Where Were Your Ancestors?
|POW Camp Chapel, Texas|
Location of Camps
There is often a need to do research on events we would all like to forget, like the Prisoner of War (POW) camps in America. In WWII America had POW camps scattered throughout the states. By the end of the war there were over 500 such camps documented containing over 425,000 POWs. There were POW camps in Arkansas and as far north as Minnesota; Japanese concentration camps were along the west coast; and Internment Camps in Texas held many Peruvian and Japanese natives, as well as, German Americans. These various POW camp were as far north as North Dakota, and of course Ellis Island, but were also in Midwest states like Minnesota, and they reached both the east and west coasts. The south held their fair share of camps, as the cost of heating the barracks and a longer planting season, which the prisoners often maintained, made that region more cost effective.
What is amazing is that historians write about those imprisoned, but forget to tell the story of the workers; those who ran the camps daily. In the McLean Prisoner of War Camp in Texas, also known as the McLean Permanent Alien Internment Camp, jobs for the locals and men (mostly guards) for the young women to marry were advantageous for the community.
Were your ancestors’ administrating these camps? Details of your ancestor’s involvement may be hidden in collections housed at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). The NARA holds video, still pictures, and textural documents that accurately provides an account of POW camps’ events and activities. Along with this information, specific deck logs, attacks of ships or men in battle are recorded, as well as reports of field casualties and injuries can be found. President F.D. Roosevelt’s papers are also revealing as to American’s policy on POW’s. Pairing any information found in the NARA collections with medical records (military and civilian), you can get a full picture of not only your ancestor’s life or demise, but also a clearer picture of World History and America’s involvement.