HEARNE — Roll Call: Friends of Camp Hearne plans to host its fourth World War II living history event at the Camp Hearne Historic site, FM 485 and Fairground Road in Hearne, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 19.
For the 2013 production, “we are looking for World War II re-enactors and vintage aircraft and vehicles to help us bring World War II history to life during our fourth annual ‘A Day in the Life …’ living history event,” said Melissa Freeman, program director at the Camp Hearne site.
Camp Hearne, a World War II prisoner-of-war base camp located on FM 485 northwest of Hearne, has been touted as the best documented POW camp in the U.S.
“Many folks simply do not realize almost 435,000 German, Italian and Japanese prisoners were held in the U.S. POW camps during World War II,” Freeman said. “Camp Hearne, where more than 4,700 mostly German prisoners were detained, is the perfect historic site to tell this story.
“To begin our re-creation, a 1942 barrack replica was built on the historic site using original U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans and vintage photographs,” Freeman said. “The building’s first room recreates the living quarters both our men in uniform and our POWs had on most military base camps during World War II.
“The middle room houses an extensive exhibit of POW artifacts and objects. The back room is a visitor center for meetings and discussion. We have recently finished our signature structure of any POW camp, a 1942 guard tower.”
“What is even more exciting is the completion of our airport renovations that will allow us to welcome vintage aircraft,” said Cathy Lazarus, president of the Roll Call: Friends of Camp Hearne.
“Hearne’s Cold War airport was built as an auxiliary landing strip to Bryan Air Force Base. It now sports an improved lighted runway plus resurfaced taxiways, an air weather observation system (AWOS), a 1950s-style pilots lounge and a new 24/7 automated fuel farm with AV-gas. We are now in the process of installing a perimeter fence scheduled to be completed by our event.”
The concrete foundations of POW and camp theaters remain. The camp covered 70 acres of the 720-acre complex, which housed more than 250 buildings. A model of the camp is located in the exhibit area.
Hearne was chosen as a POW camp because of its flat terrain, distance from the coast, railroad access, sparse population and local need for farm laborers, Lazarus said. At the time, Hearne had a population of 3,200.
Camp Hearne opened in early 1943 and by October 1943, its roster was 4,700 POWs, dropping to 3,600 in November 1945 and down to 2,100 when it closed in December 1945. It was decommissioned as a U.S. Army camp in January 1946.
“Former Camp Hearne POW Heino Erichsen of The Woodlands will be on hand to tell his story as a young man growing up in Adolf Hitler’s Germany,” Freeman said.
Erichsen was captured and taken to Camp Hearne, where he shared a barracks with Hugo Strauss, a POW who was murdered at the facility for his failure to honor the Reich, Lazarus said.
The camp is open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.