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Camp Hearne

By: Lindsay Liepman
By: Lindsay Liepman

One of the largest German POW camps during World War two was in Hearne, and for years the city has been trying to get the story out.

Now, some national attention may help.

During World War II more than 300,000 German POWs were captured in North Africa...with no where else to put them, they came to America.

"When they came the purpose was to not only house the prisoners but also put them to work in the place of the men that were going off for war," says Dr. Michael Waters.

And where America needed help the most, was in rural areas.

So the Robertson County community of Hearne became the site of the largest POW camp in Texas.

The 5,000 prisoners nearly doubled Hearne's population.

Texas A&M Professor Michael Waters interviewed former POWs and former officers to write a book about Camp Hearne.

This week PBS will document his findings.

"The POW's in Hearne had the time of their life, they told me," says Waters.

The prisoners were treated well, so that in return, other countries would treat American POWs with the same respect.

A glimpse of what life was like at Camp Hearne can still be seen through the trees and overgrown brush.

It is that history the city of Hearne is trying to recapture.

"Everybody has a train depot, Victorian homes, not everybody has a Camp Hearne and what we're trying to do is make this the thing for Hearne," says Cathy Lazarus of the Hearne Chamber of Commerce.

The city knows it cannot fully restore the camp to its former glory...but if it can save some of the story that began fifty five years ago, this slice of Hearne's history will live on.

Although life was good for many of the prisoners, there were still stories of escape and Nazi intimidation.

PBS will air an episode later this year about Camp Hearne on its show History Detectives.

Learn more at www.camphearne.info


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