Robertson County’s Greatest Generation – WWII Veterans’ War Stories

Friend of the Enemy

A fictional short story by John Maes © copyright 12/9/22

Military Police escorting prisoners-of-war (PW) to motor pool. – 1943

Lamar Tindall watched with anticipation as the young man applied the finishing touches to a change of spark plugs on his aged pickup truck. Just a few more turns of a socket wrench remained.

The simplicity of it all made it almost easy to forget that the man bent over the truck was a German prisoner of war. That awareness came roaring back as Tindall noticed the large black PW stenciled on the back of his shirt.

“Thanks, Jurgen,” he said.

Bitte, you’re welcome, Herr Tindall,” came the somewhat muffled reply from the young German, his head still buried under the hood. “I’m just checking your fan belt and a few other things here and then I’ll be finished.”

Lamar Tindall had been among many townspeople that day to witness the arrival of the first groups of Rommel’s defeated Afrika Corps to the small town of Hiram, Texas. Disembarking from a train, the Germans organized themselves, and began their march through the streets on their way to Camp Hiram, a hastily-constructed compound, mostly of wood and tarpaper barracks where they would be housed for the duration of the war. Though looking tired and weather-beaten from the heat and their long travels, the good military form of their step and parade ground manner impressed the onlookers. Perhaps the Germans were serving notice to their captors that they were still soldiers and expected to be treated that way, Tindall thought.

Now the repair job was complete. Jurgen, sweat-soaked in the summer heat, emerged from the innards of the engine, went around to the driver’s seat, started the truck which groaned, coughed and sputtered to life and then began to run smoothly. He got out, came around to Tindall and smiled warmly while wiping his hands using an already dirtied cloth.

Tindall thanked him again. “You sure are good at that mechanic stuff. I’d been having a helluva tough time trying to take care of this truck and all else around here with only one good arm. It’s gettin’ more and more difficult all the time.”

And, within the next couple of moments, the German saw for himself Tindall’s useless, inert left arm as it dangled in his shirt sleeve.

Jovial knowing that his truck had a new lease on life, Tindall put his good arm around Jurgen and invited him to the house. “Let’s go have a beer and see what the missus is doing. You’re German, you gotta like beer, right?”

“Sounds like a great idea, but…” said Jurgen cutting himself off in midsentence as he gestured toward Cpl. Elmer Davies, the soldier guarding him.

“How about it, Elmer? Can you guys stay, have a beer and cool off a little bit?” Tindall asked.

Davies, a skinny, bespectacled Arkansan, whose uniform always seemed too big on him, was already wincing in skepticism at the idea. “Well, I sure can’t drink no beer – I’m on duty – and I’m supposed to guard this guy.”

But Tindall persisted. “C’mon, Elmer, your gal Tessie lives just up the road a mile or two. Why’nt you go visit her for a little while and let me and my new friend here have a couple of beers?”

Tindall turned to Jurgen with a droll smile. “You ain’t goin’ no place, are ya?”
Jurgen shook his head, remaining expressionless and silent.

The only reason Jurgen was allowed outside the compound to begin with was because the town needed a decent mechanic, a scarcity with most all the able-bodied men away in service. Lt. Col. McPherson was willing to bend the rules a little to help the townsfolk. The camp commander loved all things Texan because he was a Texas boy himself – Waco born and bred – and Baylor educated. So when word spread through Hiram that one of the PWs had car-fixing skills, a clamor broke out for his help. The commander looked kindly on requests for Jurgen to be allowed outside the gates now and then. Groups of PWs were being let out of the compound anyway to work on farms and ranches in the area, and in cafes and restaurants in Hiram to relieve manpower shortages. The idea might be worth a try, it was thought.

Elmer Davies knew well, however, there was one thing about which Lt. Col. McPherson would not have been so approving – that a prisoner had been left unguarded on the outside – even if only for a little while. Yet, that’s exactly what was about to happen. Elmer’s hormones were in a state of rage. Tessie was indeed a dish, they had a thing for each other, and yes, it had been a long time. The soldier sighed and looked at each of the men in front of him as he relented. Well, alright, just for a little while. But remember somethin’, Lamar. If he runs, it’s my ass hung out to dry.”

“I think your ass is gonna be took care of real nice today,” Tindall said with a devilish smile.

Davies didn’t laugh, but instead pointed a finger at Jurgen and adopted a stern manner. “And you, it’s gonna be a lotta trouble for ya’ if ya’ try anything. Got that Mein Herr?”

Jurgen nodded his acknowledgement, calm all the while. “I promise I will go nowhere.”

In the shade on the front porch of Tindall’s house, the two sat in wicker chairs as Sarah brought them each a cold bottle of Pearl. Each took a lengthy pull on his bottle. They sat quietly for a few moments until Tindall let fly with a long, loud, visceral belch.

They could hear Sarah scolding him from inside the house. “Good land, Lamar, can’t you ever stop making that awful noise? It’s so disgusting.”

Waving off the remonstration from his wife, he turned to Jurgen. “She’s always houndin’ me about that. But I always say ‘not bad manners, just good beer!’’’ Tindall guffawed and hollered in knee-slapping style at his own humor.

Jurgen, laughed robustly too – just not quite as boisterously – as Tindall.

With things quieted down again, Jurgen pulled a handkerchief from his shirt pocket and wiped his brow. His features were classically Germanic: a prominent nose, a smooth sculpted face and wavy blond hair. He looked at the sky of rich, radiant blue with a few clouds lying lazily overhead, far too few to relieve them from the searing sun. He tugged at his shirt collar in an attempt to find some comfort. The heat was stifling and the drought had turned the surroundings from what would otherwise be a more verdant expanse into a parched brown terrain. It looked as though nature had overlain the landscape with a gigantic sandpaper tarpaulin. “This Texas is enormous and magnificent, but it is also damn hot,” he said putting the handkerchief away. “And I thought North Africa was bad. I thought I’d seen the last of that weather when we were captured.”

Tindall let out another laugh, not as raucous as previously. “They didn’t tell you guys you were comin’ to central Texas in the summer? All heat and almost no rain?”

Jurgen said nothing and just shook his head.

Tindall asked, “how come you speak such good English? You have the accent of a British guy, but it’s still damn good English – I got no trouble understandin’ you.”

