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In addition to Department of Justice facilities, the US government used U.S. Army posts to hold internees. This was especially true at the beginning of the war, when there were many arrests and no good place to put the internees. At least 18 Army facilities were used to hold German internees, including two internment sites at Sand Island and Honouliuli in Hawaii. One, in Stringtown, Oklahoma, was actually a state prison. Conditions at these locations were generally harsh. The Army administered the camps with frequently unwarranted vigor because they viewed their wards as the enemy. Most camps had double fences and guard towers with armed guards. Of the many camps where Germans were held, several are featured below. Eventually, Army sites had to be used to house Axis prisoners of war, and the internees were moved to INS facilities. Most internees were transferred to multiple sites during their years of internment. This made it hard for their families to communicate with them and the internees wondered constantly what would happen to them next.
Camp Blanding 1941 Photo courtesy of www.pbase.com
Upon learning from Guatemalan internees that Camp Blanding in Starke, Florida was as a detention facility during World War II, the GAIC contacted the Camp Blanding Museum and Memorial Park. Major Greg Parsons, museum curator, advised us as follows. The German enemy aliens who were interned at Camp Blanding came from Costa Rica, Guatemala, and Panama. The first group of 152 arrived in January 1942. This group consisted of 35 Germans from Costa Rica and 115 from Guatemala. Included also were 2 Italians, one each from Costa Rica and Guatemala. In April, 18 German Jews arrived at Blanding from Panama. The enemy aliens were interned in Blanding's Stockade #2. Major Parsons knows where this facility was on the post but nothing remains of it. The stockade was originally built to house US service personnel who were under arrest for various reasons. The enemy aliens were housed in pyramidal tents, about 15 feet square with a wooden frame, similar to the ones US service personnel were housed in. Each tent housed 4 or 5 persons.
|Construction of Camp Blanding huts for US service personnel. Photo courtesy of 43rd Infantry Division Veterans Association|
The stockade was surrounded by a double 10 foot fence topped by barbed wire and measured 110 by 150 yards. All the enemy aliens were moved from Blanding during the summer of 1942 to permanent camps in Camp Kenedy in Texas, Stringtown, Oklahoma, and Camp Forrest in Tennessee.
After first signing declarations not to take up arms against the Allies, German Guatemalans sent to Stringtown (reportedly plagued by fleas while there) and other internees were shipped back to Germany via New York and Sweden on the SS Drottningholm in late July 1942. Wagner, Regina. Los alemanes en Guatemala (The Germans in Guatemala), 1828-1944 Guatemala 1996. According to German Guatemalans on that voyage, Hugo Droege and Joseph Leber, this deportation to Germany was against their wishes.(See also: Latin American Resident Internees) For further information on Camp Blanding, visit its website.
Camp Forrest was located in Tullahoma, Tennessee, a rural area approxi-mately 70 miles south of Nashville. Its tenure as a internment camp began in May 1942. The average population was 200 men, mostly Italians, but in November, 600 German internees arrived. The peak population was over 800.
As reported by John Heitmann, Ph.D. in a paper presented in 1998, one arriving internee recalled that they were met by troops who had cordoned off the train station. They had a lineup and were transported in trucks with mounted machine guns. The men were and organized into “gangs” of 225 each and housed in green wood 4-man huts with large gaps in the paneling, which made for chilly winters.
There were inadequate washing and toilet facilities and the men constantly were on the lookout for ever-present black widow spiders. Max Ebel, a German internee, remembers entering his hut only to find black widow spiders throughout. He and his housemates removed them carefully without incident. The men had to wear green apparel at all times. Trenches were dug between the lines of huts to drain off water and the area was frequently muddy. Many men worked on a voluntary basis around the camp. For instance, Mr. Ebel, a member of Gang 5, worked in the infirmary with military doctors to care for sick internees. (Max Ebel Story)
Dr. Heitmann reports that Camp Forrest was very much a military camp, and the internees were viewed more a prisoners of war than civilians. They were expected to comply with certain camp “courtesies” from the time of their arrival which included standing at attention in the presence of an officer.
