Prisoner-of-war camp

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North Korean and Chinese Communist prisoners assembled at the United Nations' prisoner-of-war camp at Pusan during the Korean War in 1951 Chinese and North Korean POWs at camp in Pusan HD-SN-99-03155.JPEG
North Korean and Chinese Communist prisoners assembled at the United Nations' prisoner-of-war camp at Pusan during the Korean War in 1951

A prisoner-of-war camp (often abbreviated as POW camp) is a site for the containment of enemy combatants captured by a belligerent power in time of war.

A belligerent is an individual, group, country, or other entity that acts in a hostile manner, such as engaging in combat. Belligerent comes from Latin, literally meaning "one who wages war". Unlike the use of belligerent as an adjective to mean aggressive, its use as a noun does not necessarily imply that a belligerent country is an aggressor.

War Organised and prolonged violent conflict between states

War is a state of armed conflict between states, governments, societies and informal paramilitary groups, such as mercenaries, insurgents and militias. It is generally characterized by extreme violence, aggression, destruction, and mortality, using regular or irregular military forces. Warfare refers to the common activities and characteristics of types of war, or of wars in general. Total war is warfare that is not restricted to purely legitimate military targets, and can result in massive civilian or other non-combatant suffering and casualties.


There are significant differences among POW camps, internment camps, and military prisons. Purpose built prisoner-of-war camps appeared at Norman Cross in England in 1797 and HM Prison Dartmoor, both constructed during the Napoleonic Wars, and they have been in use in all the main conflicts of the last 200 years. The main camps are used for coast guards, marines, sailors, soldiers, and more recently, airmen of an enemy power who have been captured by a belligerent power during or immediately after an armed conflict. In addition, non-combatants, such as merchant mariners and civilian aircrews, have been imprisoned in some conflicts.[ citation needed ] With the adoption of the Geneva Convention on the Prisoners of War in 1929, later superseded by the Third Geneva Convention, prisoner-of-war camps have been required to be open to inspection by authorized representatives of a neutral power. Not all belligerents have consistently applied the convention in all conflicts.

A military prison is a prison operated by the military. Military prisons are used variously to house prisoners of war, unlawful combatants, those whose freedom is deemed a national security risk by the military or national authorities, and members of the military found guilty of a serious crime. Thus, military prisons are of two types: penal, for punishing and attempting to reform members of the military who have committed an offense, and confinement-oriented, where captured enemy combatants are confined for military reasons until hostilities cease.

Norman Cross

Norman Cross lies near Peterborough, Cambridgeshire. Traditionally in Huntingdonshire, it gave its name to a hundred and, from 1894 to 1974, Norman Cross Rural District. The junction of the A1 and A15 roads is here.

HM Prison Dartmoor

HM Prison Dartmoor is a Category C men's prison, located in Princetown, high on Dartmoor in the English county of Devon. Its high granite walls dominate this area of the moor. The prison is owned by the Duchy of Cornwall, and is operated by Her Majesty's Prison Service.

Detention of prisoners of war before the development of camps

Before the Peace of Westphalia, enemy combatants captured by belligerent forces were usually executed, enslaved, or held for ransom. [1] This, coupled with the relatively small size of armies, meant there was little need for any form of camp to hold prisoners of war. The Peace of Westphalia, a series of treaties signed between May and October 1648 that ended the Thirty Years' War and the Eighty Years' War, contained a provision that all prisoners should be released without ransom. This is generally considered to mark the point where captured enemy combatants would be reasonably treated before being released at the end of the conflict or under a parole not to take up arms. The practice of paroling enemy combatants had begun thousands of years earlier, at least as early as the time of Carthage [2] but became normal practice in Europe from 1648 onwards. The consequent increase in the number of prisoners was to lead eventually to the development of the prisoner of war camps.

