Utilization of prisoners of war in the United States during World War II Texas : a case study.
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Tissing, Robert Warren, Jr.
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More than four hundred thousand prisoners of war were interned in the United States during World War II. Of the total number of prisoners, 87 percent were German, 12 percent Italians, and one percent Japanese. In order to accommodate these prisoners new prisoner-of-war base and branch camps were constructed throughout the country. Most of the camps were located on existing military reservations, and some were constructed strictly for the internment of prisoners of war. By April, 1945, there were one hundred and fifty base camps and over three hundred branch or temporary camps in the United States. During the war the War Department substituted the policy of maximum utilization for maximum security of the prisoners. The third section of Part III of the Geneva Convention of 1929 dealt with the employment of prisoners of war. Within the framework of the Geneva Convention rules, the War Department provided general policies and procedures for the employment of prisoner labor in military and nonmilitary projects. The extent of utilization of prisoner labor eventually resulted in millions of man-days of work in vital agricultural and nonagricultural areas. Throughout the war Texas had approximately twice as many prisoner camps as any other state. The establishment of these camps in Texas alleviated critical manpower shortages in agriculture. Over half of the forty-five thousand prisoners interned in Texas performed agricultural labor. The prisoners were well-treated and later expressed a desire to return to Texas. In addition to providing a reservoir of farm laborers the prisoner-of-war camps strengthened not only the war-time economy but also the post-war economy of the state.