As so often is the case – ask and you shall receive! This picture of Thomas Robert Havins came to us yesterday from cousin Beverly Atwood Blankenship of Lawn, Texas. Thanks Beverly!
As we learned in Part 1, our great grand-uncle, Thomas Robert Havins, served in the United States Army as a Captain during World War II. Since he was a long-time resident of Brownwood, Texas, I wondered if he had received his military training at Camp Bowie.
My husband has recounted childhood memories of hunting and camping on “Bowie” mountain; however, it wasn’t until now that I realized that Camp Bowie was an actual military training center (which grew to be one of the largest in Texas during World War II).
After I started digging into the history of Camp Bowie, I was surprised to read that not only was it a training center for our young soldiers – it was also a prison camp which consisted of two separate prisons – one was known as the rehabilitation center (that restored men back to health and duty – I don’t know why this would be considered a prison); and the other was a German Prisoner of War Camp. This camp also housed a small amount of Italian and Japanese prisoners and was known as Camp Bowie Internment Camp.
The first German prisoners of war began arriving at Camp Bowie during August of 1943 – there would eventually be about 2,700 men. Most of these men were members of Rommel’s Afrika Corps. The men were made to work either on the camp or as day laborers for local farmers and ranchers, often times picking cotton or corn.
Compared to how our boys were treated, it sounds like these prisoners had it fairly easy. The prisoners were up by 5:45 a.m. and lights were out at 10:00 p.m. They were given English lessons and many other classes including farming, forestry, electrical, bookkeeping, etc. Musical groups were formed, including a 10-piece orchestra. Each compound had a theater, wood working shop and day rooms with ping-pong tables, cards and other forms of entertainment. Exercise was encouraged on the two soccer fields and tennis courts. Movies were shown twice per week. The prisoners farmed 125 acres producing their own fruits and vegetables. The prisoners were provided medical and dental care – by one American doctor; one American dentist; three German doctors; and one German dental assistant.
At this point in time, we know that Robert served in World War II from 1942-1945; however, we don’t know a lot about his service locations. However, I came across a small treasure on the internet. The letter below was written by Thomas’ wife, Mrs. T. R. Havins (Mottie Frierson) to Dr. Karl H. Moore (Pastor, First Baptist Church, Brownwood, Brown County, Texas), in which she thanks him for praying for her “boys” who were in the military. The letter is postmarked March 26, 1943, Brownwood, Texas, and reads as follows: Dear Dr. Moore: I want to express my appreciation for the Church Bulletin of March 14. I am so happy to know that my boys name is on your Church Roll, and that you are interested in him as well as all the other boys of your church, who are in the armed forces. I will deeply appreciate your prayers for him.