Peace of Westphalia Peace treaty ending the European Thirty and Eighty Years Wars

The Peace of Westphalia was a series of peace treaties signed between May and October 1648 in the Westphalian cities of Osnabrück and Münster, largely ending the European wars of religion, including the Thirty Years' War. The treaties of Westphalia brought to an end a calamitous period of European history which caused the deaths of approximately eight million people. Scholars have identified Westphalia as the beginning of the modern international system, based on the concept of Westphalian sovereignty, though this interpretation has been seriously challenged.

Thirty Years War War between 1618 and 1648; with over 8 million fatalities

The Thirty Years' War was a war fought primarily in Central Europe between 1618 and 1648. One of the most destructive conflicts in human history, it resulted in eight million fatalities not only from military engagements but also from violence, famine, and plague. Casualties were overwhelmingly and disproportionately inhabitants of the Holy Roman Empire, most of the rest being battle deaths from various foreign armies. In terms of proportional German casualties and destruction, it was surpassed only by the period January to May 1945; one of its enduring results was 19th-century Pan-Germanism, when it served as an example of the dangers of a divided Germany and became a key justification for the 1871 creation of the German Empire.

Eighty Years War 16th and 17th-century Dutch revolt against the Habsburgs

The Eighty Years' War or Dutch War of Independence (1568–1648) was a revolt of the Seventeen Provinces of what are today the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg against Philip II of Spain, the sovereign of the Habsburg Netherlands. After the initial stages, Philip II deployed his armies and regained control over most of the rebelling provinces. Under the leadership of the exiled William the Silent, the northern provinces continued their resistance. They eventually were able to oust the Habsburg armies, and in 1581 they established the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. The war continued in other areas, although the heartland of the republic was no longer threatened; this included the beginnings of the Dutch Colonial Empire, which at the time were conceived as carrying overseas the war with Spain. The Dutch Republic was recognized by Spain and the major European powers in 1609 at the start of the Twelve Years' Truce. Hostilities broke out again around 1619, as part of the broader Thirty Years' War. An end was reached in 1648 with the Peace of Münster, when the Dutch Republic was definitively recognised as an independent country no longer part of the Holy Roman Empire. The Peace of Münster is sometimes considered the beginning of the Dutch Golden Age.

Development of temporary camps

Following General John Burgoyne's surrender at the Battle of Saratoga in 1777, several thousand British and German (Hessian and Brunswick) troops were marched to Cambridge, Massachusetts. For various reasons, the Continental Congress desired to move them south. For this purpose, one of the congressmen offered his land outside of Charlottesville, Virginia. The remaining soldiers (some 2,000 British, upwards of 1,900 German, and roughly 300 women and children) marched south in late 1778—arriving at the site (near Ivy Creek) in January 1779. Since the barracks were barely sufficient in construction, the officers were paroled to live as far away as Richmond and Staunton. The camp was never adequately provisioned, but the prisoners built a theater on the site. Hundreds escaped Albemarle Barracks because of the shortage of guards. As the British Army moved northward from the Carolinas in late 1780, the remaining prisoners were moved to Frederick, Maryland; Winchester, Virginia; and perhaps elsewhere. No remains of the encampment site are left.[ citation needed ]

John Burgoyne British general and playwright, defeated in the 1777 Saratoga campaign

General John Burgoyne was a British army officer, dramatist and politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1761 to 1792. He first saw action during the Seven Years' War when he participated in several battles, most notably during the Portugal Campaign of 1762.

Kingdom of Great Britain constitutional monarchy in Western Europe between 1707–1801

The Kingdom of Great Britain, officially called simply Great Britain, was a sovereign state in western Europe from 1 May 1707 to 31 December 1800. The state came into being following the Treaty of Union in 1706, ratified by the Acts of Union 1707, which united the kingdoms of England and Scotland to form a single kingdom encompassing the whole island of Great Britain and its outlying islands, with the exception of the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. The unitary state was governed by a single parliament and government that was based in Westminster. The former kingdoms had been in personal union since James VI of Scotland became King of England and King of Ireland in 1603 following the death of Elizabeth I, bringing about the "Union of the Crowns". After the accession of George I to the throne of Great Britain in 1714, the kingdom was in a personal union with the Electorate of Hanover.

