEANS it !

      • Tinsley Grey Sammons

        Abraham Lincoln’s effort to remove the Black Race from the United States to other continents failed. Perhaps both races would have been much happier had he succeeded.

        • Lazybum

          It should be noted that many prominent blacks believed they should go “back” to Africa. Your statement unfairly suggests Lincoln was racist even by the standards of the day.

          • whaddacrock

            The country of Liberia was created specifically for those blacks who wished to return to Africa.

          • Bruce Alan Wilson

            That’s why the capital is called “Monrovia”, after Pres. James Monroe. An it also explains the design of the Liberian flag.

        • Bruce Alan Wilson

          Repatriation was not an idea Lincoln came up with; it was quite popular, and considered progressive, by the standards of the day. Many “Free Negroes” supported it, too.

          • Jim Southerland

            that’s why we bought the piece of W. Africa, now called Liberia. It was to be for former american slaves. The elite class in the country are all descendents of US slaves.

        • bald1956

          All that is needed for my happiness is you and your ilk get removed from the USA.

  • TREP

    Camp Perry near Port Clinton Ohio was a POW Camp as well as processing center for POWs. Many thousands were processed and shipped to other camps. Some of the POWs were sent to farms in western Ohio to work the fields. Many stayed after the war as the areas they worked were owned by German descendants. Some of these small towns and villages the people still speak German.

    • Shane R

      The old prisoner huts finally got torn down a couple of years ago. People participating in the National Rifle and Pistol Matches were still staying in them into the 2000’s. Not totally related, but somewhat interesting, is that Camp Perry is only a few miles from Johnson’s Island, which was a Union POW camp holding Confederate soldiers during the Civil War.

      • whaddacrock

        I stayed in one of those huts in 1981 when I was with the US Navy pistol team. ~12′ square. window on three sides, door on the fourth. One light bulb hanging down from the center of the room, 3 double bunks per shanty.

        • valvepop

          yep same as we had at Ft. Bliss.

      • valvepop

        I lived in one of the Huts at Ft. Bliss , Tx. back in 55 when I went through Basic Training there. Six men in a hut about twenty by twenty feet. a little space heater was for the heat. the floor boards had one quarter inch cracks between the boards. we liked the floors as we didn’t have to shine them like the other modern floors.

  • csanderslaw

    The waffen ss prisoners at Camp Swift near Austin could eat in the white mess hall. Black American troops could not.

    • Tinsley Grey Sammons

      In the end Race will always Trump nationality. The only way that so-called “diversity” can truly prevail is for the White Race to become Genetically Extinct. I for one would go to any length to prevent the Genetic Extinction of the White Race. I would even support a worldwide White Brotherhood defended by Waffen SS and the Confederate Army. / Although I cannot justly hate someone for being Black, I would stop at nothing to prevent the Genetic Extinction of my race. / Interestingly, if “diversity” were to succeed then there would be no diversity. ? My race is my family and the genetic survival of my family will always come first. –tgsam (1936 –)

      • 13 Echo

        Mr. Sammons, it’s clear you should have been on the other side of the wire, together with your fellow ‘supermen.’ .

        • Tinsley Grey Sammons

          There should have been no fratricidal war. Ever.

        • bald1956

          Assuming most of the German POW’s would even tolerate him.

      • Vaughn Bobbitt

        Shut Your Pie Hole, this is about POW camps not current Political Bullshit

      • Brett Weeks

        Genetically, there is no such thing as “race”, other than the human race. Further subdivisions are pseudo-science creations subscribed to by people like you.

      • valvepop

        you are so full of chit it is terrible. Go find you a corner and hide from the world. We sure don’t need your kind.

      • For the South

        Leave the Confederate Army out of your crazy BS they were fighting for their homes not white superiority.

      • Heartland Patriot

        Trolling a story like this, ridiculous.

  • Duncan

    As a little kid in WWII, I was on 2 POW locations with German POWs. Camp Forrest, TN and Venice AFB, FL. The POWs were very nice and happy to be here.

  • Mark

    My parent’s house in Douglas Wyoming was built on the grounds of a WWII POW camp that housed mostly German POWs.

