POWs at Camp Bowie
World War II
Texas had twice as many prisoners of war during W.W.II than any other state.  This was due to the number
of military bases available to house the prisoners and to the mild climate available in Texas.  Texas had: 
  • 21 Permanent Prisoner Base Camps, mostly located on military bases 
  • 20 Temporary Branch Camps 
  • 45,000 German, Italian, and Japanese Prisoners were interned in Texas from 1942-1945 
  • 27,000 were used in Agricultural tasks, picking cotton, pulling corn, harvesting rice. 
  • Others were used in the local communities for various jobs.
After the war most of the prisoners were returned to their native countries.  Over 100 prisoners are still buried in the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio. 

Here at Camp Bowie, Brownwood, Texas, the prisoners were buried in the Jordan Springs Cemetery as it was located on Camp Bowie property.  After the war, they were returned to Germany.  Only five men were
buried there.  A section of the Jordan Springs Cemetery was fenced off from the rest of the cemetery and reserved exclusively for Italian prisoners of war who succumbed to illness while interned at Camp Bowie. 

Camp Bowie POW Camp
Formerly called the "Camp Bowie Internment Camp." 

  • The Camp Bowie prisoner of war camp was activated on July 10, 1943.  The camp was built in 30 days by Charley Oehler, a contractor from Galveston, Texas. The camp was located in the valley immediately below the dam on the Brownwood Country Club property. 
  • The camp was built inside a wire fence with heavy barbs on top of the wire. 
  • Camp had wooden military style barracks, mess halls, a medical facility and a command building. Each compound was built to routine specifications, which consisted of 72 buildings, divided into three compounds, of which 56 were barracks.  Each building measure 48'x16' and housed 18 men.  This gaveCamp Bowie a capacity for 3,000 men. 
  • Each compound would include four latrines, four company offices and various other buildings such as alibrary, recreational room, shop and administration building. Large type guard towers were located at each corner of the compound with guards, machine guns, and dog patrols. 
  • The first prisoners arrived from the European Theater and consisted of 70 enlisted men and a handful of officers. Within a month that number climbed to 1,800. By September 1943 there were 2,724 prisoners housed at the camp. Most of the prisoners were members of Field Marshall Erwin Rommell's Afrika Korps. 
  • The prisoners came by train and were unloaded at the Brownwood Santa Fe Depot, and marched to the campsite, a distance of 3 1/2 miles.  The prisoners were dressed in their woolen field gear and wearing knee-high boots, with taps on the heels.  They sang German Army marching songs as they marched to the compound. 
  • In 1945 the camp was changed from Army POWs to a camp for German Naval personnel. 
Life in the POW Camp
  • The prisoners had reveille at 5:45 am and lights were turned out at 10:00 pm. In the morning, two classes of beginners english, then two classes for advanced english were taught. In the afternoon, shorthand, farming, forestry, building, metal work, electrical, radio, bookkeeping, political economy, law, history, geography and education were taught. 
  • Evening classes consisted of educational lectures, special reports, organization of music groups andmusical programs.  Usually the session ended with group singing. 
  • Each compound had a theater, woodworking shop, and in the day rooms, were ping pong tables, billiards tables, and three card tables.  A canteen building 66'x48' was available to the prisoners.  A beer garden,measuring 130' x 60' was also available.  There were regular size soccer fields and tennis courts. 
  • Movies were shown twice a week, both American and German films.  The camps' 10 piece orchestra played for evening entertainment and the theater group performed at least every two months.  The orchestra became a very professional group of musicians.  The entire POW camp would attend their performances. 
  • They had an outside farm, which encompassed 125 acres.  This farm was located very near the prisoner compound, and today houses the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's T. R. Havins Unit.  They produced most of their own fruit and vegetables. 
  • On the first inspection by the U.S. Provost Marshall's office and the Swiss Legation they noted that "Camp Bowie was not very attractive and presented a somewhat drab appearance." 
  • On the second inspection they stated that "Considerable improvement of the area within the stockade has been made by the prisoners." 
  • Last inspection of the camp was held on July 1-3, 1945 and stated that "The camp consisting of threecompounds, of which only two are being used today, in which 2,032 men are detained as follows: Officers - 2, N.C.O.'s - 143, Enlisted Men - 1,828 and protected personnel - 59, all Germans." 
  • There were in the hospital 98 patients, 74 of whom were battle casualties.  A large number of patients are being treated from the fact that last October 685 battle casualties were brought to Camp Bowie for treatment.  On duty was one American doctor, one American dentist, three German doctors and one German Dental Assistant. 
A roster of all the prisoners held at Camp Bowie, giving their name, rank, unit, date and when they were
captured, is posted in the Annex of the Brown County Museum of History in Brownwood. Included in the prisoners were General Rommel's North African units, Cherbourg Area (Normandy), Hamburg Area - most were Nazi U-boat and Submarine Units, the famous SS (Elite Detachment) and the SA (Storm Detachment) Divisions, 87 mine sweepers and three German Air Force personnel. 

The prisoners were generally cooperative and obedient.  They seemed to wish to please very much.  The
discipline among the prisoners were rigidly enforced by German officers and N.C.O.'s. 

| POW Heinrich Krahforst Story | POW Ernest Gies Story | Play "Minna von Barnhelm" |
| Story of Murals | Equipment List | POW Cemetery | Interesting Stories |

Information for this page was obtained from many differerent sources including stories in the Brownwood Bulletin, documents from the Army Service Forces, Eighth Service Command, The Handbook of Texas Online, the Louene Bishop Collection and personal interviews.

Return to Brown County History Home Page