During World War II some 425,000 Axis prisoners of war (PWs) were held in internment camps in the United States. Prisoners were brought here to be safely confined and to supplement a depleted civilian work force. The PWs lived at 126 large camps, each housing several thousand men, some built in conjunction with military installations.
In November 1942 planning began to build a one-thousand-man camp at Fort Robinson, Nebraska. The fort was selected because prisoners could help maintain the post and its thousands of remount horses and mules. Shortly after the camp's initial construction was completed, two more compounds to hold an additional two thousand men were added. By war's end the camp consisted of 160 temporary "Theater of Operations" buildings, with a capacity of three thousand inmates, and several hundred military guards, interpreters, and other camp personnel.
On November 19, 1943, the first group of six hundred German PWs, veterans of Field Marshal Rommel's Afrika Korps, arrived. Camp population remained at 500 - 600 until after the allied invasion of Normandy in June 1944. A second surge of arrivals brought the camp to its maximum population in December 1944, all from the German army. In early 1945 the camp was designated a naval camp, and German sailors replaced most of the army prisoners. That fall the camp became a satellite of the Scottsbluff, Nebraska, prisoner of war camp. Although the war with Germany ended in May 1945, the last few PWs and American camp personnel did not leave Fort Robinson until May 1946. The buildings were soon sold as surplus and removed. Today the Fort Robinson camp remains one of the country's best preserved prisoner of war camp sites.
First prison compound looking south. [R539-318]
Flagpole area showing Officers' Club (left), and mess hall.
PW soccer game on the recreation grounds. [T467-24]
Fort Robinson History