Cambridge, Massachusetts City in Massachusetts, United States

Cambridge is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, and part of the Boston metropolitan area.

First purpose-built camp

The earliest known purpose-built prisoner-of-war camp was established by the Kingdom of Great Britain at Norman Cross, in 1797 to house the increasing number of prisoners from the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars.

French Revolutionary Wars series of conflicts fought between the French Republic and several European monarchies from 1792 to 1802

The French Revolutionary Wars were a series of sweeping military conflicts lasting from 1792 until 1802 and resulting from the French Revolution. They pitted France against Great Britain, Austria, Prussia, Russia and several other monarchies. They are divided in two periods: the War of the First Coalition (1792–97) and the War of the Second Coalition (1798–1802). Initially confined to Europe, the fighting gradually assumed a global dimension. After a decade of constant warfare and aggressive diplomacy, France had conquered a wide array of territories, from the Italian Peninsula and the Low Countries in Europe to the Louisiana Territory in North America. French success in these conflicts ensured the spread of revolutionary principles over much of Europe.

Napoleonic Wars Series of early 19th century European wars

The Napoleonic Wars (1803–1815) were a series of major conflicts pitting the French Empire and its allies, led by Napoleon I, against a fluctuating array of European powers formed into various coalitions, financed and usually led by the United Kingdom. The wars stemmed from the unresolved disputes associated with the French Revolution and its resultant conflict. The wars are often categorised into five conflicts, each termed after the coalition that fought Napoleon: the Third Coalition (1805), the Fourth (1806–07), the Fifth (1809), the Sixth (1813), and the Seventh (1815).

American Civil War camps

Lacking a means for dealing with large numbers of captured troops early in the American Civil War, the Union and Confederate governments relied on the traditional European system of parole and exchange of prisoners. While awaiting exchange, prisoners were confined to permanent camps.

American Civil War Civil war in the United States from 1861 to 1865

The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States from 1861 to 1865, between the North and the South. The most studied and written about episode in U.S. history, the Civil War began primarily as a result of the long-standing controversy over the enslavement of black people. War broke out in April 1861 when secessionist forces attacked Fort Sumter in South Carolina shortly after Abraham Lincoln had been inaugurated as the President of the United States. The loyalists of the Union in the North proclaimed support for the Constitution. They faced secessionists of the Confederate States in the South, who advocated for states' rights to uphold slavery.

Union (American Civil War) United States national government during the American Civil War

During the American Civil War (1861–1865), the Union, also known as the North, referred to the United States of America and specifically to the national government of President Abraham Lincoln and the 20 free states and four border and slave states that supported it. The Union was opposed by 11 southern slave states that formed the Confederate States of America, also known as "the Confederacy" or "the South".

Confederate States of America (de facto) federal republic in North America from 1861 to 1865

The Confederate States of America, commonly referred to as the Confederacy, was an unrecognized country in North America that existed from 1861 to 1865. The Confederacy was originally formed by seven secessionist slave-holding states—South Carolina, Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, and Texas—in the Lower South region of the United States, whose economy was heavily dependent upon agriculture, particularly cotton, and a plantation system that relied upon the labor of African-American slaves.