The wicker chair squeaked as Jurgen leaned back and sighed. He laughed before answering. He appreciated the sparkling wit and collegiality of his new-found drinking companion. “I was a banking and economics student in Munich, at the same college where my late father taught English and economics. He believed strongly that English will someday be the language of diplomacy and commerce in Europe, so he taught me early and well. He sent me to a prep school in England for a few years to learn it even better. My goal is for perfect fluency.”

“How’d you guys get captured?”

“I was part of a mechanized battalion. That’s where I learned mechanics, which was about the only good thing they taught me. We were advancing toward El Alamein last November and the British outflanked us, cut us off and surrounded us. There was nothing else to do but give up. They turned us over to the Americans – and the next thing you know we’re on a troopship – then on a very long train ride through America and here we are.”

The PW finished off his beer with a sigh of refreshment, wiped his mouth with his wrist and continued. “And most of us were glad to surrender. We were running out of everything: petrol, ammunition, food, medical dressings, everything. Most all of our supplies were going to the Russian front and we were being left to go to our slaughter with almost nothing. My brother is on the Russian front right now. Last letter I had from him said he was near Stalingrad. I know he would find this place to be a paradise compared to where he is. I certainly do.”

“I’ve heard you Americans call the camp Fritz Ritz because you think we Germans eat and live better in there than you do on the outside,” Jurgen went on. “I don’t know about that, but I do know that I – and most of the others – much prefer being here than being on the front lines someplace.”

Tindall was aware of the derisive label, and to some extent, it made sense. The army seemed to be having no trouble taking pretty good care of its soldiers and prisoners. But there was strict rationing of most everything for civilians. Consequently, some folks found themselves struggling to find enough to eat. Few grumbled and protested, however, chalking it all up to yet another necessary sacrifice for the war effort.

Sarah, as if telepathically demonstrating an example of the home front shortages being discussed, appeared on the porch with another Pearl for each. But she cautioned, “this is all the beer for a while, Lamar. And, please keep your internal gasses to yourself.”

Almost immediately, both men tried to gain the momentary relief to be had by rubbing the cold bottles along their foreheads.

“These camps with all you POWs – even eye-talians and some Japs – are springin’ up all over the place around here. A cousin of mine writes that they have one near him in Oklahoma. Sarah has kin near Ruston, Louisiana and they say there’s a big one there! It’s like there’s thousands of you guys over here. You have anybody left to fight the war?” Tindall asked, again laughing at his own humor.

Jurgen looked out at the landscape for a few moments. If he considered his host’s last question to be rather silly, he gave no indication. He answered in a solemn tone. “Oh yes, Lamar, plenty are left to fight. Hitler is swine and he is taking Germany into disaster, but many still follow him. Most of us here simply want to survive all this and go home to our lives and families someday. But some in the camp are loyal Nazis who want to escape, get across the border into Mexico and somehow find their way back to Germany so they can rejoin the fight. They think there are U-Boats patrolling the Gulf of Mexico watching for escaped prisoners to pick up.” He sneered at the very idea. “What fools they are to believe they would actually be able to do that!”

Tindall studied Jurgen, nodding as he listened to him. “And you,” he said. “You ain’t strikin’ me as one of them arm-swingin’, ‘zeig heil’ shoutin’ kinda Nazis. I’m right, ain’t I?”

Jurgen chuckled. “The only reason I ever thrust out my right arm and uttered that vile expression was I had much fear at who might see me not doing it, and what parties they might tell, and who might pay me a visit afterward. I didn’t want that. One day I was ordered to report for duty. I believe you folks call it ‘being drafted.’ So I had to go. They weren’t asking my opinion about it.”

Now, it was Jurgen’s turn to study Tindall and ask a few questions of his own. He saw a large, roly-poly man with a bulbous, cherubic face to go with the ever-present congenial smile. Jurgen pegged him for a man who wore coveralls just about all the time – perhaps the same pair for days on end. “And, what’s the story of your life, mien freund?” he asked.

When Jurgen added, “any children?” to his question, a look of tension and worry suddenly showed on Tindall’s face. He hesitated and let out a whooshing sigh.

“Yeah, there was, but I can’t talk about it just now,” he said making a head motion to the door where his wife was inside – and within earshot. He had to be careful to avoid any talk of their son, nine-year-old Luther, who drowned in Dordt’s creek where he had gone on a sunny Sunday afternoon to catch polliwogs.

And though seven years had passed since then, Sarah’s psyche remained unhealed. The mere mention of the boy’s name or the circumstances of his fate was often enough to send her into a paroxysm of shrieking, sobbing anguish and grief.

Tindall continued his story. ”Well, I never went as far as you did in school. Only about sixth grade. Pretty much stayed right here in Hiram. Worked a few jobs and then joined up when the last war started.” He again swiped the cold beer bottle along his sweating forehead. “I ended up in France in ’18 and that’s where I got this when I wasn’t even 20 years old.” He was pointing to his moribund left arm. “Got a little too close to where a mortar shell landed.”

Tindall tilted the creaking, sagging chair against the wall of the house. He was now looking skyward. “Ya’ know I hated being in a war. And it wasn’t just the crap and the mud and the rats in the trenches, and being dirty and hungry all the time. I hated having to shoot at people and trying to kill ‘em.”

Jurgen gave a knowing nod and a soft reply. “I liked it not either.” No sooner had he finished that sentence then he cursed himself silently for having botched its wording. He knew his command of English was good and getting better all the time, but he wanted perfect fluency, because his father expected it. Even after the death of Professor Ernst Walthern in a fire-bombing raid during a visit to Hanover a few months before, Jurgen continued striving for that perfection.

Resolving silently to do better and promising his father a renewed effort, he listened to the rest of Tindall’s story.

“We’d sit in them damn trenches,” the Texan went on, “and sometimes us and the Germans would only be a hundred yards apart – a few times even less than that – and we could see each other – I mean each other’s faces! I remember there was one fella over there – we’d eyeball each other once in a while. We even waved at each other a coupla times but didn’t fire. We coulda blown each other’s heads off but we didn’t fire.” He leaned forward, his girth bringing the chair back down to the floor of the porch with a thud.