  • Jeffrey Parks

    I’m sure that those German prisoners left their mark on our society, too…..just how many, I wonder, German-American babies were born in the USA as a result of their presence here? 😉

    • James Oss

      Really Jeff? As if parents would allow their daughters associate with POWs.

      • Jeffrey Parks

        Ha! You obviously don’t have daughters, James. Seems that, when it’s really determined, love can always find a way, despite whatever the taste, preferences or desires of Mom & Dad happen to be, or whatever rules they care to set 😉

        • James Oss

          *And you are obviously wrong, Jeff. I have two daughters. And I’d be damned if I would have allowed any of them near a POW nor would I hire them to work for me. : <*

        • CSATejano

          It would have been very rare. Keep in mind that these Germans had friends and family members who were killing Americans in Europe.

      • Tinsley Grey Sammons

        Few Americans were eager to go to war against Germany.

    • Steelhorsecowboy

      Actually, in my area a number of German POWs came back after the war to marry local farm girls they met while working in local agriculture. Many of them lived on the same long country road.

    • James Oss

      My question too. I’d like to get a hold of a diary of one of the POWs that was at Concordia. I’m not far from the site. That area in western Kansas is where many Volga Germans settled prior to WWI.

  • BH206L3

    My mom worked at a Camp in Wisconsin! Till the day she died in 1976 she would exchange Christmas Greeting with 6 German’s she knew from their days as POW’s!

    • 97E

      Please tell me that your family is still in touch with their families?

  • Thomas Burgess

    In Concordia they tell about the farmers bringing the POW farm labor into town during harvest and eating lunch at the local beanery

    • Sandie Olson

      Camp Alva (OK) prisoners also helped on area farms.

  • Jay Dee

    I can’t believe Camp Atterbury in Southern Indiana did not make this list. A Japanese POW Camp and one of the most important and with incredible history.

    • Tony Gearlds

      Atterbury is on the list. It had German and Italian P.O.W.’s, I didn’t hear about any Japanese being there.

  • Jarhead05

    In the nineteen-eighties, I worked with a German police officer who had been a prisoner at Fort Lewis, Washington. He said he cried when he was repatriated to Germany in 1946.

    • Tinsley Grey Sammons

      That is believable. I was in Bremerhaven from 9/48 unyil 6/50. The WWII generated enmity was still strong in 1948 but had begun to fade in 1950. Within a few years from then it was only sustained by the never-ending Holocaust claims. The Holocaust flogging of Germany has faded somewhat but it has been milked for all that it is worth.

      • Bruce Alan Wilson

        No, it hasn’t. Genocide should never be forgotten.

      • 13 Echo

        Ah, yes, Mr. Simmons, we meet again. You’re a fool and a racist, but I repeat myself.

        • Tinsley Grey Sammons

          I am proud to be a White Racist. I despise race traitors. What could be more tragic than the extinction of the White Race?

  • jimjenky

    There was a POW camp near Clinton, Mississippi, for German generals and admirals. One of the largest POW camps in the US was located in Grambling, Louisiana, near Ruston. Today the grounds are home to the Louisiana School for the Deaf, I believe.

  • Jim Maurer

    A guy I knew when I lived in Germany from 75 to 77 said that the best time of his life was when he was in a POW camp in Utah. Got good food. Worked on farms. Got paid pretty well. He organized the camp band. Every weekend he got a pass to go to town unguarded to buy sheet music. It was better than life in the German army. Then things changed when the concentration camps were liberated. Things became a lot stricter.

  • ECnTX

    My late uncle, at the age of 16 in 1944, had surgery at Duke University hospital in North Carolina. He told the story numerous times about the night he was given the OK to go to the basement dinning area (the only place in the hospital at the time that had soda machines) to get a coke. He said there was a large imposing figure of a man mopping the floor in the partially lit room, who was wearing a jump suit.

    My uncle said he approached the man to see if he had change for a dollar, and from the darkness around the corner a voice instructed him to keep his distance, “Go no closer,” he said. Then from around the corner came an armed MP and gave my uncle change. When asked why he was there and armed, the MP told him that the man in the jump suit was a German POW, and that several of the “trustees” were allowed to leave their camps on work details … which most of them jumped at the chance to get on.
    Living in Charlotte, NC after the war, my uncle went to work at a print-shop in the area. He said that one day he went to a drug store/grill around the corner from the shop, and who was there but that same German POW. Turned out he had no family back in Germany, and because of the way he was treated while a POW, he fell in love with the American way of life … so he applied for and later received his citizenship.
    What a far cry from the way our POWs came home from Germany.

