Texas has a rich history and if you look around enough you'll probably learn that there is much more history around the State of Texas than what is taught in schools. For example, did you know that the Texas Panhandle had prisoner of war camps during World War II? Again, it's not something that is in a lot of text books.

Camp Hereford was one of those camps and it was a large POW camp that housed Italian prisoners of war. In June of 1942, the War Department authorized the construction of Camp Hereford which sat on 330 acres of land on the border of Castro and Deaf Smith counties. According to reports, the camp was large enough to hold anywhere from 3,000 to 6,000 POW's. Inmates began arriving in 1943 and by 1946 all POW's had been repatriated.

According to Texas Highways, most of those captured were captured by Allied forces in North Africa and shipped through the Panama Canal to the west coast then by train to Hereford.

Texas Highways described the camp having four compounds and that at its fullest, housed 3,860 prisoners.

The camp encompassed four compounds with barracks, mess halls, and infirmaries and was surrounded by barbed wire fences monitored by armed guards. At its fullest, it held 3,860 prisoners. After Italy surrendered in 1943, the prime minister instructed Italian POWs to collaborate with the Allies. In the U.S., those who agreed were sent to work, under relaxed security, at sites across the country with labor shortages. Those who refused were sent to Texas.

“Most of them out here were the ardent fascists,” Rogers says. “They were sorted out from the rest of the Italians all over the United States and brought to Hereford.”

Not much is left of the site. And if you didn't know any better, you'd probably drive right on past what is left without even thinking about it. The barracks were sold to school districts and two now house collections of the Castro County Museum.

Texas Historical Society YouTube
Texas Historical Society YouTube

According to Texas Highways, all that is left is a water tower and a small chapel that was built by prisoners who returned to the site in 1945 to honor the five men who died at the site. The owner of the land has allowed the chapel to remain open to the public. For many years, POW's would return to site.

TexasTimeTravel.com reports that St. Mary's Church in Umbarger, Texas which is about 20 miles away from the camp has an amazing connection to the POW camp. Some of the POWs were commissioned to decorate the church and did so by making stained glass windows, murals, and wood carvings that still stand today.

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