The Vault

How to Build a POW Camp for Captured Germans

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This simple plan, approved in 1945, shows the construction of a prisoner of war camp for German POWs in Ogden, Utah. The camp was one of hundreds scattered around the country, usually located in isolated areas. Altogether, the American Army housed more than 400,000 prisoners of war during the conflict.

The plan shows how the German section of the camp would be located in relationship to the existing “ISU” (“Italian Service Unit”) housing. Since Italy had surrendered in 1943, Italian prisoners experienced much laxer supervision, and “service units” labored in various capacities for nearby farms and businesses. (Italian prisoners at Ogden even held dances that were attended by local girls.)

The German camp had tighter security—a 9-foot and a 7-foot wire fence, as opposed to a single 9-foot fence for the ISU area. Still, even if their country was still at war with the United States, the German “PWs” (the “O” wasn’t commonly used in WWII) weren’t always committed Nazis, and escape attempts and uncooperative behavior were rare. Those who were found to have a strong connection with Nazism were housed at different camps with tighter security, such as the camp at Alva, Okla.

Thanks to filmmaker Scott Porter, who is working on a documentary about German POW camps in the US, for recommending this document. Click on the image below to arrive at a zoomable version.

Image courtesy of Weber State University, Special Collections

Correction, March 3, 2014: An original version of this post incorrectly interpreted the “ISU” abbreviation as “Italian Special Unit.”