Mr. Ebel reports that he learned upon his arrival in March 1943, that a jittery serviceman shot an internee from a guard tower, when the internee approached the tower in what was believed to be a threatening manner. Mr. Ebel never knew if this was true, but he was cautious.
Camp Forrest’s population include a mix of internees, mostly in the political middle, but some more vocal concerning their national heritage. The internee population even included several Panamanian Jews, who encountered some difficulties.
In early 1943, the German internees were notified that they were being transferred to make way for German prisoners of war. As expressed in the internee camp newspaper, The Latrine, there was much consternation about where the men would be transferred. In May 1943, they were dispersed to a number of camps, many placed on a shuttered, guarded train which took them to Ft. Lincoln in Bismarck, North Dakota. Others were sent to join their families in Seagoville and Crystal City, Texas. (“Enemies are Human,” a paper presented to the Dayton Christian-Jewish Dialogue, May 10, 1998, by John A. Heitmann, Ph.D., Professor of History, University of Dayton.) Recent visitors to Camp Forrest report that little or nothing remains on the site.
|More Camp Forrest Images -- Photos from National Archives Collection
Camp McCoy was first formed as the “Sparta Maneuver Tract” in 1909. It be-came Camp McCoy” in 1926 and since 1973 has been “Fort McCoy”.
Toward the end of 1941 the former CCC discharge and reception center at Old Camp McCoy was converted into an internment camp for enemy aliens and a POW prison camp. The German internees sent to Camp McCoy in early 1942 were all transferred to other camps by the end of June 1942, and by early 1943 the internment camp was re-designated as a POW camp for captured Germans and Japanese. During the “internment phase” of Camp McCoy, a contingent of Germans and some Italians (thirteen of whom were American citizens) who had been arrested and interned in Hawaii, was spirited away to Camp McCoy because of some legal wrangling involving writs of habeas corpus. In June they were taken back to Hawaii. Both times the men were transferred by military ship, traveling by convoy through submarine infested waters. (More firsthand accounts in Real People)
In 1945 Camp McCoy was designated a reception and separation center for U.S. troops.
In 1946 the last of the prisoners of war from World War II left Camp McCoy. Camp McCoy, now Ft. McCoy, has been in constant use since its inception and is currently used by the military as a regional training center.
Administration Building - Former site of Stringtown Internment Camp. This building is one of the remaining structures from the time of the internment camp. Stringtown Prison, Stringtown, Oklahoma
During the early months of World War II, and after initial processing, many internees were sent to the prison in Stringtown, Oklahoma, which was operated by the US Army. The prison started accepting internees on March 30, 1942 and was located four miles north of Stringtown, on the west side of highway 69. The camp was previously a sub-prison, established in 1933, to relieve overcrowding at the Oklahoma State Penitentiary. Stringtown had a capacity of 500 and held primarily German internees, but some Italians and Japanese were also held there. (See map) The internees were divided into 3 companies with an officer, NCO and company clerk assigned to each company. The camp commander ran the camp pursuant to strict rules which provided that under some circumstances, such as attempted escape, internees were to be shot.
Although the environment at Stringtown was described as bleak, most internees made the best of it by keeping the living quarters (former inmate cells and added barracks), as clean as possible and engaging in meaningful hobbies. Also, internees were responsible for preparing their own food. Guards and administrators reported that the meals for the internees were much better tasting than the food they received. There was a small, vocal Nazi element at Stringtown, estimated to be less than 3% of the general population. This element had an unsettling effect on the atmosphere of the camp, especially for the few German Jews who were interned there. Two German internees died at the camp and are buried at Ft. Reno.
The “permanent” status of Stringtown turned out to be short lived because it was closed in June of 1943. By then most Stringtown internees had been transferred to camps run by U.S. Border Patrol personnel under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice. For the remainder of World War II, Stringtown housed German POWs. The site now contains the Mack Alford Correctional Center, a medium security prison.
