Many people are not aware a Prisoner of War camp housing nearly 300 German POWs once stood just outside of the town of Holly Hill.
The camp, which operated during World War II from 1943 to 1945, was located just a few miles east of the town on what is now U.S. 176.
Leroy Hart Gilmore, late Holly Hill historian and writer, penned in his book, “Holly Hill: A Town Grows Around a Tree,” that as “German prisoners marched from the camp out of the town limits through State Street (Highway 176) to the train, they sang German songs. They were a fine, husky looking group of men, and seemed to be in good spirits.”
Gilmore stated the ages of the imprisoned German men ranged from 18 to 40, with most of them over age 20.
He wrote that several of them spoke English and a majority of them could read it.
The prisoners were able to keep up with the “war news” via a radio at the camp.
In total, there were 21 POW camps throughout South Carolina during World War II and approximately 8,000 to 11,000 Germans were housed in them.
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The Associated Press reported in The Tuscaloosa (Alabama) News on Nov. 2, 1943, “The 28 temporary or portable camps for German and Italian war prisoners in seven states of the Fourth Service Command have been reduced to about half that number with the completion of summer and early fall harvesting … South Carolina prisoners at Hampton, Holly Hill, Beaufort and Charleston have been engaged in sweet potato harvesting and fertilizer mixing.”
The (Charleston) News and Courier reported on June 18, 1945, that there were four POW camps identified as “active” in the Charleston area, with 250 prisoners at Charleston Army Base, 500 at the Charleston Port of Embarkation, 250 at Stark General Hospital and 250 at the Holly Hill camp.
The jobs of the prisoners ranged from “waiting on tables and mess work to helping with engineering projects and pulp and wood cutting,” according to the Charleston news report.
The Holly Hill POW camp received most of its military orders from Fort Jackson in Columbia.
Today, nothing remains of the POW camp outside of Holly Hill, but there are quite a few members of the Greatest Generation who live in and around Holly Hill who still share their memories of seeing German prisoners marching through the main street.
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