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Prisoner of War Compound, Fort Bliss, Texas


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Fort Bliss Texas was home to German and Italian Prisoners of War from the North African Campaign. Prior to the arrival of the POWs, Fort Bliss started to prepare an area to receive these men. Due to the large numbers of Axis soldiers being captured and sent stateside, the prisoners arrived before the facilities were complete. Therefore to house the POWs in one area and kept under guard, they were housed in the El Paso County Colloseum for a period of time. When facilities on Fort Bliss were finished, the POWs were moved there. Today, the water tower located on main post is the only reminder that POWs were once housed at Fort Bliss. There were several sub camps in the surrounding area as well. Las Cruces, New Mexico about 60 miles North of El Paso housed POW's as well as Deming, New Mexico and other small farming towns.

 

The prisoners did various details on post and off post to include picking cotton crops and chiles and other vegetables during harvest. The German prisoners used to complian about doing labor in the fields, claiming it was "beneath" them to get their hands dirty, The Italian Prisoners enjoyed the farm work, as most of them had farms back in Italy.

 

The following are pictures of one of the guard towers that surrounded the compound, some shots of the post garbage detail, and the POW compound in Las Cruces.

 

Captions on the backs of the pictures will also be posted..

 

Picture 1

 

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Caption: PFC Hictala holding Thompson Sub Machine Gun, Tower No 1. PW Compound 309 M.P.E.G. Co PW Comp, Fort Bliss, Texas March 7, 1944

 

Picture 2

 

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Close up of PFC Hictala holding the TSMG.

 

Picture 3

 

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Caption: Looking Down fence from Tower I, 30 machine gun in door. 309 M.P.E.G. Co PW Comp, Fort Bliss, Texas March 7, 1944

 

Picture 4

 

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Caption: PW. compound barracks to left, ammunition magazine on right. 309 M.P.E.G. Co PW Comp, Fort Bliss, Texas March 7, 1944

 

Picture 5

 

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Caption: Post Prison Wagon, Garbage Detail. Show House on Right. Franklin Mts in background. Taken from Tower 1 P.W. Compound. 309 M.P.E.G. Co PW Comp, Fort Bliss, Texas March 7, 1944

"Pain is only Weakness Leaving the Body"

MSG Leigh E Smith Jr
US Army (Retired)

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post-5554-0-60873000-1365219808.jpg

 

Photo 1

 

Close up view of the post garbage detail. Notice the guard standing at the back of the wagon

 

Photo 2

 

Caption: Mountains covered with snow. Photo taken looking NorthWest. PW Comp, Fort Bliss Texas. Cooks & Bakers school left, taylor shop center, service club right. Taken after rain storm Jan 27. 44

 

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Photo 3

 

Caption: P.W. sub camp No 2 up on desert, Las Cruces N.M 3814 S.U. April 21 44.

 

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Photo 4

 

Caption: Cleaning Stoves Las Cruces, NM Willaimson --- Schonemier 561 M.P.E.G. Co PW Comp, Las Cruces, NM April 14, 44

 

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Close up of the Soldiers cleaning the stoves. THey do not appear to be POWs, perhaps MP's?? Not sure.

 

I also am trying to find out more information about the 3814 S.U. Not sure if this is a security unit or what. I will update when i find out, or if someone knows feel free to post.

 

Leigh..

"Pain is only Weakness Leaving the Body"

MSG Leigh E Smith Jr
US Army (Retired)

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post-5554-0-77407800-1365220732.jpg

 

Final shot is a panoramic view of Logan Heights taken in the early 1990's. (September 1993 to be exact) Logan Heights was where basic training and AIT was conducted for many years. Logan Heights was torn down in the 90's and new military housing was built in this area. During World War Two, Logan Heights housed the German POW's after Italy capitulated and the Germans and Italian POWs had to be seperated. The Germans were housed in a tent city.

 

I am still trying to locate photos of this POW compound..

 

Leigh

"Pain is only Weakness Leaving the Body"

MSG Leigh E Smith Jr
US Army (Retired)

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My last station was Bliss. Doesn't look much different...well sort of. It has been built up a lot and most of the old buildings are long gone, still in the middle of a desert. Interesting pictures.

 

I get packages periodically from a few dealers in El Paso and one that is enroute is suppose to have a group of photos from Bliss during WWII. I will let you know if I come across any that may be what you are looking for.

Looking for items from the 38th Infantry Regiment

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ASMIC: 5218

"Live for something rather than die for nothing."

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My last station was Bliss. Doesn't look much different...well sort of. It has been built up a lot and most of the old buildings are long gone, still in the middle of a desert. Interesting pictures.

 

I get packages periodically from a few dealers in El Paso and one that is enroute is suppose to have a group of photos from Bliss during WWII. I will let you know if I come across any that may be what you are looking for.

 

 

Thanks. Look forward to hearing what you get..'

 

Leigh

"Pain is only Weakness Leaving the Body"

MSG Leigh E Smith Jr
US Army (Retired)

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  • 4 weeks later...

I got a hand made book from this camp .

 

Bob Chatt once scored many PW marked uniforms from an army surplus shop basement near this camp that were all Chino pants and shirts .

THey were all different but real , nice to see this stuff .

Mostly German AK troops here ?

 

 

owen

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I got a hand made book from this camp .