Neither Union or Confederate prison camps were always well run, and it was common for prisoners to die of starvation or disease. It is estimated that about 56,000 soldiers died in prisons during the war; almost 10% of all Civil War fatalities. [3] During a period of 14 months in Camp Sumter, located near Andersonville, Georgia, 13,000 (28%) of the 45,000 Union soldiers confined there died. [4] At Camp Douglas in Chicago, Illinois, 10% of its Confederate prisoners died during one cold winter month; and the 25% death rate at Elmira Prison in New York State very nearly equaled that of Andersonville's. [5]

Boer Wars

During the Boer Wars the British established concentration camps to hold both civilians and prisoners of war. In total 109 camps were constructed for Boer and black African internees. However, the majority of prisoners of war were sent overseas (25,630 out of the 28,000 Boer men captured during the fighting); the vast majority of locally held Boer prisoners were women and children. The camps were poorly administered, the food rations insufficient to maintain health, standards of hygiene were low, and overcrowding was chronic. [6] Over 26,000 women and children died in the camps during the wars. [7]

Boer War camps

Boer Pretoria
British Bloemfontein The camp was constructed in 1900 following the Battle of Paardeberg. It was primarily a concentration camp for civilians, of whom 26,370 Boer women and children, 14,154 black Africans, and 1,421 men died during the camp's existence. [8] [9]
Bloemfontein concentration camp The National Archives UK - CO 1069-215-94-Derivative01.jpg
Bloemfontein concentration camp
British Cape Town
OverseasSt. HelenaThe first Boer POW contingent was sent to St. Helena on 11 April 1900, where they were incarcerated at the two camps on the island, Broadbottom and Deadwood.
OverseasCeylonApproximately 5,500 Boer prisoners of war were transported to Ceylon, with the first prisoners arriving on 9 August 1900. The majority of which were incarcerated at Diyatalawa, which opened 8 August 1900, with a convalescent camp at Mount Lavinia, housing 150 prisoners, opening on 17 December 1900, whilst a camp at Ragama, opened 8 January 1901, housing 150 dissidents and irreconcilables. On 10 September 1901 a parole camp for 80 prisoners, was established at Urugasmanhandiya, with a subsequent parole camp for 120 prisoners opening on 19 September 1901 at Hambantota.
OverseasBermudaApproximately 4,500 prisoners were sent to Bermuda between 28 June 1901 and 16 January 1902. The camps were situated on six islands located in the Great Sound (Burt Island, Darrell's Island, Hawkins Island, Hinson's Island, Morgan's Island and Tucker's Island).

World War I

The first international convention on prisoners of war was signed at the Hague Peace Conference of 1899. It was widened by the Hague Convention of 1907. The main combatant nations engaged in World War I abided by the convention and treatment of prisoners was generally good. [10] The situation on the eastern front was significantly worse than the western front, with prisoners in Russia at risk from starvation and disease. [11] In total during the war about eight million men were held in prisoner of war camps, with 2.5 million prisoners in German custody, 2.9 million held by the Russian Empire, and about 720,000 held by Britain and France.

Permanent camps did not exist at the beginning of the war. The unexpected large number of prisoners captured in the first days of the war by the German army created an immediate problem. By September 1914, the German army had captured over 200,000 enemy combatants. [12] These first prisoners were held in temporary camps until 1915, by which time the prisoner population had increased to 652,000 living in unsatisfactory conditions. In response, the government began constructing permanent camps both in Germany and the occupied territories. [12] The number of prisoners increased significantly during the war, exceeding one million by August 1915 and 1,625,000 by August 1916, and reaching 2,415,000 by the end of the war. [13]

Geneva Conference

The International Committee of the Red Cross held a conference in Geneva, Switzerland in September 1917. The conference addressed the war, and the Red Cross addressed the conditions that the civilians were living under, which resembled those of soldiers in prisoner of war camps, as well as "barbed wire disease" (symptoms of mental illness) suffered by prisoners in France and Germany. It was agreed at the conference that the Red Cross would provide prisoners of war with mail, food parcels, clothes, and medical supplies, and that prisoners in France and Germany suffering from "barbed wire disease" should be interned in Switzerland, a neutral country.

A few countries were not on the same terms as Germany and Austria. For example, Hungary believed that harsh conditions would reduce the number of traitors.