A former INS quarantine station off the coast of Honolulu, O'ahu was converted into the Sand Island Detention Center in World War II and overseen by the US Army. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, martial law was declared in Hawaii. From December 1941 through February 1942, men and women of Japanese and German ethnicity, both aliens and US citizens, were housed here. Small tents without floors were later replaced by newly built barracks. Eventually married men were reunited with their wives, and each couple was assigned a tent. There were two latrines, one at each end of the camp. Meals were served in a large communal mess hall.
As in other internee camps, high barbed wire fences were erected around the five acre site, and were patrolled day and night by military guards with rifles. Internees were not allowed paper, pens or pencils, so were unable to keep in touch with family left behind. There were some opportunities to work, for a salary of 10 cents an hour. To alleviate boredom and attempt to beautify their surroundings, some of the internees dug up beach grasses to plant around their entries. Considered a temporary facility, detainees were taken to Honouliuli in leeward O’ahu on March 1, 1943.
In Hawai’i a number of camps housed enemy aliens, either temporarily or more permanently. Kilauea Military Camp on the island of Hawai’i, Ha’iku on Maui, the Kalaheo Stockade on Kaua’i, Sand Island off the Honolulu coast, and Camp Honouliuli in the Waianae Mountains above Pearl Harbor, O'ahu were some of them.
In Camp Honouliuli, run by the Army, Japanese and German American internees were housed in barracks or tents and segregated into separate areas of the camp. As in mainland camps, prisoners were able to work within the grounds, for ten cents an hour. In this camp, too, residents sought to make their accommodations both more comfortable and more attractive. Using their own money for supplies, they built porches and planted flower and vegetable gardens. Unlike military facilities elsewhere, internees were able to visit together with their families in the relaxed environment of the mess hall during the twice monthly visits allowed. Camp Honouliuli was operational from 1943-1945. (More firsthand accounts in Real People. Also, see Berg family story.) All Photos Courtesy of the Resource Center of the Japanese American Cultural Center.
Ft. George Meade was a US Army military post located southwest of Baltimore in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. It apparently served primarily as a temporary detention site for German, Italian and some Japanese internees before they shipped to other locations. Reports indicate that the peak population in May 1942 was over 350.
Dr. John Heitmann, in his paper, “Enemies are Human,” reports that many civilian internees came to Ft. Meade from Ellis Island on their way to other, more permanent camps, in sealed off trains with all windows shuttered. Max Ebel, a German internee, was transferred from Ellis Island to Ft. Meade where he remained for two weeks. He actually found Ft. Meade a relief after Ellis Island. He had gotten extremely ill at Ellis Island and finally got medical at Ft. Meade, as well as some “good food.” (More firsthand accounts in Real People)
Internees were treated as prisoners of war and issued green government khaki. Dr. Heitmann continues: They were housed in 4-man tents, several of which routinely flooded after heavy rains. Barbed wire, “off limits” signs, and machine guns surrounding the prisoners completed the scene, along with guards who viewed these men as potentially dangerous,” enemies of the American people. At least one incident was reported in which soldiers shot into the internee barracks. There was a large FBI presence.
Dr. Heitmann states that perhaps the biggest challenge to the arriving civilian internees were the seamen, captured and interned at Camp Upton, NY, who were transferred to Ft. Meade. These nationalistic sailors from the S. S. Odenwald had a far different view of the war than German civilian internees, who long ago committed to live and work in America and sought to impress that on the new internees. The internees were moved out in the spring of 1943 to make way for German POWs. (“Enemies are Human,” a paper presented to the Dayton Christian-Jewish Dialogue, May 10, 1998, by John A. Heitmann, Ph.D., Professor of History, University of Dayton.)
|Ft. Meade Tents by Paul Lameyer. Courtesy his grandson, Randy Houser.||Ft. Meade Tent Interior by Paul Lameyer. Courtesy his grandson, Randy Houser.|
|Ft. Meade Dining Room by Paul Lameyer. Courtesy his grandson, Randy Houser.|