For years I have been haunted by the horror stories told by our friends and Comanche County residents, A.L. Humphrey* and Henry Spalding. I often told their stories to my students, Mr. Spalding even speaking to my classes many times for you see, these men were held overseas as POWs during World War II…and the thought of these gentle warriors fighting to stay alive, fighting to find the next rat to hold off starvation for yet another day is more than my mnd can process.
And then…Missy Jones reminded me about the German POWs held at Camp Bowie in Brownwood, Texas during World War II. While doing research on the subject, I came across an interview that was done with one of the men held at Camp Bowie by Heike Haddenbrock in 2007. It was extremely interesting to me to hear from the mouths of one of those long ago POWs!
Heinrich Krahforst was a German POW held at Camp Bowie from 1943-1945, and I can just feel how terrified he must have been when he was captured by us, the enemy, and shipped to a foreign country. Given the brutality that existed in Germany at the time, I’m sure the young man thought he was in for treatment that was no different. What he found in America was nothing like what he had expected!
Krahforst was only twenty-two when his boat docked in New York City where he was herded onto a train along with his fellow prisoners. Obviously, the trip by train took many days, and Krahforst’s group of 3,000 was the first group of POWs to arrive in Brownwood.
“We were treated very well, and they always gave us plenty of food. The barracks we stayed in were clean and nice; a group of 14 prisoners lived in each barrack. The first half year, we were not allowed to work there, but they encouraged us to improve our living conditions in the barracks and do some landscaping in the frontyards. Actually, they even gave away an award for the most beautiful front yard…
“We were able to buy quite a few things at the camp such as beer, cookies, chocolate and cigarettes. This was wonderful! I stayed at Camp Bowie for 2 years, then I went to Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan for another year. We worked in the fields for the farmers, in Wisconsin, I had to pick potatoes.
” I liked it in the United States so much that I tried to stay there, but they wouldn‘t let us. Many of my friends wanted to stay there, too. They told us though that we had to go to Germany first and then come back as immigrants…”
Hmmm….I didn’t hear one word about the cruel Americans, did you?
The photos on this page come directly from Heike’s posted interview where you can read the rest of her work.
Read more on this subject from James Wyatt.*I hope to bring you these men’s stories in the future, but for today I will just share with you the fact that A.L. lost down to 68 pounds while he was a POW of the Japanese.