“Ya’ know, I never forgot that fella. I used to wonder about him. I still do. Ya see, I liked huntin’ and fishin’ and thought, well maybe he did too. And maybe – if we weren’t here in this damn war – we coulda gone huntin’ and fishin’ together – and maybe drink some beer after. But here we were in this lousy mess and we’re supposed to try and kill each other.” He took a final lusty pull on the beer bottle, drained the content, then set it down next to him and wiped his mouth on his right shirt sleeve. “Never made a lick ‘o’ sense to me. And ya’ know what? You kinda remind me of that guy.”

Now it dawned on Jurgen. He had wondered why this tall, portly American tried to befriend him so quickly. It had become clear: Jurgen Walthern was the ersatz version of the enemy soldier in the opposing trench years ago with whom Tindall imagined going hunting and fishing. He kept that thought to himself, however, as both men looked up to contemplate a single engine airplane droning overhead. It ambled along, with wings swaying to and fro, appearing to be crawling through the sky.

“S’pose that‘s one of ours? Or yours?” Tindall asked. They laughed loudly for a few moments, before Tindall spoke again. “You want to go back to Germany when this is over, right?”

Jurgen nodded. “Of course. I want to finish my degree, and there is Sigreid. We’re writing frequently and talked of getting married, once I can get home when that sewer rat Hitler is gone. I’d like to help make Germany a better place. But for now I have to face certain realities.” With that, Jurgen reached into a pants pocket and pulled out a folded slip of paper. On it was written the name Frau Zelda Walthern and an address in Munich. He handed it to Tindall. “In case you find out something has happened to me, please write my Mutter, uhm, my mother,” he corrected himself. “Otherwise, it might take months, maybe even years for her to find out. I much want to avoid that.”

Tindall looked confused. “But, why are you so worried about…?”

Jurgen cut him off. “Look, there’s tension in the camp between the Nazis and the rest of us. Even commandant McPherson isn’t aware as to how bad.”

Can’t ya tell Elmer Davies when he comes back to let the higher ups know about it?” Lamar asked.

“That still might not be enough. I think there is fear the guards could be overpowered by the rioters, so the camp command doesn’t want to get them involved. The trouble would take place inside a barracks to attract less attention.”

Perhaps, Tindall thought, the relatively quiet atmosphere surrounding the camp may have been misleading. Many Hiram people – out of contempt or indifference to the presence of enemy prisoners in their midst – preferred to pay little or no attention to what went on there. Tindall had driven past the barb-wired compound several times and slowed down once in a while to peer at the activity inside. There was very little evidence of the tensions that apparently existed deeper within.

He had seen prisoners doing yard work, tending to gardens or kicking around a soccer ball. Once he saw a German sculpting a statue. The prisoners had constructed ornate working fountains on the grounds, and even built a theater where they produced concerts and performances. Sometimes Lt. Col McPherson himself, and his retinue of staff officers, would occupy front row seats. One day, from a distance, he watched an orchestra of prisoners rehearsing, probably for one of the productions. Damn fine musicians, some of them Krauts, he thought.

As those visions replayed, he wondered some more. How bad could things be in there?

The distinctive engine whine and grind of an approaching jeep got louder, rousing Tindall back to the moment at hand. Elmer Davies pulled up in front of the house, his shirt unbuttoned, untucked and his pistol belt on the passenger seat. He didn’t even get out or kill the engine, simply summoning Jurgen with an arm motion. “C’mon Fritz, let’s git goin’,” he hollered.

The German turned to Tindall. “Thanks mien freund for, what you Americans call…your hospitality, Maybe we’ll see each other again.” The two shook hands. Jurgen turned, double-timed it to the jeep and got in. The vehicle then sped off.

Several days later, Tindall again sat on the front porch wicker chair contemplating yet another cloudless and sweltering afternoon. It looked as though nature had added an extra tincture of parched earth coloring to the Texas midsection.

The complete absence of activity about the camp had become conspicuous. On most mornings, trucks and buses would roll by carrying PWs to their jobs in the vicinity. Now, they were nowhere to be seen.

He fanned himself with a folded newspaper. Only a few minutes before, he finished reading a fleeting two-paragraph account of a recent “riot” at Camp Hiram in which two PWs were killed. Other than mention that the trouble was “quickly quelled by guards,” details were few.

He remembered Jurgen’s description of the struggle between the pro and anti-Nazis. Did he know somethin’ was gonna happen to him? Was he gettin’ in fights with them Nazi-lovers?

Again, the familiar gear-grinding noise announced an approaching jeep. Elmer Davies was again at the wheel. He left the engine running but jumped out and ran up to the porch, obviously in a hurry.

They talked only long enough for the soldier to relay some information. Then Davies turned and walked briskly away.

Lamar Tindall bit his lip, then let out a sigh. Feeling for the slip of paper in a coveralls pocket, he rose from the chair and went inside.

There was a letter to write.

John Maes is a retired journalist living in Austin, Tx. A native of Chicago, he writes short stories, short fiction and creative non-fiction. He can be contacted at; [email protected], 224-659-4585.  The above material is copyrighted and anyone wishing to reprint, excerpt or redistribute pieces, or the entirety of this story, is asked to contact the author for permission.

White Cemetery Iris In Bloom

[Hearne, TX – April 3, 2022]

For a very short time each Spring, White Cemetery Iris bloom along roadsides and pastures throughout our County. 

At Camp Hearne, a WWII prisoner-of-war camp located outside of Hearne, Texas, our white irises are special.  Eighty years ago, the largely German POWs were encouraged to “beautify” their environment and amuse themselves rather than complicate their confinement with riots and/or escapes.  So, they built theaters, band stands, fountains with running water, miniature castles and patios in their open spaces between the barracks and latrines.

Adding flowers and shrubs was the obvious next step.

POWs returned from their assigned work duty in the local fields with Cemetery Irises to replant around their new “home.”  These resilient bulbs are still multiplying and blooming throughout the prisoner confinement areas of the Camp.  Many patches of Irises are now in bloom, but don’t wait too long to see them.   They seem to show their white petal foliage for only a short period of time.  The leaf fans remain among the underbrush year around until their next annual debut to welcome in the Spring.

It is a good time to visit the Camp Hearne Historic Site.  Our trails are a bit rough, but certainly interesting.


11AM -4PM

What is a Living History Event?

