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  Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

POW camp stirs memories

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew

Since placing a page on the Internet several years ago about the McLean Prisoner Of War Camp located north of McLean in Gray County during WWII, seldom a week goes by that we don't receive a request of more information about the installation.

The facility was constructed and opened in 1943 and closed a few days after Armistice was signed in 1945. Little interest was shown by the public in the massive POW program and the details of operation were not classified. As a result, much of the information has been lost or destroyed. Slowly, as such information is being found today, interest by historians and collectors in the program is steadily growing.

In 1996 the McLean/Alanreed Area Museum decided to accumulate whatever information possible in order to place a Texas Historical Marker at the old camp site. They issued a plea to the public for copies of any such information they might have.

The request generated tremendous community response resulting in the museum placing the historical marker, building a large display in the museum, creating both an American and a German notebook of information, the writing of a book on the subject and a page on the Web.

While assembling this array of information and memorabilia, it was evident the feelings of certain former employees, guards and veterans, families of veterans and townspeople ran the gamut of emotions from compassion to hatred. No doubt the placement of the camp in McLean had a traumatic effect on the community.

Aside from the feelings, the stories of the camp operations are interesting as both construction and operations were geared to supporting the war effort. Miro Pakan, an early-day resident of the Pakan Community east of McLean, was a farmer and stockman, and was issued one of the earliest Department of Transportation trucking permits. He was called on to haul most of the freight coming into the camp. Here are a few stories Miro told about this operation.

Because of the war demands almost no iron, gas or rubber was used in the construction and operation of the camp. Only limited vehicle use was used to haul supplies from the railroad at McLean.

During the first many months horses pulling wagons and an old wooden-wheeled ambulance was used to haul supplies, garbage and personnel inside the camp. Dare to guess where the horses came from?

Miro was sent to the Fort Reno, Oklahoma Military Reservation where the U.S. Cavalry had been disbanded and where hundreds of Cavalry horses had been gathered before being sold to the public. A total of 36 ex-Cavalry mounts were hauled to McLean for work. When unloaded at the camp, hundreds of German prisoners gathered to see an actual western horse and clamored to feed, care for and curry them. Oddly, foreigners gave these old horses the best care of their lives.

During the prisoner program, some thought the men were coddled and resented their good treatment. However, all treatment was required by the Geneva Accords and inspections were made monthly for compliance.

Miro hauled the bedding of the prisoners and stated all the bed covers were padded furniture packing, like he used to haul furniture in his truck, and not the nice wool blankets used by the U.S. military

Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" April 21, 2008 Column
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.
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