"The Enemy within Never Did Without": German and Japanese Prisoners of War at Camp Huntsville, 1942-1945

"The Enemy within Never Did Without": German and Japanese Prisoners of War at Camp Huntsville, 1942-1945

"The Enemy within Never Did Without": German and Japanese Prisoners of War at Camp Huntsville, 1942-1945

"The Enemy within Never Did Without": German and Japanese Prisoners of War at Camp Huntsville, 1942-1945

Synopsis

Camp Huntsville was one of the first and largest POW camps constructed in America during World War II. Located roughly eight miles east of Huntsville, Texas, in Walker County, the camp was built in 1942 and opened for prisoners the following year. The camp served as a model site for POW installations across the country and set a high standard for the treatment of prisoners.

Between 1943 and 1945, the camp housed roughly 4,700 German POWs and experienced tense relations between incarcerated Nazi and anti-Nazi factions. Then, during the last months of the war, the American military selected Camp Huntsville as the home of its top-secret re-education program for Japanese POWs.

The irony of teaching Japanese prisoners about democracy and voting rights was not lost on African Americans in East Texas who faced disenfranchisement and racial segregation. Nevertheless, the camp did inspire some Japanese prisoners to support democratization of their home country when they returned to Japan after the war. Meanwhile, in this country, the US government sold Camp Huntsville to Sam Houston State Teachers College in 1946, and the site served as the school's Country Campus through the mid-1950s.

"This long-overdue project is one I started working on decades ago but didn't finish. It is gratifying to see the book come to fruition through the efforts of these two history professors. And what a job they've done!"--Paul Ruffin, Director, TRP

Excerpt

With Christopher Chance, Dale Wagner, and Carolyn Carroll

Huntsville Residents React to War

As World War II began in September 1939, Ross Woodall looked on in disbelief. After serving for a quarter-of-a-century as the editor of the Huntsville Item, Woodall had commented on many outrageous stories, but the brewing conflicts in Europe and Asia were among the most startling. Although the expansionist policies of Italy, Germany, and Japan were well-documented by 1939, Woodall could not believe that the leaders of those countries had already forgotten “the horrors of the last war.” Indeed, Woodall noted in an Item editorial, the armistice ending World War I had been signed only twenty years earlier, and now, he feared, Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler, and the militarists in Japan were threatening to plunge the globe into another bloody conflict that promised to be even more deadly and destructive than the last.

Nat Patton, Woodall’s congressman from the Seventh Texas Congressional District, saw it as part of his job to keep American boys out of the impending world war. Between 1935 and 1937, Patton had voted with the vast majority of his fellow representatives in Washington D.C. to pass a series of Neutrality Acts, which prohibited Americans from traveling in a war zone, or selling, transporting, or loaning munitions or money to a belligerent power. These laws had allowed Americans to virtually ignore the military aggression perpetrated by Italy, Germany, and Japan during the mid-1930s. in fact, the United States did little to contain Benito Mussolini, the leader of Italy’s National Fascist Party, as he established himself as dictator, launched an invasion of Ethiopia, and funneled arms to Francisco Franco and his fascist forces in the Spanish Civil War. Nor did the American government take any direct action against Adolf Hitler . . .

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