U.S. Prisoner of War Camps
... in Memphis and Vicinity - WWII



During the Second World War, Tennessee was home to eleven prisoner-of-war camps. Four were large installations.  Camp Crossville was built on the site of an abandoned 1930s Civilian Conservation Corps work camp. Camp Forrest was an existing army installation with extra space wherein prisoners were quartered.  Generally, Prisoner of war facilities were established at army installations throughout the United States.  The Depot at Memphis was one of the installations in which a camp was located.  Initially, it served as a branch of a camp in Como, Mississippi.  Wounded or ill Prisoners from all over were treated at Memphis Kennedy Hospital.  Information and Photos for this page were extremely difficult to locate.



Click on small photos to see an enlargement

Memphis ASF Depot

The Memphis Army Service Forces Depot was built as one of the major supply houses for WWII.  At its peak, the depot supplied some 100,000 troops in the South and moved 100,000 items monthly.  It handled about one-tenth of all quartermaster supplies during WWII.  When the prisoner of war camp was established early in 1944 at the depot in Memphis, it was originally a branch of the Como, Mississippi camp and housed about 250 Italian POWs.  Around May of 1944, approximately 300 German POWs replaced them.  By September, there were 1,912 prisoners who were involved with manual labor, mowing, grounds maintenance, and cafeteria work.  Some 800 of the POWs worked in warehouses, and moved a great deal of the tonnage handled by the depot.  The depot did more than an adequate job of caring for these prisoners.  The camp  at the Depot consisted of 4 barracks and 5 tents - with 65 men in each of the barracks and 6 men in each tent.  Half the tents had wooden floors and some had electric lights. 

German POWS        

German POWS

POWS play Soccer

Camp Currency

Camp Currency


POW Inventory Items 1946 POW Inventory Items POW Funeral POWs

POW letter to Memphis



Camp Forrest, near Nashville, officially became a prisoner of war camp in 1942.  It housed Italian and German POWs - over 3000 Germans.  The prisoners became laborers at Camp Forrest in the hospitals and on the farms in the local community. 


Camp Forrest

Forrest Gate Camp Forrest Forrest Tower Camp Forrest

POW Soccer Team Xmas Card by POW Camp Drawing by POW Currency

POW Letter to Germany 1944


Camp Crossville TN was built on the site of an abandoned 1930s Civilian Conservation Corps work camp.  It was nicknamed "Jap Camp" by the locals, but it actually contained only Italian and German prisoners.  The first prisoners included about 1500 Germans, most of whom were veterans of General Rommel's Afrika Korps.  Camp Campbell Ky was an existing army installation with extra space.   It was a special-purpose camp which served as a safe haven for dedicated "anti-Nazi".  Discipline at this camp was often a problem as this group quarreled incessantly among themselves.   Camp Clinton MS housed the highest ranking German Officers.  25 Generals were housed there along with several colonels, majors, and captians.  The high ranking generals had special housing.  Camp Shelby was one of four base camps in Mississippi.

Crossville Today Crossville POW Crossville Currency Tennessee Camp

Clinton, Mississippi   

Camp Clinton Camp Clinton

Return  to Camp Clinton     

Shelby Barracks Shelby German POWs Shelby German Soccer Team

German POW

Camp Campbell Camp Campbell Camp Campbell Camp Campbell
Life inside an American POW Camp.

There were 600 POW camps across the United States.  More than 425,000 German, Italian, and Japanese POWs were held here during WW2.  The majority of the camps were located in the Southern states.  There was an economical reason for this.  Because the weather was milder, it was less costly to heat the buildings.

Benevolent treatment was commonplace in American camps and the prisoners were generally cooperative.  They worked, at times, for small wages, when they were requested to perform labor, mostly of an agricultural variety.  When the cotton compresses and warehouses in Memphis suffered from a labor shortage in 1944, prisoners from the Memphis Camp worked there, and some were sent to Arkansas to pick cotton. 

All US POW Camps

Security at the camps was rather lax.  Prisoners were allowed to go for walks outside the compounds.  Most always returned.  Of 356,560 prisoners in the United States, only 1,583 "escaped", and of those only 22 never returned. 

Conditions were comfortable and by the Geneva Convention, the enemy never did without.  Entertainments were commonplace.  At Camp Campbell, the POWs purchased musical instruments from their earnings and formed two complete orchestras.  German prisoners at Memphis also formed an orchestra.  Camp authorities allowed them to publish newspapers at Crossville and Camp Campbell.  And at some camps, they produced and performed their own German plays.  If there were no disciplinary problems, they were also even allowed to buy beer and wine.  Educational programs were established at every camp.  English instruction was the most common course. 

There is absolutely no doubt that the prisoners appreciated the kind treatment they received.  They have expressed this in letters and during postwar visits.  Several even emigrated to the areas where they were imprisoned.  In 1984 a group of German prisoners visited Memphis and the site of their old camp. 

The last POW left Memphis for their return to Germany in 1946.

ROHWER Japanese Internment "Relocation" Camp

The Japanese Internment Camps represent another dark moment in American History.  It's a period that is often overlooked in many textbooks and is unknown to great numbers of people.  When the U.S. went to war with Japan, all Japanese Americans or those of Japanese descent were rounded up and sent to interment camps on orders of the United States government, simply for the crime of their race - for being Japanese.  They lost all their property.  And sixty two percent of the internees were American citizens.   One of these camps was established at ROHWER, Arkansas, 115 miles from Memphis.  In 1980 President Jimmy Carter conducted an investigation and the results were to provide a payment of $20,000 to each individual internment camp survivor.  In 1988 Congress passed legislation that apologized for the internment on behalf of the U. S. Government.  Eventually the government disbursed more than $1.6 billion in reparations to Japanese Americans who had been interned,  and to their heirs.  

Rohwer Sign Rohwer Camp Children Families George Takai

Residents Monument School Sewing Class Camp Coin





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