Somehow, this Kansas native never knew that the Sunflower State was home to several POW camps during World War II.
You’ll find the remnants of one of the largest ones just north of this Cloud County town. It’s easy to locate — drive north through town on U.S. 81, then east a short ways on Union Road. (Look for the John Deere place at that intersection.)
Approaching from the west you will first see a two-story stone tower at the edge of a huge field. That spot marks the southwest corner of what used to be the German POW camp that operated here from June 1943 to October 1945.
According to the POW Camp Concordia Preservation Society, camps like these were located in 47 states during World War II. But this is said to be the only German POW camp that still has buildings on its original site.
The first 400 prisoners who arrived here on July 15, 1943, were members of the Deutsche Afrika Korps, the German expeditionary force that famously fought in North Africa under Erwin Rommel.
The sprawling 170-acre camp used to bustle with the activity of more than 4,000 German POWs, 885 guards and about 200 civilian workers. The camp had a 177-bed hospital, two libraries, warehouses, barracks, mess hall, post office and administrative buildings.
Many of the prisoners got paid to work on local farms, familiar labor for many who grew up on farms in Germany. Some were also good stonemasons; their hands built the guard tower, which has since been reconstructed.
The base of what used to be camp’s 100,000-gallon water tower can be seen from the guard tower location if you look north across what is now a vast field.
Keep driving three blocks to the east and you’ll find what used to be the camp’s main entrance and the main-gate guard post building, where the camp’s preservation society houses a small museum.
1542 Union Road, Concordia, Kan.
Hours: Self-guided; no regular hours but guided tours available upon request.
Info: Cloud County Tourism, 785-243-4303; POW Camp Concordia Preservation Society, 785-243-2334; powcampconcordia.org