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Each week on the Junior Curators blog, we travel back in time to a different place in Tennessee history. Stories may be about a famous person, place or event from Tennessee’s past. They will include things like priceless artifacts, pictures, videos, and even some games. Be sure to better understand the story by answering the questions at the end of each post.
After learning the story, be sure to share what you've learned with your parents, family, or friends. Try making your own exhibit about it, shooting a movie, or writing a story about it. Let your creativity run wild!
by Emily Dehmer
As the Germans unloaded from the bus, the bright spotlights from the guard towers lit up the night. The men, in a single-file line, were led into the medical tent. There they were showered, deloused, and given a fresh pair of clothes. A team of doctors and nurses looked over those who arrived, most suffering from battle wounds or diseases. After they were done in the medical tent, they made their way to their new homes.
As they filed out of the tent, they were led to a large empty courtyard. A loudspeaker crackled as a voice began to fill the night air. “These are the rules at Crossville,” the voice began. It went on for several minutes before finishing with the somber line, “This is where you will stay until the end of the war."
Colonel Harry E. Dudley Papers, 1916-1966, Tennessee State Library and Archives
Photo of a POW Officer at Crossville-Notice the Nazi pins on his right pocket and left shoulder.
“Officers this way, enlisted men to the barracks,” an American soldier shouted as the loudspeaker grew quiet. The officers, not knowing what to expect, followed the leader to their rooms. A sense of dread filled them. They were prisoners, high ranking military prisoners at that. Would they be thrown into a jail cell? Would there be spiders and cockroaches crawling up the walls?
POW Officer imprisoned at Crossville.
They stopped. It was the first door of a long hallway of doors. The American nodded to one of the Germans. The prisoner stepped forward and slowly opened the door. Much to his surprise, it was a room! A normal room with a bed, table, chair, and pot-bellied stove. The Germans still waiting sighed in relief. They continued to march through the buildings until each of them had been given their own room. Each officer was also assigned one enlisted man to be his personal valet, someone to shine their shoes, iron, and clean for them. Maybe, just maybe, life wouldn’t be as bad as they thought.
Deloused – To remove lice, a bug, from your body.
Somber – Very sad and serious.
Barracks – A building, or group of buildings, where soldiers live.
Dread – Great fear or anxiety.
Enlisted – Serving in the armed forces (Army, Navy, Marines, etc.) and having a rank below officer.
Why was it important for the POWs to stop at the medical tent first?
How long did the prisoners have to stay at the camp?
What do you think the prisoners expected to happen to them at the camp?
Visit here to see the historic marker placed to show where the camp was located in Crossville, TN.
Click here to see what that area looks like today.
Duane Marsteller. “Camp Crossville”. The Historical Marker Database. Accessed Nov. 2020. https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=150187
Letsgoplateau. “Camp Crossville”. Edge Trekker. Accessed Nov. 2020. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VJqPD-w9e9U
“The Clyde M. York 4-H Center has quite a history…”. UT Institute of Agriculture. Accessed Nov. 2020. https://clydeyork4hcenter.tennessee.edu/camp-history/
Jeff Roberts. “POW Camps in World War II”. Tennessee Encyclopedia. Accessed Oct. 2020. https://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/entries/pow-camps-in-world-war-ii/
Gerhard Hennes. The Barbed Wire: POW in the U.S.A. Hillsboro Press. Oct. 30, 2004