  • John Manaugh

    Camp Atterbury is still quite active, serving as a training facility. Nearby residents are used to seeing military planes and helicopters as well as hearing explosions and artillery.

  • Tubbythetuba

    My Uncle said the Italian POWs were good people. Hated the war, and loved America. Lots got to stay on after the war.

  • HisMajestyOKeefe

    Live a few miles from Princeton TX POW camp, only thing left is one water tower. My father flew POWs to the U.S. , they generally knew how lucky they were. Ate in restaurants that were closed to black soldiers

    You had a better chance of survival in combat against the Japanese than being a prisoner in one of their camps

  • Bob Schwarer

    I worked with POWs at a cannery in Janesville, WI during the summer of 1945. Both factory and field work. They liked the airplane pictures I got from bubble gum packs. One of them had worked in Wisconsin as a salesman before the war.

    • Mike

      Please Email me at Tablesturnedonthem@gmail.com I am writing a book on GIs who served at US camps holding German POWs. These men were MPs, physicians, dentists, interpreters, Assistant Executive Officers etc. Would like to interview you.

  • Rick554

    Our barracks at Westover AFB were POW Baracks during WW11. And looked like it!

  • Shelby Morrison

    There were German POWs farming the acres around Darnall Hospital, a mental hospital outside Danville, KY, when I was a little girl. As far as I know, they were treated well.

  • Carroll Price

    German POWs working on farms in the Southeastern United States assisted local farmers by introducing many advanced farming techniques that local farmers had never heard of. With this being particularly true regarding proper stacking, drying and storage of hay and other forage crops.

  • Greg Ahlers

    in Algona, Iowa the prisoners built a nativity scene as a thank you to the town. It is open every Christmas season. The town has also created a POW museum as a way to remember the camp.

  • Brian Pinkey

    Camp Perry OH had POWs, it is still used for the NRA National rifle matches. When I was there in the late 1960s there were quite a few signs in German still extant. They worked in the fields in the area.

  • Bernice Graham

    There was one in Hamlin, NY that was just uncovered. The Germans did not want to go home. They were put to work in the applesauce factory. Once when there was an inspector coming, they had to wake up the guard. After the war and they went home, at least one of them came back to live here.

  • Alan Daggett

    Lots of African Americans were embittered that the German POW’s were treated better than they were.

  • Tinsley Grey Sammons

    I strongly recommend CHURCHILL, HITLER, and the Unnecessary War by Patrick Buchanan.

  • Lee Dev

    It’s interesting they decided not to include Camp Skokie Valley or Camp Thornton.

  • There were some in the Mississippi Delta. The treaty said their officers had to have the same luxuries American officers had. That meant private quarters, a (black ) house servant, brandy or bourbon, sports activities and officers meals. They lived better in the Mississippi camps than they did at home.

  • Mike 89128

    One article I read online stated that one of the Phoenix buses ran close by the main gate of the POW camp. Many German prisoners would escape, not to try to get back to Germany, but to spend a night on the town out of boredom. They would wait at the bus stop, get on say “POW’ and the driver had instructions to detour and drop them off at the main gate. The same article wrote about first and second generation German-American farmers in the Dakotas were grateful for the German POWs assigned to them. Speaking German one farmer said to his POWs, “momma says if you work hard today, she’ll be making fried chicken, mashed potatoes, biscuits, corn, cake and a big surprise, ice cream for dinner.” Many of his POWs were young conscripted German farm boys who felt very much at home on these farms.

  • Russ Hanson

    WHen I was in the Army (24 yrs) had a reforger exercise in Germany in 1980, Had some time off we got to go to Munich for the octoberfest. Me and my friend went to an ompatent (?) for beer and pretzels. Wasnt anypalce to sit so this table ofgermans offered to let us sit with them. THey bought the beer an pretzels and told us that they were german POW’a during the war and got sent to the US. Said they were never so happy to be out of the war. Rememberon of the persons name was Nagel an he had a tracotor plant outside of munich. Had a great time with some great friendly german people.