The countries in the east continued their fight to help the Red Cross provide support to POWs. At the end of the war, a Franco-German agreement was made that both countries would exchange their prisoners, but the French kept a small number while the Germans released all French prisoners. [14]


Krasnoyarsk in Siberia, Russia, was used after the Russian defeat to the Japanese in the Russo-Japanese war, as a base for military camps to train for future wars. Conditions there were dire and the detainees could be conscripted for war while they lived in concentration camps and prisons. Over 50,000 camp tenants were used for transportation, agriculture, mining and machinery production.

Throughout World War I, captured prisoners of war were sent to various camps including the one in Krasnoyarsk. There was a point[ when? ] where a large mix of nationalities was together in Krasnoyarsk which included Bulgarians, Czechs, Germans, and Poles. Many prisoners were nationalists, which led to violence within the camp. Militants would be forced to put down the instigators and keep the camp running. [15]

Polish–Soviet War

From autumn 1920, thousands of captured Red Army men had been placed in the Tuchola internment camp, in Pomerania. These prisoners lived in dugouts, and many died of hunger, cold, and infectious diseases. According to historians Zbigniew Karpus and Waldemar Rezmer, up to 2000 prisoners died in the camp during its operation. [16]

In a joint work of Polish and Russian historians, Karpus and Rezmer estimate the total death toll in all Polish POW camps during the war at 16–17 thousand, while the Russian historian Matvejev estimates it at 18–20 thousand. [17] [18]

On the other side of the frontline about 20,000 out of about 51,000 Polish POWs died in Soviet and Lithuanian camps [19]

While the conditions for Soviet prisoners were clearly exposed by the free press in Poland, [19] no corresponding fact-finding about Soviet camps for Polish POWs could be expected from the tightly controlled Soviet press of the time. Available data shows many cases of mistreatment of Polish prisoners. There have been also cases of Polish POWs' being executed by the Soviet army, when no POW facilities were available. [19]

World War II

The 1929 Geneva Convention on the Prisoners of War established the certain provisions relative to the treatment of prisoners of war. One requirement was that POW camps were to be open to inspection by authorised representatives of a neutral power.

Not all combatants applied the provisions of the convention. In particular the Empire of Japan, which had signed but never ratified the convention, [20] was notorious for its treatment of prisoners; this poor treatment occurred in part because the Japanese viewed surrender as dishonourable. Prisoners from all nations were subject to forced labour, beatings, murder, and even medical experimentation. Rations fell short of the minimum required to sustain life, and many were forced into labour. After March 20, 1943, the Imperial Navy was under orders to execute all prisoners taken at sea. [21]


The Great Escape from Stalag Luft III, on the night of March 24, 1944, involved the escape of 76 Allied servicemen, although only three were able to avoid recapture. [22]

The Cowra breakout, on August 5, 1944, is believed to be the largest escape of POWs in recorded history and possibly the largest prison breakout ever. At least 545 Japanese POWs attempted to escape from a camp near Cowra, New South Wales, Australia. Most sources say that 234 POWs were killed or committed suicide. The remainder were recaptured.

The Great Papago Escape, on December 23, 1944, was the largest POW escape to occur from an American facility. Over 25 German POWs tunneled out of Camp Papago Park, near Phoenix, Arizona, and fled into the surrounding desert. Over a few weeks all were recaptured. [23]

Role of the Red Cross

After World War I, when around 40 million civilians and prisoners could not be saved, the Red Cross was entrusted with more rights and responsibilities. In the course of World War II, it provided millions of Red Cross parcels to Allied POWs in Axis prison camps; most of these contained food and personal hygiene items, while others held medical kits. A special "release kit" parcel was also provided to some newly released POWs at the war's end. During the United States' call for war on Japan, the Red Cross stepped up to provide services for the soldiers overseas. A large amount of provisions were needed for the soldiers in World War II over the 4 years that the Americans were involved. The American Red Cross and thirteen million volunteers had donated in the country with an average weekly donation of 111,000 pints of blood. Nurses, doctors and volunteer workers worked on the front lines overseas to provide for the wounded and the needy. This program saved thousands of lives as plasma donations were delivered to the camps and bases. However, the Red Cross only accepted donations from white Americans and excluded those of Japanese, Italian, German and African Americans[ need quotation to verify ]. To combat this, activists tried to fight such segregation back home with arguments that blood of Whites and blood of Blacks is the same. [14]

