Today@Sam Article

Release Party Scheduled For Student-Researched Book

May 5, 2015
SHSU Media Contact: Jennifer Gauntt

POW Camp in Walker County
Nina Mickelwait Collier (seated) served as a civilian-processing assistant at the camp during the war. —Submitted photo

The common American history curriculum exploring World War II often focuses on the war’s logistics, its victories and, largely, the concentration camps, wherein Jews from across Europe were interned, tortured, and executed under the orders of Adolph Hitler.       

But stateside, and often less emphasized, America also established prisoner of war camps—including one in Walker County, Texas.       

This subject is the focus of a new book written by 10 Sam Houston State University graduate students in the Department of History.

“The Enemy Within Never Did Without: German and Japanese Prisoners of War at Camp Huntsville, 1942-1945,” published by Texas Review Press at SHSU, examines the story of Camp Huntsville, one of the first and largest POW camps constructed in America during World War II.

In honor of its publication this June, the Walker County Historical Commission will host a release party and book signing on May 18, at 5:30 p.m. at the Gibbs-Powell House Museum, at 1228 11th St.

The book was edited by associate history professor Jeffrey Littlejohn and his colleague Charles H. Ford and was created as a project in Littlejohn’s spring 2012 graduate seminar on Camp Huntsville.

Located roughly eight miles east of Huntsville on Highway 19, the POW camp was built in 1942 and opened for prisoners the following year.

The camp served as a model site for POW installations across the country and set a high standard for the treatment of prisoners, housing roughly 4,700 German POWs between 1943-1945, according to Littlejohn.

Cover of "The Enemy Within"Among the interesting tidbits of its operation, Camp Huntsville experienced tense relations between incarcerated Nazi and anti-Nazi factions, Littlejohn said.

“Then, during the last months of the war, the American military selected Camp Huntsville as the home for its re-education program for Japanese POWs,” he said. “The irony of teaching foreign prisoners about democracy and voting rights was not lost on African Americans in East Texas who faced disenfranchisement and racial segregation.

“Nevertheless, the camp did inspire some Japanese prisoners to support democratization of their home country when they returned to Japan after the war.”

The U.S. government sold Camp Huntsville to Sam Houston State Teachers College in 1946, and the site served as the school’s Country Campus through the mid-1950s.

The Camp Huntsville study began at the urging of Donna Coffen, a local member of the Walker County Historical Commission whose mother, Nina Mickelwait Collier, served as a civilian-processing assistant at the camp during the war.

“Donna suggested that the POW camp would be a compelling topic for publication, and she helped locate people and sources that were vital to the completion of this project,” Littlejohn said, adding that it also ultimately sparked the class that led to the publication.

Students who contributed to the publication include Micki Brady, Carolyn Carroll, Christopher Chance, Dan Cotchen, Patricia Hale, Amy Hyden, Natalie Miles, Sharla Morning, Bradley Trefz, and Dale Wagner.

For more information on the publication or the release party, contact Littlejohn at 936.294.4438 or littlejohn@shsu.edu.

 

 

 

 

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