Chances are you have at some time in your past, “re-enacted” a historical event – possibly in school or church.  Perhaps you were a shepherd in a Christmas pageant or playacted the part of George Washington in a skit.  “Re-enacting” a historical event or character is just that, performing a role or acting.

Living Historians are a bit different.  Certainly, their passion for history shines through. They study history beyond textbooks to develop a vivid impression of a person – common citizen or well-known hero – who is dwelling in our not so distant past.

According to The Alamo’s website,
Living historians tend to be associated with museums and historical sites that specialize in interpreting the past through a format that allows visitors to visualize the past through the use of their senses. Living historians can also be dedicated private individuals who volunteer their talents and services to historical sites and as such are a valuable resource.

The term “living history” refers to a method of interpreting the past through the use of a person or persons dressed in period clothing. The technique is usually enhanced by having the person or persons use period tools and engage in period activities.

So, what can you expect at one of Camp Hearne’s Living History Events?  You can expect to visit with living historians, view traditional exhibits, inspect military vehicles & gear and hear lots of storytelling.  Saturday, June 4, 2022, will be a wonderful way to experience military history and learn more about a Central Texas town’s home front contributions to the war effort.  You can even walk the ground that was shared by German and American soldiers…just on opposite sides of the fence.

Camp Hearne is proud of our Living Historian and Re-enactor partners.  Hope you will join us June 4, 2022.

Lt. Milton Dushan

Camp Hearne Veteran Remembers Hearne, TX

Telephone interview conducted by Cathy Lazarus, Roll Call Friends of Camp Hearne, February 13, 2004

I was quite please to hear from a former US Army officer, Milton Duchan, who was stationed at Camp Hearne for two and one half years.  His cousin had sent him a copy of the Dallas Morning News – Texas Living article recently that reported the Camp Hearne story. 

A time was set and I called him back to discuss his stay at Camp Hearne. When asked his initial reaction to the POW Camp he had been assigned he said there was nothing to do in the beginning.  He arrived when the Camp opened in January 1943, but the prisoners did not arrive until later that Spring.  He simply reported to roll call each morning and then spent time exploring the area.  Hearne, to this Detroit Michigan native, was a “small western town with covers over their sidewalks”.  He liked visiting the town folks in various stores and establishments.  Although small, he was pleased to find out that Hearne had a Club House and swimming pool.  He remembers the Aztec and City Cafes and especially the barber, Casey Moore.  He said a visit to the barber was more than a haircut, but a truly entertaining experience.  “Casey was a great storyteller.”

He visited Bryan a lot. One trip he remembers very vividly.He had made the acquaintance of a local merchant from a Department store by the name of Charlie. He told Duchan that he needed to check on a vehicle in a mechanic’s shop in Bryan and asked if he would like to go along for the ride. He agreed and while there, he saw a car he tried to buy. The mechanic wanted $200, but Duchan offered a $10 deposit until his wife could wire the remainder. The mechanic said it would go to whoever had the $200. When Charlie heard the requirement, he “pulled out a roll of money like I had never seen and paid the man $200 so I could have the car.” Duchan asked Charlie why he would do such a thing for a virtual stranger. Charlie replied, “You look like a trustworthy guy.”

This gesture of hospitality impressed Duchan greatly.  He said that they (the military stationed at the Camp) were welcomed and the townspeople were “quite open and friendly” to the troops.

Duchan had graduated from college when he was drafted in to the Army in August 1941, just 4 months before Pearl Harbor.  He spent his basic training in Fargo, N.D. before going to California as an enlisted man.  He had applied for officer’s training when orders came for him to depart from Sacramento to parts unknown.  He remembers a car pulling up at the dock and a man calling out a list of names.  He was on the list and had to report to Presidio instead of being shipped out. 

When he was accepted to officers training, he was sent to a school referred to as “BI” training. This was “business immaterial” which basically trained officers to handle the “foreseen red tape” necessary to run the Army. The idea was that it did not really matter what unit the officer would be assigned; that is, military police, combat, infantry, motor pool, etc., this officer would be able to navigate through and perpetuate the necessary reports and assurances to keep the unit going. 

Duchan was finally assigned to Camp Hearne where he reports that it was the best job he could have had in the Army.  His days were routine unless there had been an escape that restricted them to the base.  The only memorable events were the suicide of one of their fellow officers who seemed to be a very melancholy young man from the beginning.  The murder of Hugo Krauss was also unfortunate. Duchan had teased Krauss, a German prisoner with strong American ties, that “he spoke German with a Brooklyn accent”.  Krauss was beaten to death by Nazi hardliners in the Camp who saw him as a “traitor”.

As an Administrative Officer, Duchan did not fraternize with the prisoners or their US guards. When asked of his impressions about the Germans, he said they were arrogant. He said, “they had been told that New York had been bombed and that the Army was only treating them so well because they [the US Army] wanted to be treated well when the Germans landed.” The POW’s finally recognized that they were the prisoners and the war was not going in their favor.

Duchan saw the care in which the German prisoners were treated as an important role for the Army. “The idea was that we would treat them as best we could and, in turn, they would treat our US soldiers that were taken prisoners as best they could.”  Even those required to work seemed happy to escape their stockade for a day in the fields. 

For the most part, Milton Duchan spent 2-1/2 years unremarkable years stationed at Camp Hearne.  The days were routine.  The social gatherings were mostly dictated by rank with some intermingling with the US Army Air Corps personnel from the Bryan base.  His wife had joined him and they lived in town on First Street in a duplex.  They had a son who was born in Bryan.

When asked what he remembers most about his experience, he quickly says “the people of Hearne were friendly, affectionate, generous… just very special people.  They made us feel at home and welcome.”

Basically, Milton Duchan experienced 63 years ago something that is still our most tangible asset.  “Hearne was [and still is] one hella of nice town”.

“Camp Lili” Living History Unit

Camp Lili recreates a US Army Signal Corps Company encampment in a forward position in southern France during WW2.

Camp Lili recreates a United States Army Signal Corps Company encampment based on a signal company attached to the 441st Anti-aircraft artillery battalion, a part of “Camel Force” which invaded southern France between Cannes and St. Raphael in August of 1944 as part of Operation Dragoon.

This area was spear headed by the 36th Infantry Division (shoulder patch of Camp LiIi) to which the 441st was attached. Once the beach was secured, the 36th fought up the Rhone Valley to join U.S. Forces from the Normandy invasion.