 

Bob Chatt once scored many PW marked uniforms from an army surplus shop basement near this camp that were all Chino pants and shirts .

THey were all different but real , nice to see this stuff .

Mostly German AK troops here ?

 

 

owen

Hello Owen,

 

Hope you are well,

 

I am thinking the surplus shop was located downtown. (Only about 4-5 miles from post) There is one currently (Surplus store) that has been there for years. Lots of strange and weird stuff in this shop. Crazy prices on items, but I would imagine this is where the uniforms ended up at.

 

To answer your question about the type of POWs here. Yes to the Afrika Korps being the majority of the German POW's here initially. Since Africa was the first place US forces engaged Germans and Italians, large numbers of POW's from that theater were cpatured and brought back here. (the USA)

 

Later in the war there were a mixture of units and different branches that were sent to El Paso, Texas. In the Fort Bliss National Cemetery there are 21 German, 19 Italian and 3 Japanese who are buried there. The German POWs were from the Luftwaffe (Air Force) Heer (Army) Kriegsmarine (Navy). The Italians were also from various units and branches of their Armed Forces.

 

Since Ft Bliss was a major installation and there were small sub camps all around the area, logically when a POW died they were buried at the military base closest to the sub camps, and a lot of the POWs who were located in other areas were transferred to Ft Bliss for burial.

 

In doing research on the German POW's buried at Fort Bliss, I found that one was a pilot, several were in the Navy on submarines, 2 were assigned to fallshirmjager (parachute) units, and some were even in the volksturm (home guard) that were wounded when captured, and while in captivity succumbed to their wounds.

 

2 weeks agao I went around Fort Bliss to take pictures of some of the areas that were in existence during World War Two. The water tower whcih was inthe corner of the POW compound is still standing but it is the only reminder of the POW camp at Fort Bliss. There are no plaques or references anywhere indicating where on post the POW camp was located. One other area that I knew existed was by the Fort Bliss Officer's club where in World War Two the foundation was poured for the building to be built upon. In the far corner on the side walk an Italian POW inscribed PRISONER OF WAR ITALIAN into the cement. It has not benn preserved and it is unfortunately slowly eroding away. What is really sad is that another area had more names inscribed in the concrete but they were covered over with new cement and blacktop. Very sad that an important part of the installation history has been covered up and is eroding. I took some pictures and I will update this post soon.

 

Leigh

"Pain is only Weakness Leaving the Body"

MSG Leigh E Smith Jr
US Army (Retired)

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Here are a few more pictures that I took that indicated a Prisoner of War presence in El Paso, Texas.

 

The water tower that is pictured is the last known standing structure that was located in the corner of the compound on Fort Bliss.

 

post-5554-0-60818300-1367680396.jpg

"Pain is only Weakness Leaving the Body"

MSG Leigh E Smith Jr
US Army (Retired)

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This picture shows the inscription in the concrete by an Italian Prisoner of War at Fort Bliss. The rasied area that is right next to the side walk was the original foundation that the Officer's Club sits on. Unfortunatley time has eroded this etching in the concrete and I fear in the next few years it will be completely gone. Most people do not realize that this even exists and even the museum curators will not try to preserve this for future generations. I would like to see at least a placard denoting the historical significance of the site, but unfortunately funds are not alloted to the museum system. I will be contacting the Boy Scout troop that is sponsored by the installation to see if they would be interested in a possible Eagle Scout project for one of their boys.

 

The inscription in concrete reads PRISONER OF WAR ITALIAN. The date of this is unknown but it can be estimated that it was between 1943 to 1945 time frame.

 

 

post-5554-0-54402300-1367680589.jpg

 

 

"Pain is only Weakness Leaving the Body"

MSG Leigh E Smith Jr
US Army (Retired)

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A shame I did not know of this history when I was there. I do recognize the tower though. Maybe the museum would be interested in at least doing a plaster cast of the inscription for preservation. Thanks for sharing the photos and history with us.

Looking for items from the 38th Infantry Regiment

Feel free to read/leave For Sale section feedback: CLICK HERE

ASMIC: 5218

"Live for something rather than die for nothing."

-General George S. Patton Jr.

 

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One final picture of the inscription in concrete.

 

There were other engravings in the foundation years ago that have been paved over unfortunately. Again this part of Fort Bliss history ignored.

 

One reason that a lot of folks do not know about this location is because the location of this inscription is on the side of the Officer's club in a small overflow parking lot. The main lot is around the corner to the North. This lot does not get a lot of traffic, but the side walk that leads to the front entrance to the club is right in the path of pedestrians. Most people don't look down though.

 

Another major reason that this area is not populated is because the Officer's Club closed down several years ago due to lack of interest and lack of use.

 

Again a sad reminder of times past. The O club at bliss used to be a focal point for ceremonies, dinners, ect, and even as a Senior enlisted NCO I would go to the O club for parties etc. Now the O club building is closed but the swimming pool outside is one of the Fort Bliss MWR facilities.

 

I will continue to update with information as I do more research and try to get this concrete slab preserved.

 

Leigh

 

post-5554-0-02334800-1367681081.jpg

"Pain is only Weakness Leaving the Body"

MSG Leigh E Smith Jr
US Army (Retired)

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donation2013.gifdonation2014.gifdonation2015.gifdonation2016.gifdonation2017.gifdonation2018.gifdonation2019.gif

 

 

 

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