Allied camps

Conditions in Japanese camps

In the 1930s, Japan was slowly establishing itself as a superpower, but the country was small, and they felt they needed to occupy other countries to gain resources. The Japanese invaded Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, China (annexing Manchuria) and the Philippines. Before attacking Pearl Harbor, the Japanese had attacked Thailand, capturing an area defended by 10,000 British and Indian troops based in Malaya. After they attacked Pearl Harbor, the United States declared war on Japan. In 1942, they had taken Hong Kong and set up camps along Kowloon. Despite being less technologically advanced, China put up strong resistance to the Japanese advance. Thereafter, Japan dominated Asia, claiming to be fighting for the Asiatic and "yellow races" against "White Supremacy".[ citation needed ] [24]

Believing it was shameful to be captured alive in combat, the Japanese ran their camps brutally, and many prisoners died in them. the Japanese field army code included a "warrior spirit" , which states that an individual must calmly face death. Those who disobeyed orders would be sentenced to death by the symbolic Japanese sword. The sword was seen as a symbol of wisdom and perseverance to the Japanese, and it was an honor to die by it.

1943 triple censored mail from Arklow, Ireland, to Japanese POW in Malaya with pink Irish censor label in Gaelic, British censor label and Japanese censor chop 1943 Irl-POW Japan censor.jpg
1943 triple censored mail from Arklow, Ireland, to Japanese POW in Malaya with pink Irish censor label in Gaelic, British censor label and Japanese censor chop

Prisoners-of-war were forced to engage in physical labour such as building bridges, erecting forts, and digging defence trenches. These prisoners received limited food , and, if once their military uniforms wore out, no replacements were given. Some brutal prison guards would answer requests for water with their beatings or rifle butts. Prisoners were seen as no use, physically weak, or rebellious, would often be killed. At the end of the war, when the camp inmates were released, many had lost body parts, and many were starved and resembled walking skeletons. Some prisoners feared execution by the Japanese in response to American bombing. The brutality of the guards caused traumatized prisoners to suffer mental illnesses that persisted for decades afterwards. In many cases, survivors of camps were traumatized or ended up living with a disability. Many survivors went home or to other areas of the world to have a successful life as a businessman, or they would devote themselves to helping poor people or people in the camps who were in need of support

A former PoW, Lieutenant Colonel Phillip Toosey, stated that the Japanese committed brutal atrocities. Some of these included filling a prisoner's nose with water while the guards tied them with barbed wire, then they would stand on the prisoners, stepping on the wires. Or the guards would tie a prisoner on a tree by their thumbs, with their toes barely touching the ground, and leave them there for two days without food or water. After the two days of torture, the prisoner would be jailed prior to execution, after which their corpses would later be burnt.[ citation needed ]

Life in the POW camps was recorded at great risk to themselves by artists such as Jack Bridger Chalker, Philip Meninsky, John Mennie, Ashley George Old, and Ronald Searle. Human hair was often used for brushes, plant juices and blood for paint, and toilet paper as the "canvas". Some of their works were used as evidence in the trials of Japanese war criminals. Many are now held by the Australian War Memorial, State Library of Victoria, and the Imperial War Museum in London. The State Library of Victoria exhibited many of these works under the title The Major Arthur Moon Collection, in 1995.

In 2016, war historian Antony Beevor (who had recently completed his book The Second World War ), said that the UK government had recently released information that in some Japanese PoW camps prisoners were fattened up to be killed and eaten. Apparently, Winston Churchill had been aware of this atrocity, but kept the information secret; families would have been too distressed to learn that their sons had been the victims of cannibalism rather than killed in action.

