Sailboat Model Built by German POW

WWII POW camps based throughout Texas

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by Tom Wancho, Exhibit Planner

Just as captured Allied prisoners of war in Europe and Japan were sent to prisoner of war (POW) camps overseas, so too were captured German, Italian, and Japanese soldiers sent to POW camps in the United States between 1943–1945. Texas had at least 33 POW camps, approximately twice as many as any other state.

Why were so many POW camps established in Texas? The Geneva Convention of 1929 required that prisoners of war be moved to a climate similar to that of where they were captured. POWs captured while fighting in North Africa were sent to Texas, which was thought to have a similar climate. By the war's end, Texas hosted 78,982 prisoners, most of whom were German.

Camp Hearne, located 20 miles north of Bryan-College Station, served almost 5,000 POWs during World War II. The location was selected because of its proximity to the railroad, distance from the coast and the Mexican border (less chance of escape), and its flat landscape, making it easy to spot any attempted escapees.

About 20% of the POWs at Camp Hearne were enlisted German soldiers. As such, they were required to work for a fair wage as local farm laborers. The remaining prisoners were non-commissioned officers and were not required to work. Instead, they enjoyed an almost country club-like existence with a variety of recreation and education programs offered to them. Locals soon came to call Camp Hearne the “Fritz Ritz.” The prisoners organized classes on various topics such as history, business, and foreign languages. They enjoyed weekly movies, concerts, and plays put on in a theater they built. Art lessons were offered in which they painted pictures and created sculptures and fountains. An unknown POW built this model sailboat during his time at Camp Hearne. He christened the ship “Heimat,” which is German for home.

All of the German POWs at Camp Hearne were sent back to Europe by January 1946 and the camp was officially closed.

See this and other artifacts on the Interactive Texas Map

Sailboat Model Built by German POW Artifact from Hearne, Texas
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