How to Build a POW Camp for Captured Germans

Historical Treasures, Oddities, And Delights
March 3 2014 4:45 PM

How to Build a POW Camp for Captured Germans

The Vault is Slate's history blog. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter @slatevault, and find us on Tumblr. Find out more about what this space is all about here.

This simple plan, approved in 1945, shows the construction of a prisoner of war camp for German POWs in Ogden, Utah. The camp was one of hundreds scattered around the country, usually located in isolated areas. Altogether, the American Army housed more than 400,000 prisoners of war during the conflict.

The plan shows how the German section of the camp would be located in relationship to the existing “ISU” (“Italian Service Unit”) housing. Since Italy had surrendered in 1943, Italian prisoners experienced much laxer supervision, and “service units” labored in various capacities for nearby farms and businesses. (Italian prisoners at Ogden even held dances that were attended by local girls.)


The German camp had tighter security—a 9-foot and a 7-foot wire fence, as opposed to a single 9-foot fence for the ISU area. Still, even if their country was still at war with the United States, the German “PWs” (the “O” wasn’t commonly used in WWII) weren’t always committed Nazis, and escape attempts and uncooperative behavior were rare. Those who were found to have a strong connection with Nazism were housed at different camps with tighter security, such as the camp at Alva, Okla.

Thanks to filmmaker Scott Porter, who is working on a documentary about German POW camps in the US, for recommending this document. Click on the image below to arrive at a zoomable version.


Image courtesy ofWeber State University, Special Collections

Correction, March 3, 2014: An original version of this post incorrectly interpreted the "ISU" abbreviation as "Italian Special Unit." 


Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

Republicans Like Scott Walker Are Building Campaigns Around Problems That Don’t Exist

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

The Best Way to Organize Your Fridge

The World

Iran and the U.S. Are Allies

They’re just not ready to admit it yet.

Sports Nut

Giving Up on Goodell

How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.

Chief Justice John Roberts Says $1,000 Can’t Buy Influence in Congress. Looks Like He’s Wrong.

Farewell! Emily Bazelon on What She Will Miss About Slate.

  News & Politics
Sept. 16 2014 2:11 PM Spare the Rod What Charles Barkley gets wrong about corporal punishment and black culture.
Sept. 16 2014 2:35 PM Germany’s Nationwide Ban on Uber Lasted All of Two Weeks
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 1:27 PM The Veronica Mars Spinoff Is Just Amusing Enough to Keep Me Watching
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 1:48 PM Why We Need a Federal Robotics Commission
  Health & Science
Sept. 16 2014 1:39 PM The Case of the Missing Cerebellum How did a Chinese woman live 24 years missing part of her brain?
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.