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, Starke, Florida
|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
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
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
information: Real People—Latin American Resident Internees
For further information on Camp Blanding, please click here.
| Camp Forrest Guard Tower,
1942. US Air Force Photo
| Camp Forrest Kitchen
Camp Forrest, Tullahoma,
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. (See 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
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 Forrest Overview
Camp McCoy, Sparta,
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. (See also: 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
|Administration Building -
Former site of Stringtown Internment Camp. This building is one of the
remaining structures from the time of the internment camp.
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.
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), 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
Internment Camp, National Park Service Photo
|Sand Island Internment
Camp, Resource Center of Japanese American Cultural Center Photo.
Sand Island, O’ahu Hawaii
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.
Camp Honouliuli, O’ahu,
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.) All
Photos Courtesy of the Resource Center of the Japanese American
|Camp Honouliuli, O’ahu,
||What remains of Camp
Honouliuili today is hidden in the overgrowth.
|Ft. Meade gaurd tower.
Image from original drawing by German internee Paul Lameyer. Courtesy
his grandson, Randy Houser.
Fort Meade, Maryland
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.” (See also: 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.
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