More deaths occurred in Japanese PoW camps than in any others. [25] The Red Cross were not able to drop parcels into these camps because they were too well defended to fly over. [26]

Canadian camps

The Second World War was mainly fought in Europe and western Russia, East Asia, and the Pacific; there were no invasions of Canada. The few prisoners of war sent to Canada included Japanese and German soldiers, captured U-boat crews, and prisoners from raids such as Dieppe and Normandy.

The camps meant for German POWs were smaller than those meant for Japanese prisoners and were far less brutal. German prisoners generally benefitted from good food. However, the hardest part was surviving the Canadian winters. Most camps were isolated and located in the far north. Death and sickness caused by the elements was common.

Many camps were only lightly watched, and as such, many Germans attempted escape. Tunnelling was the most common method. Peter Krug, an escapee from a prison located in Bowmanville, Ontario, managed to escape along the railroads, using forests as cover. He made his way to Toronto, where he then travelled to Texas.

Fighting, sometimes to the death, was somewhat common in the camps. Punishments for major infractions could include death by hanging. German POWs wore shirts with a large red dot painted on the back, an easily identifiable mark outside the camps. Therefore, escapees could be easily found and recaptured. [27]

Japanese in Canada

In the wake of the Japanese attacking Hong Kong, the Philippines and Pearl Harbor in which 2000 Canadians were involved, Canadians put a large focus onto Japanese-Canadians even though innocent. Japan seemed to be able to attack along the Pacific and Canada could potentially be next. Canadian Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King implemented the War Measure Act and Defense of Canada Regulations therefore they could not get involved with Canadian services along with the Italians and Germans. The Nikkei (Canadians and Immigrants of Japanese origin) were stripped of possessions, which were later auctioned off without consent. The intense cold winters made it hard to live as the Nikkei were placed in camps; these campers were made of Japanese immigrants and Japanese-Canadians. They lived in barns and stables which were used for animals, therefore unsanitary. It took 5 years after the war for the Nikkei to gain their rights. Compensation was given but was not enough to cover the loss of properties. Over 22,000 Nikkei were put into these camps. [28]

Axis camps

Cigarettes as currency

In many POW camps, cigarettes were widely used as currency known as 'commodity money'. They performed the functions of money as a medium of exchange, because they were generally accepted among the prisoners for settling payments or debts, and the function of money as a unit of account, because prices of other goods were expressed in terms of cigarettes. Compared with other goods, the supply of cigarettes was more stable, as they were rationed in the POW camps, and cigarettes were more divisible, portable, and homogeneous. [30]

Korean War

U.N. camps

The International Red Cross visited United Nations-run POW camps, often unannounced, noting prisoner hygiene, quality of medical care, variety of diet and weight gain. They talked to the prisoners and asked for their comments on conditions, as well as providing them with copies of the Geneva Convention. The IRC delegates dispersed boots, soap and other requested goods.

A prison camp was established on the island of Koje-do, where over 170,000 communist and non-communist prisoners were held from December 1950 until June 1952. Throughout 1951 and early 1952, upper-level communist agents infiltrated and conquered much of Koje section-by-section by uniting fellow communists; bending dissenters to their will through staged trials and public executions; and exporting allegations of abuse to the international community to benefit the communist negotiation team. In May 1952, Chinese and North Korean prisoners rioted and took Brigadier General Francis T. Dodd captive. [31]

In 1952 the camp's administration was afraid that the prisoners would riot and demonstrate on May Day (a day honoring Communism) and so United States Navy ships (such as the USS Gunson Hall) removed 15,000 North Korean and Chinese prisoners from the island and moved them to prison facilities at Ulsan and Cheju-do. These ships also participated in Operation Big Switch in September 1953 when prisoners were exchanged at the end of the war.[ citation needed ]

Communist camps

The Chinese operated three types of POW camps during the Korean war. Peace camps housed POWs who were sympathetic to communism, reform camps were intended for skilled POWs who were to be indoctrinated in communist ideologies and the third type was the normal POW camps. Chinese policy did not allow for the exchange of prisoners in the first two camp types. [32]

While these POW Camps were designated numerically by the communists, the POWs often gave the camps a name.