Almost all equipment and displays at Camp Lili are original WW2 era items. In addition to static displays, the following items are demonstrated, many of which visitors may participate in: carrier pigeons and signal flags, field phone EE-8, switchboard BD-71, telegraph TG5A, signal lamp SE-11, Aldis lamp, portable organ, field phonograph, and demonstrations and blank firing of Garand, M-1 carbine and M1911 pistol.

Camp Lili is a private collection dedicated to preserving the history of WW2 and honoring those who did their part. It is a traveling exhibit and upon request items from the following categories can be included in display: home front memorabilia. Remember Pearl Harbor items, correspondence (including V mail, postcards, etc.), soldiers’ records and papers, photographs, and a variety of other items. Visit @camplili on Facebook.

Camp Lili will be participating in Camp Hearne’s Remembering D-Day Living History Event, June 8. Please join us on this special day. Admission is FREE!  Gates open 10am to 4pm.  Camp Hearne is located northwest of Hearne on FM485.   Visit for more information or contact Cathy Lazarus at 979-314-7012.

So What is a Living History Event?

Chances are you have at some time in your past, “re-enacted” a historical event – possibly in school or church.  Perhaps you were a shepherd in a Christmas pageant or playacted the part of George Washington in a skit.  “Re-enacting” a historical event or character is just that, performing a role or acting.

Living Historians are a bit different.  Certainly, their passion for history shines through. They study history beyond textbooks to develop a vivid impression of a person – common citizen or well-known hero – who is dwelling in our not so distant past.

According to The Alamo’s website,
Living historians tend to be associated with museums and historical sites that specialize in interpreting the past through a format that allows visitors to visualize the past through the use of their senses. Living historians can also be dedicated private individuals who volunteer their talents and services to historical sites and as such are a valuable resource.

The term “living history” refers to a method of interpreting the past through the use of a person or persons dressed in period clothing. The technique is usually enhanced by having the person or persons use period tools and engage in period activities.

So, what can you expect at Camp Hearne’s annual “Remembering D-Day Living History” event?  You can expect to visit with living historians, view traditional exhibits, inspect military vehicles & gear and hear lots of storytelling.  Saturday, June 8, will be a wonderful way to experience military history and learn more about a Central Texas town’s home front contributions to the war effort.  You can even walk the ground that was shared by German and American soldiers…just on opposite sides of the fence.

Camp Hearne is proud of our Living Historian and Re-enactor partners.  Hope you will join us for our June 8th Open House while Remembering the 75th Anniversary of D-Day.

POW Escort Guard Returns to Camp Hearne, June 8

During WWII, few people were aware that America was home to hundreds of thousands of German prisoners-of-war.  Because of the Geneva Conventions of 1929, most prisoners were required to be held in a similar climate as their capture location.  On a parallel line from North Africa, the American southern states held many of Rommel’s surrendered Afrika Korps.  More were held in Texas than any other state. 

Hearne, Texas was home to 4800 mostly German prisoners and 500+ US Army personnel.  Our Camp Hearne exhibit sits on the original POW Campsite and reveals a very common story of what life was like for the American guards and their foreign prisoners in America.  Photographs, artwork, artifacts and various military objects housed in a 1943 US Army barracks replica help the visitor to experience WWII history today.  Come walk the same ground as German soldiers marched and America GIs patrolled, here in Central Texas.

Matthew Ware, former Military Police Escort Guard. His first duty during WWII was to travel to North Africa and bring back German POWs to Hearne, Texas.

This June 8, former military police escort guard, Matthew Ware, will be onsite to tell his story.  He escorted prisoners from North Africa to Hearne, Texas and spent some time in military service at the Camp before being shipped overseas.  Other living historians will be discussing their WWII impressions donning WWII uniforms, gear and weapons.  The Lone Star Military Vehicle Preservation Association will have a small “motor pool” of vintage trucks and jeeps to complement our stories. 

This is truly a good time to visit Camp Hearne to experience WWII history in a vibrant, hands-on way.

Join us June 8 for our annual Remembering D-Day Living History Event.

Admission is FREE!  Gates open 10am to 4pm.  Camp Hearne is located northwest of Hearne on FM485.   Visit for more information or contact Cathy Lazarus at 979-314-7012.

“So Far From Home”

Photo:  Rosemary Hoyt [not related to Hoyt’s Drug Store] standing by Hearne City Limit sign in 1943.  Hearne’s “skyline” is in the distance over her right shoulder.

This article was a Literary Journalism assignment completed by Mrs. Hoyt’s grand-daughter while attending the University of Indiana.  The interviews of Rosemary Hoyt and Dr. Michael Waters, TAMU, were conducted in March of 2004.  Permission was granted by author to publish.

So Far From Home

“Lili Marleen,” a song about a girl who waits patiently for her soldier to return home, was picked up as an unofficial anthem by both Allied and German soldiers after the German Forces Radio began broadcasting it to the Afrika Korps in 1941.

Vor der Kaserne vor dem grossen Tor
Stand eine Laterne, und stebt noch davor,
So wolln wir uns da wiedersehn
Bei der Laterne wolln wir stehn,
Wie einst Lili Marleen, wie einst Lili Marleen.

It was June 1943 and Rosemary and John Hoyt [not related to Hoyt’s Drug Store] were living in Hearne, Texas.  Immediately after the wedding, Rosemary had moved to San Antonio where John was stationed, but then he got orders to report to a prisoner of war camp in Hearne, Texas.

“In the army, you know, when you got orders, you were to report at so and so place by a certain date and that’s where you would be,” Rosemary says.  So she and John went to Hearne – “a real little country cow town.”

At that time, the railroads were still running strong and Hearne was hopping with Army men and their wives, but at 21, after spending a year in San Antonio, Rosemary wasn’t much interested in the town.

“They had big cattle farms,” she says, “a little eating place, a bank and a post office, and that’s about it.  There was not much else there.”

The old man who owned the house where Rosemary and John were living, owned cattle and sometimes he’d take her with him to the cattle auctions.  But most of the time, when John went out to the base each day, she had nothing to do.

It wasn’t long before Rosemary got bored of sitting in their one-room apartment.  She began wandering around town during the day, and soon, she got tired of that too.  Texas was hot, humid and mostly empty.  Whereas San Antonio had been big and bustling – completely different from German village in Columbus, Ohio, where she’d grown up – Hearne was small and out of the way.  That’s probably why the prisoner of war camp was put in Hearne, she decided.

