The U.S. Army began building POW camps in the United States in early 1942 for captured Axis prisoners. During World War II, the Army shipped almost 425,000 military prisoners to 511 camps in the U.S. Approximately 50,000 of those POWs, primarily Germans, were housed in 70 Texas facilities ranging from 9000-prisoner base camps to small branch camps for 250. The POWs filled American labor shortages brought on by the war's strain on available stateside man power. In Texas almost half of the camps provided agricultural workers for rice and cotton fields. Texas businessmen requested another 12 camps for help in the timber industry. Most of these were set up to salvage lumber and pulpwood from a severe ice storm in January 1944. The headquarters for the salvage work was Lufkin, the only Texas town to have two POW camps during the war.
The original POW camp, known as Camp Number 1 was located just north of the city on U.S. Hwy 69. Southland paper mills, led by Ernest Kurth, S.W. Henderson and Arthur Temple, leased an abandoned CCC camp from the U.S. Forest Service. Construction of the camp began in November 1943 and it officially opened on February 15, 1944. The camp's 300 German prisoners produced pulpwood until it closed in 1946. Southland's success with POW labor encouraged other lumber companies to follow suit. Southland established Camp Number 2 in late April 1944 at the county fairgrounds, one mile southeast of town, where the Lufkin school district later established schools. It operated briefly in 1944 to provide labor for salvaging ice-damaged timber. The Army housed the 500 prisoners at the camp in cement and wood dorms. Camp Number 2 closed in September 1944.
Texas in World War II.