Vietnam War

South Vietnamese Army camps in South Vietnam

By the end of 1965, Viet Cong suspects, prisoners of war, and even juvenile delinquents were mixed together in South Vietnamese jails and prisons. After June 1965, the prison population steadily rose, and by early 1966, there was no space to accommodate additional prisoners in the existing jails and prisons. In 1965, plans were made to construct five POW camps, each with an initial capacity of 1,000 prisoners and to be staffed by the South Vietnamese military police, with U.S. military policemen as prisoner of war advisers assigned to each stockade.[ citation needed ]

Prisons and jails

  • Con Son National Prison
  • Chi Hoa National Prison
  • Tam Hiep National Prison
  • Thu Duc National Prison
  • plus 42 Province jails


  • Bien Hoa camp – in III Corp area was opened May 1966
  • Pleiku camp – in II Corps area was opened August 1966
  • Da Nang camp (Non Nuoc) – in I Corps area was opened in November 1966
  • Can Tho camp – in IV Corps area was opened December 1966
  • Qui Nhon (Phu Tai) – opened March 1968 (for female PoWs)
  • Phu Quoc Island – off the coast of Cambodia, opened in 1968

North Vietnamese Army camps

Map of North Vietnamese Army POW camps, along with descriptions. Vietnam POW Camps.jpg
Map of North Vietnamese Army POW camps, along with descriptions.

Yugoslav wars

Serb Camps

Other Camps

Afghanistan and Iraq wars

The United States has refused to grant prisoner-of-war status to many prisoners captured during its 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and 2003 invasion of Iraq. This is mainly because the insurgents or terrorists never meet the requirements laid down by the Third Geneva Convention of 1949 such as being part of a chain of command, wearing a "fixed distinctive marking, visible from a distance", bearing arms openly, and conducting military operations in accordance with the laws and customs of war. [33] The legality of this refusal has been questioned and cases are pending in the U.S. courts. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld on June 29, 2006, that the captives at Guantanamo Bay detention camp were entitled to the minimal protections listed under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. This is under dispute. Other captives, including Saddam Hussein, have been accorded POW status. The International Red Cross has been permitted to visit at least some sites. Many prisoners were held in secret locations (black sites) around the world. The identified sites are listed below:

See also

Notes and references

  1. "Prisoner of war (POW)". Encyclopædia Britannica. Archived from the original on October 24, 2012. Retrieved October 27, 2012.
  2. Fooks, Herbert C. (1924). Prisoners of War 297.
  3. "National Life After Death". Slate. Archived from the original on August 29, 2011. Retrieved July 19, 2013.
  4. "Andersonville: Prisoner of War Camp-Reading 1". Archived from the original on November 18, 2007. Retrieved November 28, 2008.
  5. | "US Civil War Prison Camps Claimed Thousands". National Geographic News. July 1, 2003. Archived from the original on February 25, 2010.
  6. Judd, Denis; Surridge, Keith (2003). The Boer War. ISBN   1-4039-6150-6.
  7. A Century of Postgraduate Anglo Boer War Studies , p. 32, at Google Books
  8. Arthur Clive Martin (1957). The Concentration Camps, 1900–1902: Facts, Figures and Fables. H. Timmins. p. 31.
  9. "Black Concentration Camps". 2010. Archived from the original on August 15, 2013. Retrieved July 19, 2013.
  10. Phillimore, Geo G.; Bellot, Hugh H. L. (1919). "Treatment of Prisoners of War". Transactions of the Grotius Society. 5: 47–64.
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  24. This is one reason why Mahatma Gandhi was content that the Japanese were fighting the British.
  25. Not, of course, considering the numbers killed by the Nazi Holocaust.
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