One day, when John went off to the base, Rosemary made up her mind to “hire a taxi cab to take me on out there.”  She figured the Army must need people to work at the base. Maybe they would need a typist.

When the taxi arrived, Rosemary marched down the gravel road, passed the guard at the gate and on into the camp.  To her right were barracks for the American officers stationed at Camp Hearne.  She and John could have gotten their living quarters there too, but none were available when they arrived.  Instead, they had to find their own place to live in town and all they could get was a single bedroom in someone else’s house.

 “We want your full name,” the Army officer said.

“Rosemary Schumacher Hoyt,” she answered.

“Are you German?”

“Yes,” she replied.

“Do you understand the language?  Can you speak and understand German?” they asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“Would you object to working in the hospital?  It’s inside the compound where all the prisoners are kept.  The prisoners all work in the hospital too,” they told her.

The hospital!  That’s where John works, she thought.

“No,” Rosemary answered, “I wouldn’t mind at all.”

The officers led her into the prisoner’s compound and then took a right down the gravel road.  Camp Hearne wasn’t a pretty place, by far, but then again it wasn’t made to be pretty – it was just for use until the war was over.  The compound was divided into three sections for the prisoners to live in (each with a mess hall, lavatory, company office and six barracks) and a section for the hospital.

To get to the hospital, she had to walk passed the prisoners’ barracks, 20-foot wide by 100-foot long buildings the Army called “war mobilization structures.”  They were made of wood and most just had black tar paper covering the outer walls, but the hospital buildings were a bit nicer and were covered with wooden siding painted white.

When Rosemary reached the hospital, she was escorted to Major Redwine, her husband John’s boss.  Well, he was everyone’s boss because he was the chief doctor in charge of the hospital, but Rosemary could tell he was a nice man and she liked him right away.  Major Redwine was older and he had served in the Army for years.  He was also a Texan, which might explain why he seemed right at home in the surroundings.

“You’ll do just fine,” Redwine told her and showed Rosemary to her new, little office.  Well, she hadn’t even had time to see the place when who comes walking down the hallway but John!  At first he walked right by, without even noticing, then he heard Rosemary talking and did an about face back into the Major’s office.

“What are you doing here?” John asked her.

Before she could answer, Major Redwine came out and said, “Lt. Hoyt, please do not bother my new secretary.”

Every morning after that when John went into the base for work, Rosemary went with him.  Rosemary didn’t know how much the Army would pay her as a typist, but she figured whatever she got would be more than she’d had before.

As far as she knew, Rosemary was the only woman working in the hospital – all the rest were men.  Well, she knew a few women worked in the business office outside of the compound, but she was the only one inside and the only way to get inside was to pass by the guards at the checkpoint.  “You see, the compound was a barbed-wire affair, with great big, high wire walls and guards in towers with guns,” Rosemary said.  The guards needed to know who you were and where you were going.  If you worked in the compound, the guards got to know you, but that just meant they knew exactly where you were supposed to be when.

Everyday, the guards went through Rosemary’s pocketbook, once going in and once again on the way out.  It didn’t seem to matter that Rosemary wasn’t an officer – the guards checked John too – but with about 4,700 prisoners to keep inside the compound, they were understandably cautious.

The guards told her once if they told her a thousand times not to carry anything in her pockets and to put just personal stuff in her purse.  Still, the day came when Rosemary tried to take in a couple of magazines.  Just magazines, she thought, but the guards told her she wasn’t to do that.  She wasn’t allowed to bring anything in or take anything out.  No papers, no magazines, no books – no nothing.  She didn’t really understand why, but they took her magazines anyway and wouldn’t give them back until she went out the gate that night.

Rosemary and John were still working at Camp Hearne at Christmas time, when the prisoners put up a Christmas tree.  It was all decorated, and Rosemary thought it was such a sad thing that on Christmas, the young German men were so far from home.  To her, the prisoners seemed very unhappy.

Maybe it wouldn’t have been so sad if she didn’t know them, but well, she couldn’t help but get to know them.  She could talk to them, couldn’t she?  The Army didn’t really want anyone working in the compound that couldn’t understand German.   Most of the prisoners didn’t speak or understand English – at all – and made no attempt to learn.  If you couldn’t speak German with them, you were just out of luck because they weren’t going to learn English.

This meant that John had to speak German too.  He’d really picked it up quickly when he joined the Army and by the time they were stationed at Camp Hearne, he was almost as fluent as Rosemary.  The Army had a class and, of course, he could get help from Rosemary.

Unsre beide Schatten sahn wie einer aus.
Dass wir so lieb uns hatten, das sah man gleich daraus
Un alle Leute solln es sehn,
Wenn wir bei der Laterne stehn,
Wie einst Lili Marleen, wie einst Lili Marleen.

Wolfgang Heineke was a prisoner and he worked in the hospital, in fact, sometimes he worked for Rosemary.  His job was just to be there to do whatever the hospital staff needed him to do.  If there was a hall to be swept, or if Rosemary wanted to send a message from Major Redwine over to another building, then Wolfgang was there to do it.

After a while, Rosemary got to know him.  Wolfgang was young, maybe only 18 or 19 years old and, of course, he was from Germany, with a wife and new baby waiting for him back home.  Wolfgang would often tell Rosemary how he unhappy he was – he wanted very much to go home and see his family again.

So it was that Rosemary got used to the German prisoners, one by one, day by day.  She figured they were just people like anyone else.  It’s not that she forgot the young men were prisoners – it’s just that they were so young.  Most of the prisoners she met were under 25 years of age.  A big group of them had all been picked up together in North Africa.

No, she knew they were prisoners.  There was no telling what they did when they were in the German Army.  Still, she believed the young men were probably put in that position by the German Army and, well, because bad things just happen in wars.  As far as she could tell, most of them were decent men and when prisoners like Wolfgang came in to Rosemary’s office, she knew it was important to be able communicate.

There was one day, Rosemary wanted her window up, but try as she might, she couldn’t get it open.  It was stuck.  The hospital didn’t have air-conditioning, nor did the other buildings in the camp.  Really, Rosemary felt lucky to have a window to open at all.

