Texas is the birthplace of many veterans and service members who died for their country. Their sacrifices make for the world we appreciate today. Did you know that Texas was also home to many prisoner-of-war (POW) camps during World War II? In fact, Texas hosted 79 of these camps. One, Camp Hereford, was located just outside of Hereford, a city found 48 miles southwest of Amarillo.
The first POWs arrived on April 3, 1943; the last prisoners left on February 7, 1946. During this time, over 5,000 Italian POWs, who had been captured in North Africa, lived on site. The majority were military personnel who would not renounce their allegiance to Benito Mussolini after his fall from power.
Camp Hereford was ultimately the second-largest POW camp built in the United States. The imprisoned prisoners-of-war worked in the local agricultural industry in exchange for camp housing and meals. Over the course of the camp being open, five POWs died and were buried there. In honor of their fellow soldiers and their gravesites, a group of men built a small chapel.
Today, the chapel remains and is one of two remnants of the camp, which is officially now the Hereford Military Reservation and Reception Center. The bodies of the dead and re-interred at Fort Reno, Oklahoma in 1947, then returned to Italy after the war ended.
Photo: @madiilafs via Twenty20
The chapel site is open to visitors and is located at 104 County Road 507. Another site to visit nearby is St. Mary’s Church in Umbarger, where many imprisoned Italians utilized their artistic talents to adorn the church’s interior. Seven Italian officers and two enlisted men created wood carvings and painted murals, as well as installed stained-glass windows. Father John H. Krukkert had the idea to employ the talents of the prisoners after viewing The Camp Hereford Art Expo of 220 works. The church’s interior was restored in 2011.