Indianola NE Historical Society

preserving the history of our town…

German P.O.W. Camp new

In 1942, during the war, Indianola was chosen for the site of a prisoner of war camp. When completed it housed nearly 2,000 German prisoners. (I have heard 3000 to 3500.) Over three million prisoners of war were captured by Allied forces during World War II. Of these, 370,000 Germans and 50,000 Italians were transferred from the battlefront to the United States at the request of our European allies, who were holding all the prisoners they could. Prisoner-of-war troops were typically referred to as P.W. or POWs.

Prisoners were brought to the U.S. to be safely confined and to supplement a depleted civilian work force.
By the summer of 1943, when German prisoners of war began to arrive in Nebraska, the agricultural work force in the state was severely depleted. Farmers needed workers. So, prisoners were allowed to work in the surrounding communities. There seemed to be little risk that the POWs would escape since they were thousands of miles and an ocean away from home.The PWs lived at 126 large camps, each housing several thousand men, some built in conjunction with military installations.

In Nebraska, approximately 12,000 prisoners of war were held in camps across the state. Scottsbluff, Fort Robinson, and the village Atlanta (outside Holdrege) were the main base camps. There were many smaller satellite camps at Alma, Bayard, Bertrand, Bridgeport, Elwood, Fort Crook, Franklin, Grand Island, Hastings, Hebron, Indianola, Kearney, Lexington, Lyman, Mitchell, Morrill, Ogallala, Palisade, Sidney, and Weeping Water. Altogether there were 23 large and small camps scattered across the state. When the war ended, prisoners were sent back to their homelands where many faced an uncertain future. The last of them left Nebraska in early 1946. But many prisoners had found their treatment here to be better than their lives at home. A few found American sponsors and later returned to live in Nebraska.

From the McCook Daily Gazette Dec. 8, 2006:
According to the book, “Prisoners on the Plains: German POWS in America,” by Glenn Thompson, German prisoners of war were housed at a main camp at Indianola, in neighboring Red Willow County, as early as the summer of 1943. Camp Indianola’s mission changed several times and so did its status as a base camp and as a “branch” or “side” camp for the large base camp at Atlanta.

Branch camps were established at distances from base camps to reduce and/or eliminate the daily transportation of prisoners from base camps.

Indianola’s camp had been established by the War Department to provide labor to build flood control and irrigation projects on nearby rivers and creeks. However, materials proved difficult or impossible to obtain, so, in May 1944, without a mission, Camp Indianola was to become a branch camp of Atlanta and gradually be disbanded, with the exception of a working caretaker detail.

The camp’s prisoner population dropped to about 320.

By Sept. 5, 1944, Indianola was reactivated as a base camp and 2,529 men were either en route to Indianola or being processed into the camp. And 906 of those men were shown on reports as “segregated” personnel.

Camp Indianola’s new mission was to house “pro-Nazi” noncommissioned officers, to separate hardcore Nazis from the troops they had commanded. Thompson reports that only eight camps in the United States could handle “these malcontents, many of whom were possible war criminals.”

Separate from this contingent of high-security prisoners at Camp Indianola were German prisoners who worked off-base for area farmers, in businesses and on construction projects.

At the end of the war when the POW camp was closed, the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Reclamation used the site from 1946 until the end of 1954. Since then the land was sold and the buildings torn down. All that remains are two brick chimneys, a water tower converted into a silo, and the building foundations.

Aerial view of the camp in 2012

As you can see there are many of the foundations left of the camp.
This old POW Fireman badge belongs to Barry and Joy Williams. It was Berry’s grandma Roberta Williams fathers badge. Chester McCafferty who was a Fireman out at the camp. Cool as heck huh.

Chester McCafferty's Badge From The Camp

Mary Ann Carney donated a newspaper with these next pictures about the camp and the people that worked there.

Margie Bergin

Margie Bergin

Below the 3 pictures here are from Willis Jones. They were taken in the 1950’s of their children Dianne and Warren Jones while they were living at the camp. Willis worked for the Bureau of Reclamation at the time.
Thank you to the Jones family for lending them to us to be copied.

Are there any others out there?

LeRoy, Danny & Peggy Davis living at the camp


All 3 pics show the buildings in the back ground.

All 3 pics show the buildings in the back ground.

Aerial Photo Of Prisoner Of War Camp North Of Indianola

Aerial Photo Of Prisoner Of War Camp North Of Indianola


“See more about the camp (2012) on the Indianola page”

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