She decided the stuck window was a good job for Wolfgang.  She called and he came right over.

“Macht das Fenster auf,” she told him.

He said “Nein nein, Fenster auf gemacht.”

In other words, she had said it wrong, but she didn’t care.  Instead, she just motioned for him to put the window up – and that’s what exactly he did.

Schon rief der Posten: Sie blasen Zapfenstreich
Es kann drei Tage kosten! Kam’rad, ich komm ja gleich.
Da sagten wir auf Wiedersehn.
Wie gerne wollt ich mit dir gehn,
Mit dir Lili Marleen, mit dir Lili Marleen

 Camp Hearne was built right before Rosemary and John arrived in Hearne.  The camp’s first prisoners were captured in Tunisia in May 1943 from Rommel’s Afrika Korps.  During World War II, Texas had more than 50,000 prisoners in 70 different camps.  Of these, Camp Hearne was the third-largest POW-only camp in Texas.

The good thing about the camp was that it had just about everything the prisoners might need.  It had rows of wooden barracks, a post office, and a hospital – all inside the barrier.  The bad thing, for the prisoners anyway, was that they had to stay there until the war ended.

Inside the hospital was a “great big cafeteria,” with “long tables and chairs right after one another,” Rosemary says, “and everyone could sit wherever they wanted to sit.”  All the prisoners working in the hospital ate there, the officers ate there, and John and Rosemary ate there too.

“Course you know they had the German boys cooking and it was real good,” Rosemary says.  “It was all German food.  Those German boys could cook.”

Rosemary thought this was just great, not because it was German cooking – her favorite – but because it meant she didn’t have to cook.  She and John could take their meals there and lots of times, they ate breakfast, dinner and supper at the hospital.  Sometimes she felt like they practically lived at Camp Hearne.

The hospital was also good for more than just its mess hall.  It provided basic medical care for everyone in the camp.  If a prisoner got sick, he was put in a hospital bed with someone to look after him.  Every once in a while, one would come in with a severe illness or injury and the Army would have to send him to a bigger hospital somewhere.

John role was as a medical administrative officer for the hospital.  Rosemary didn’t exactly know what that meant – she just knew that he took care of hospital office business.  She also knew that Major Redwine was the doctor in charge and they had one or two other staff doctors.  The hospital even had a little emergency room.

Rosemary knew that last part first-hand because one day, she got sick and had to go to the emergency room.  The young man who ran it was a medical orderly named Fritz (Haus?).  Fritz was a little older than Wolfgang and he had medical experience.  Maybe he had been a medic in his troop, thought Rosemary, before he was captured.

He mixed up some medicine and gave it to Rosemary, and Rosemary didn’t even think about what she was taking.  She just gulped it down and thanked him.  Turns out the medicine worked fine, but she later realized he could have knocked her out with it if he’d wanted to.  She was sure glad he didn’t.

Deine Schritte kennt sie, deinen zieren Gang
Alle Abend brennt sie, mich vergass sie lanp
Und sollte mir ein Leids geschehn,
Wer wird bei der Laterne stehn,
Mit dir Lili Marleen, mit dir Lili Marleen?

Hearne was probably not even considered a big camp, but then again, Rosemary thought, it was hard to tell how many prisoners they had there.  From her perspective, everything at camp ran smoothly.

“But, I’m sure there was a lot I didn’t know,” she says.  “I know there was.  Well, that’s why they had these Army officers there that ran everything.  I’m sure they had problems with the prisoners, but I never knew.”

She got the feeling that most of the prisoners accepted the fact they would be at Camp Hearne until the war ended.  They had no choice – they just had to live there and make do.

What she maybe didn’t know was that Camp Hearne’s prisoners were divided into pro-Nazi and anti-Nazi supporters.  Although the Army tried to isolate the groups in separate sections, one prisoner was murdered when his fellow prisoners decided he might be a spy.  It was hard even for the Army to keep an eye on them all day, every day.

Prisoners did sometimes escape from Camp Hearne, but most didn’t make it too far.  One man got out and headed down the road towards Franklin, the next town over, “wearing civilian clothes over his camp uniform and heartily singing German army marching songs,” wrote Texas A&M Professor Arnold Krammer about the prisoner.  “He was gently returned to camp and for some reason could not understand how the local farmer who caught him had seen through his clever disguise.”

Sometimes Rosemary got a glimpse of trouble among the Army officers as well.  Her job was to type letters for Major Redwine and to take care of his books – to do whatever he wanted done.  One set of letters she typed was for a big investigation involving a Major who had shot himself in the head.  A man named Lt. Post headed up the inquiry and she got to read about it as she typed up the paperwork.  At first the Army thought the Major had been shot by a prisoner, but Lt. Post’s investigation showed that the officer had shot himself.  The Army sent the wounded officer away to a mental institution.

The camp, or at least the hospital, was fine, even pleasant most of the time, but there was an undercurrent of troubles surrounding the war.  Rosemary felt that something was always going on at Camp Hearne.  She thought that the Army watched the prisoners closely, but that sometimes it wasn’t close enough.

Mail was a big item for the prisoners because it brought them news from home, despite the fact that both the Americans and the Germans censored the letters and packages.  “One side blacked out words, and the other side cut them out,” former Camp Hearne POW Heino R. Ericksen said, “all that was usually left were greetings and personal information.”

Things went well enough with the mail system that in 1944, a few months after John and Rosemary left, Camp Hearne became a mail distribution point for all the German POWs in the United States.  Prisoners were put to work in the mailroom and a small group of pro-Nazi prisoners began using the system to terrorize other prisoners and their families back in Germany.  Eventually, the Army discovered the scheme and shut down the mailroom in July 1945.

In 1943 and ‘44, prisoners working at the camp were probably stationed in a shop repairing blankets and raincoats.  Some got a hold of enough raincoats to build a make-shift raft and tried to sail down a nearby river to Germany.  They didn’t get far before they were spotted and brought back to camp.  Seems that most of the prisoners didn’t really understand where they were in relation to Germany.

Other prisoners were given road and field work to do.  In the morning, local farmers took prisoners out of the camp in trucks to harvest cotton, onions and peanuts – stuff like that – then back into camp at the end of the day.  However, the vast majority of prisoners at Camp Hearne, around 80 percent, were non-commissioned officers (NCOs) who through the Geneva Convention, were not required to work.

