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

“Coupon of the Day”

Scrip is a form of currency that was often used by the US Army in the past. It was essentially a substitute for regular currency, and was used primarily in situations where traditional forms of payment were not available or feasible.

Obviously, giving German prisoners US dollars would not be a good idea. So, the War Department issued each enlisted man or NCO $3.00 in Camp scrip in 1-cent and 5-cent coupons allotments each month. Since the Geneva Convention required equal treatment between U.S. and enemy soldiers, each prisoner compound included common buildings to house their infirmary, canteen/post exchange and administrative offices. This provided the “company store” where prisoners purchased items from their post-exchange that you might find in a hotel gift shop today. Various brands of personal hygiene items, writing supplies, tobacco, candies, etc. were routinely stocked. Prisoners could even buy postcards with pictures of the Camp activities to send home.

A favorite item of the POW canteen was a pint beer. Unfortunately for them, the War Department limited each prisoner to only one pint per day. As any resourceful man will tell you when it comes to beer, “Where there is a will, there is a way.” Groups would pool their coupons to allow one in the group a sufficient number of pints to get an occasional good buzz.

Although NCOs were not required to work except to supervise, enlisted prisoners might be ordered to work doing general house-keeping or maintenance chores around the camp for $.80 (80-cents) per day. Some worked in their own barber shops, kitchens, infirmaries, post office or clerical offices to earn a few “cents.” Others might join crews to work chopping or picking crops for neighboring farms. A few even worked in one of the downtown cafes.

Earned tallies would be recorded by Camp bookkeepers and the equivalent scrip coupons issued to each prisoner accordingly. The more coupons earned, the more services and goodies they could purchase.

Read more about Camp Hearne’s POW canteen, post-exchange and utilization of labor in Michael Waters book, Lone Star Stalag: German Prisoners of War at Camp Hearne.

“Postcards from Across the Pond”

The Geneva Conventions of 1929 allowed prisoners to send and receive personal correspondence, including packages. Of course, all in-coming and out-going mail was examined and censored according to War Department instructions. The postage was free, but correspondence was restricted to War Department-issued POW stationery. Other rules related to the type of ink and number of letters and/or postcards that could be sent by each prisoner varied throughout the war due to backlogs and inability to efficiently process the high volume of correspondence. By 1944, each enlisted or NCO prisoner was allowed two letters and four postcards per month.1

Former POW Heino Erichsen remembers the news was always late and the censoring from both sides of the pond left some recipients with little more that a date and greeting.2

To facilitate notification of a prisoner’s internment assignment, he was issued a “Card of Capture” within a week of his arrival to each new Camp location. This dispatch allowed the prisoner to give the Camp’s name and address to his family and to specify the state of his health.

The International Red Cross Committee served as intermediary between warring nations, delivering correspondence and packages. They were also responsible for the internment camps’ inspections to insure compliance to the Geneva Conventions.

Card of Capture, Front & Back

__________________________________________________________1 Waters, Michael R. with Mark Long & Lone Star Stalog: German Prisoners of War at Camp Hearne, 1st ed. College Station, TX: TAMU Press, 2004, p62.

2 ibid.

“Vintage Branded Workwear”

The “PW” Denim jacket used during WWII is on loan from the Museum of the American GI, College Station, TX

Once prisoners arrived at their final internment destination, they were issued clean clothing, but required to stencil or paint the identifier “PW” on sleeves and back of shirt and the legs and backside of pants.  Prisoners later were allowed to purchase clothing via their Post Exchange catalogs with money credits earned for work.  However, the “PW-logo” was still required.

Former prisoner-of-war, Karl Blumenthal said, “They even made us stencil our underwear.”

Another former prisoner shared his memories with his daughter after she told him of her family’s visit to Camp Hearne.  She writes, “He fondly told us about learning to play soccer in the small field at the front of the camp grounds near the entrance of the compound.  As an enlisted man he was issued a WWI uniform made of wool that he had cut into shorts.  There was a strip of leather at the bottom of the pants that each of the men cut off.  From these strips of leather one of the prisoners who had been a shoemaker, sewed together a soccer ball that they used for their sport.  He chuckled as he told us about the ball going “whoosh” when it got kicked a little too hard and popped on the barbed wire fence.”

Judging from many of our photographs, it appears that shorts and undershirts were the uniform-of-the-day.  Bet our Texas heat and humidity had something to do with that.

WAR DEPARTMENT BASIC FIELD MANUAL FM 19-5, Military Police, 14 JUNE 1944, Chapter 11, Section 134

d. Supplies and equipment.  (1) Clothing.  Except as circumstances warrant or climate requires, no uniform or suit is issued as a replacement to a prisoner who is not an officer until the one in which he was captured has become unfit for use.  The uniforms of prisoners are renovated and used when practicable.  Prisoners are permitted to wear insignia of rank and decorations.  No article of the United States Army

uniform will be issued to a prisoner of war unless so altered that it cannot be mistaken for a part of the Army uniform. Except for clothing of officer prisoners and the national uniforms of prisoner enlisted men, out garments worn by prisoners are appropriately marked with the letters “PW”. The clothing of protected peroneal is mark with the letters “PP”.

“Ditty Bag”

Upon arrival at the prisoner’s base camp, he was issued a “ditty bag.” This was in response to the Geneva Conventions of 1929 that required treatment of prisoners to be equal to that of our own soldiers.1

The contents included basic hygiene items:
• Tooth brush
• Tooth powder/paste
• Shaving cream
• Razor and blades
• Hair brush/comb
• Shampoo
• Bar soap

Former US Army Military Police Escort, Mr. Warlow, was stationed at Camp Hearne when the first prisoners arrived. He remembered the first group deboarding the train as wearing the same battlefield uniforms in which they were captured, dirty and bloodied. The stench was overwhelming.

Prisoner-of-war, Mr. Karl Blumenthal, remembered being very afraid of what the future held in the US camps as enemy POWs. They were surprised that they were issued new clothing, a ditty bag, a bunk bed with clean sheets, and most rememberable, HOT WATER in the showers.2

Life was not going to be too bad at Camp Hearne.

1Geneva Convention of 1929, Section II. Prisoners-of-war Camps, Chapter 1, Article 10: “Prisoners of war shall be lodged in buildings or in barracks affording all possible guarantees of hygiene and healthfulness.”
2Geneva Convention of 1929, Section II. Prisoners-of-war Camps, Chapter 3, Article 13: “…prisoners shall be furnished a sufficient quantity of water for the care of their own bodily cleanliness.”

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 3, 2023, 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 3, 2023, 10am to 4pm.

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.