Camp Crossville, Tennessee
Located in central Tennessee, Camp Crossville developed a reputation as one of the three worst POW camps in the United States during World War II. The first group of prisoners arrived on November 28, 1942. Captured in Casablanca, Morocco, the 68 men were members of Erwin Rommel’s notorious Afrika Korps.1
The U.S. Army tried to maintain a level of secrecy and prevented local newspapers from writing about the location or activities of the camp.2
One of the earliest successful POW-escape attempts of the war occurred at Camp Crossville. Wolfgang Hermann Hellfritsch evaded camp guards and other authorities by wearing civilian clothing and speaking excellent English. After a nationwide search led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, he was found living in Kentucky using a false name and was swiftly returned to the POW camp.3
Chattanooga National Cemetery, Post Section C, is the final resting place of 94 POWs who died during their internment at Camp Crossville, approximately 80 miles away; in addition to decedents from Camp Butner in North Carolina, Fort Oglethorpe in Georgia, and Camp Forrest in Tennessee.4
1 Jesse Burt, “Camp Crossville: Barbed Wire in the Oaks,” Tennessean (Nashville), April 14, 1968, Newspapers.com.
2 Burt, “Camp Crossville.”
3 “FBI Begins Wide Hunt for Escaped German Prisoner,” Tennessean (Nashville), October 25, 1943, Newspapers.com; “Escaped Nazi Prisoner Caught,” Tennessean (Nashville), February 19, 1944, Newspapers.com; Burt, “Camp Crossville.”
4 John Shearer, “The German Connection at Chattanooga’s National Cemetery”, The Chattanoogan, August 29, 2008, http://www.chattanoogan.com/2008/8/29/134127/The-German-Connection-At-Chattanooga-s.aspx.