During World War II, Texas hosted 79 prisoner of war camps, one of which—located in Hereford—held over 5,000 Italian POWs captured in North Africa. The second largest such camp built in the US, the US Army Corp of Engineers oversaw the camp's construction at a total cost of two million dollars. While imprisoned, POWs contributed to local agricultural industry in exchange for housing and meals provided at the camp. Five Italian POWs died and were buried on site before the war's conclusion. Using their significant artistic talents, a team of POWs constructed a small chapel to mark the graves of the deceased. The chapel still stands at the site today—one of the last remnants of the camp—thanks to the Castro County Historical Commission's restoration of the chapel in the mid-1980s. On April 30th, 1988, a group of Italians formerly held at the camp returned for the site's restoration ceremony.
Additionally, many of the imprisoned Italians contributed their artistic talents to St. Mary's Church in nearby Umbarger, decorating the church's interior with wood carving and frescos. St. Mary's Church continues to maintain the art works today.
Watch the following videos to learn more about World War II POW camps in Texas and the Italian POWs who lived and worked in Hereford and nearby Umbarger. These videos were produced for inclusion in the World War II on the Texas Home Front mobile tour found in our Texas Time Travel mobile app. Learn more about the tour and the app on the World War II theme page at the following link: http://texastimetravel.com/travel-themes/main-world-war-ii