German Prisoners of War and U.S. Army Guards

During World War II, an eastern portion, 94 acres, of the Fort Reno lands served as an internment workcamp for German Prisoners of War. Mostly from Gen. Rommel’s Afrikakorp, captured in North Africa, over 1,300 Germans were brought to Fort Reno by rail. While imprisoned here, the German POW’s were hired as laborers for local farmers and in 1944 built the Chapel located to the north of the Parade Grounds. The west side of the historic military cemetery is where 70 German and Italian Prisoners of War were interred. Most of these men died at other POW camps in Oklahoma and Texas. Only one Fort Reno German POW died while imprisoned at the Fort Reno internment camp.

There are 62 German and 8 Italian Prisoners of War interred at the POW Cemetery added to the west end of the Post Cemetery. A number of Germans and Italians have made special trips to view the resting place of their relatives or friends. Every year a special memorial wreath appears on Veterans’ Day in remembrance of those prisoners buried at the Fort Reno cemetery. A German-American Heritage Day (Volkstrauertag) is held at Fort Reno in November.

The most famous German buried at the Fort Reno POW Cemetery is Johannes Kunze of the Tonkawa Camp. He was beaten to death by fellow POW’s who accused him of being a traitor. Those charged with his murder were sent to stand trial at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where they were found guilty, executed by hanging, and buried. The death of Johannes Kunze is the subject of a novel by Vince Greene, titled “Extreme Justice”.

Prison Camp guards were the U.S. Army’s 435th Military Police Escort Guard Company.

An excellent book on this subject is “Behind Barbed Wire: WWII POW Camps in Oklahoma” by New Plains Review, University of Central Oklahoma, with 99 illustrations and photos, and stories from several POW camps