Delaware Military History

WWII POW Camps in Delaware

This list of Prisoner of War Camps, Italian Service Unit Camps, and Prisoner of War Hospitals is
based on weekly reports located on NARA microfilm #66-538 (population lists June 1942-June
1946). Additional locations based on newspapers, interviews, and other NARA records (at
College Park and Regional Archives).

The POW Camps in Delaware during World War II included:

*Fort DuPont, Delaware City, New Castle County,  (base camp) now a health care center, and
state park. Over 1000 German and Italian prisoners in Rommel's Afrika Corps captured in 1943
were sent to the POW camp set up at Fort DuPont.  In 1945 there were two waves of German
prisoners who were transferred to Boston from the fort. The first wave consisted of 1,750 while
the second wave which followed shortly was composed of another 2,000. In May 1944, the
1231st SCU prisoner-of-war camp was established using repurposed temporary buildings in the
mobilization area. During the war, roughly 3,000 German POWs were housed at Fort DuPont.
These POWs included members of the submarine U-858 that surrendered off the coast of Lewes,
Del., in 1945. POWs worked as dishwashers, waiters, grocers, butchers, and other support roles
on post as well as working on other local installations such as the New Castle Army Airfield.
German POWs worked for civilian canneries, garbage companies, and even worked for the city
of Rehoboth Beach repairing sections of the boardwalk. After the successful transfer of the POW
prisoners the fort was decommissioned by the Army and turned over to the State of Delaware.
The temporary wooden barracks that housed the POWs no longer stands.

In April, 1945 The highest number of German POWs, 4,300, was reached in Delaware at Fort du
Pont in Delaware City and branch camps downstate.

Bethany Beach, Sussex County,  (branch camp under Ft. DuPont, )
*Bridgeville, Sussex County,  (branch camp under Ft. DuPont, )*Georgetown I, Sussex County,  
(branch camp under Ft. DuPont, )
*Georgetown II, Sussex County,  (branch camp under Ft. DuPont, )
*Harrington, Kent County,  (branch camp under Ft. DuPont, )
*Leipsic, Kent County,  (branch camp under Ft. DuPont, )
*Lewes, Sussex County,  (branch camp under Ft. DuPont, )
*Saulsbury (Fort), Sussex County,  (branch camp under Ft. DuPont, )

Fort Miles, Sussex County,  (base camp)

*New Castle, New Castle County,  (branch camp under Ft. Miles, )

Fort DuPont had a branch camp in NJ.

April 1, 1932    A Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp opened at Georgetown for mosquito
control.  During WW II it was also used as a POW camp.

Raymond Deputy, a former Delawa
re State Guardsman relates, “During the 1945 annual Guard
camp at Bethany Beach Training Site we had German Prisoners of War held at Bethany, mostly
veterans of the Afrika Corps.  We made daily runs to Fort Miles to pick up supplies, and took
prisoners to do the heavy lifting. I was assigned to guard the Germans.  I was 14 years old at
the time, and made corporal at 15 yrs old. I carried a single shot twelve-gauge shotgun, single
barrel.  The Germans asked me if I would really use that thing, (I had only one cartridge) and I
replied, they better not try me. The German POW's called me "Super Nazi" because of my youth.

Late in the war, after the early prisoners had been here a couple of years the restrictions on
some prisoners were relaxed.  Only a few true dedicated Nazis remained in their ranks. Deputy
characterized most of them as simply waiting for the end of hostilities.
They worked with
minimum supervision and were granted minor liberties as time wore on.

Dover Army Air Field
As late in the war as 1944, Dover Army Air Field was still “scrounging” for needed equipment,
facilities and materiel.  There was a shortage of everything from file cabinets to trash cans.  Due
to wartime manpower shortages some 145 German Prisoners of War were employed at Dover
Army Air Field beginning in October 1944 under strict rules of employment designed to respect
the Geneva accords and national security. POWs were employed in the mess and in
housekeeping duties. KP duty was unpopular and morale improved when the POWs relieved
the GIs of that duty. Fraternization with prisoners was officially forbidden. The prisoners were
lightly guarded at the direction of the base commander.

Fort Saulsbury

"Removal of the Battery Haslet guns in 1942 did not finish the WW II mission for Fort
Saulsbury.  It was assigned a mission to become a Prisoner of War Camp for hundreds of
German and a lesser number of Italian prisoners.  Prisoners were a familiar sight on Milford
streets when they were given passes to come onto town. Many prisoners worked in area
canneries, poultry processing plants, orchards and assisted in harvesting field crops.  Stories
abound from area families who were impressed by their hard work and honesty.  Employers
could not pay the prisoners, but instead reimbursed the Federal Government for the labor.  
However, there were many occasions where giving cigarettes and other friendly gestures
occurred.  Granville Shockley, whose father's farm was nearby, was impressed that the
prisoners had no Army guard and one of their own men was "boss."  Noon meals were brought
to them in the fields from the fort.  Stories continue to surface that some of these men returned
to this area after the war, having been well-treated and in love with Sussex County.  

Lt. Col. John J. Harris, who was in charge of the Delaware Prisoner-of-War Unit, reported that
this program brought the Federal Government $2,400,000 from the work of these men in
Delaware. Some of servicemen told me that returning home from Germany was difficult when
they saw German prisoners treated so well here is the States after having been shot at by their
fellow conuntrymen in Germany. On January 11, 1946, Fort Saulsbury was deactivated after the
departure of the last POW from Delaware."

From Fort Saulsbury Org.  

For more information about these camps, please see: