Between 1942 and 1946, nearly half a million enemy prisoners of war—over 425,000 German, 50,000 Italian, and 5,000 Japanese—found their way to one of 511 detention camps across the country. An estimated 12,000-15,000 of these wartime captives landed in Indiana, where they would live and work at one of nine POW camps across the state. What did Hoosiers think of these uninvited guests? How should they be treated? Did they pose a security threat? The domestic presence of a captive foreign enemy during wartime would seem to have provoked a strong abhorrence, perhaps even violent propensities, from their captors. After all, these prisoners had been responsible for the deaths of thousands of American soldiers abroad—the sons, brothers, uncles, nephews, and cousins of countless Hoosier families. Yet the historical record tells a different story.
"Eden for Enemy Prisoners": The Role of International Humanitarian Law in Indiana During World War II