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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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”.

  • 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.

  • csanderslaw

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

  • 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? 😉

  • 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!

  • 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

  • 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.