These prisoners could spend the day playing soccer, practicing gymnastics or painting.  In fact, life at Camp Hearne was better than what many of the prisoners had left behind in Germany.  NCOs were paid about three dollars a week, unless they wanted to earn a bit more by taking a job in the camp like Fritz and Wolfgang.  Enlisted men earned around 80 cents a day for their labors.  Prisoners were paid in canteen coupons – enough to buy cigarettes at the end of each day.

When Rosemary and John left Camp Hearne in 1944, the prisoners gave Rosemary a large oil painting of a German landscape with a little house in it.  Unfortunately, over the decades, she’s lost it somewhere along the way.

For most of the German prisoners, the fight was no longer against the Allies, but against boredom.  Activities, classes and elaborate projects were developed to kept them entertained, and in later years, Camp Hearne had a prisoner’s theatre complete with an orchestra pit.  Several prisoners passed their time building gigantic, detailed water fountains that looked like German castles or made little ponds to keep goldfish and turtles.  It’s easy to see why townsfolk sometimes referred to the camp as the “Fritz Ritz.”

One prisoner of war, Wilhelm Sauterbrei, returned years later and was interviewed by a Houston reporter.  The reporter mentioned that as an NCO, he must have had it pretty easy.  Wilhelm replied, “I’ll tell you, pal.  If there is ever another war, get on the side that America isn’t, then get captured by the Americans – you’ll have it made!”

Aus dem stillen Raume, aus der Erde Grund
Hebt mich wie im Traume dein verliebter Mund.
Wenn sich die spaeten Nebel drehn,
Werd’ ich bei der Laterne stehn
Wie einst Lili Marleen, wie einst Lili Marleen

Most of the camp has been torn down now.  Only a few noticeable structures remain in an otherwise tree and bush-choked field.  After the war, people from Hearne moved several buildings from the site – one into town for a dentist office, and a couple more down the road for school buildings.  Nothing much else remains.

When Camp Hearne closed in 1947, the prisoners were eventually released back to Germany, some with a lay-over in England, but Rosemary and John were far away by then.  In 1944, John received orders to report to Indian Gap, Pennsylvania, and from there he went overseas.  Rosemary returned to her father’s house in Ohio until John returned from the war.  She kept in contact with Wolfgang for a year or two after the war was over and was glad to know he got back home safely to his wife and child.


Camp Hearne Remembers: The 75th Anniversary of United States’ Entry into World War II

Mark your calendars for Saturday, Nov. 5, 10am to 4pm.  Admission is FREE!  Parking is $5. Visit for more information or contact Cathy Lazarus or Melissa Freeman at 979-314-7012.

[Hearne, Texas]Veterans Day, November 11, 2016, less than a month away from December 7, Pearl Harbor Day, a month and seventy-five years, that is. This year marks the 75th Anniversary of American’s entry into World War II. We at Camp Hearne not only want to honor all veterans during this year’s Camp Hearne Living History Day event, but we also remember one of the most cataclysmic events in human history—the one that created Camp Hearne.

For many of us, World War II is a not so distance history lesson. We grew up watching black and white movies where the heroes were American GIs fighting in far off places for all the right reasons.  For us Baby-Boomers, it was our parents who served and sacrificed during this most extraordinary time in our Nation’s past.

It has now been 75 years since the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, propelled the United States into a global conflict that had already been raging for more than two years. What happen then in this country was astonishing.  The military industrial complex was put into full gear, men enlisted in droves, women earned their place in the workforce and military service, and families rationed and built a home front citizenry that supported all facets of our war effort.  America emerged the protector of Democracy and the new Leader in world affairs.

It achieved a unity of purpose and action that US had not seen before or has seen since.

Although Camp Hearne existed for a very short time, it is still a story worth telling as an integral part of this unified struggle. This Historic Site is a heritage tourism destination that conveys the story of a small rural town’s wartime contribution–hosting a WWII POW internment camp that housed over 4800 German prisoners-of-war from 1942-1946.  Each fall, we invite folks to participate in a living history day that brings this period to life with re-enactors from both the Allied and Axis Armies displaying their respective uniforms, gear, and weapons. You will be able to visit our WWII POW Camp Exhibit, walk the trails to prisoner-built remains, interact with WWII living historians as they “show and tell” their collections, watch weapons demonstrations and view WWII era military vintage vehicles.

If you have been to Camp Hearne and think you have seen it all, come back and traverse our new trails and see additions to the Camp Hearne exhibit.

Remembering D-Day Event at Camp Hearne, June 11

DDay2016.Mr C

Camp Hearne is bringing WWII history alive Saturday, June 11, with “ground troops” bivouacked on the original site of Hearne’s POW Camp.  Re-enactors from both the Allied and Axis Armies will display their authentic uniforms, gear, and weapons from different military specialties such as the paratroopers, medical, infantry, artillery, and signal corps. You will be able to visit our WWII POW Camp Exhibit, walk the trails to prisoner-built remains, interact with WWII living historians as they “show and tell” their collections, watch weapons demonstrations and view WWII era military vintage vehicles.

General Patton as portrayed by Denny Hair
General Patton as portrayed by Denny Hair

A special appearance by General Patton and the Third Army re-enactors is sure to be an interesting encounter.  Since Rommel thought Patton would be leading the attack in France, General Patton’s decoy or ghost army across from Calais played an important role in distracting the Germans from the real target at Normandy.

Yellow Rose - B25J Mitchell Bomber
Yellow Rose – B25J Mitchell Bomber

At Hearne’s adjacent Municipal Airport, vintage aircraft and paratroopers will engage visitors with demonstrations and tours of their planes while on the tarmac.  If your pocketbook and stomach will allow, buy a ride in one of these vintage planes and fly over Brazos Valley.  An experience you will never forget.

Click HereBack on the home front, a special period dress contest challenges visitors to don their grandparents or parents’ vintage garb and become part of our most recent past.  And, be sure to visit the special exhibit in the Camp’s Visitors Center that illustrates the importance of our Country’s “Back the Attack” war bond campaigns.

Admission is FREE!  Gates open 10am to 4pm.  Camp Hearne is located northwest of Hearne on FM 485.   Visit for more information or contact Cathy Lazarus or Melissa Freeman at 979-314-7012.