WWII POW & Internment Camps

This project maps the POW, internment, worldwide during World War II and in the few years before and after. Although most of the camps in North America, Europe, and Africa have been mapped, the Japanese prisons in the Pacific are incomplete. Work is proceeding.

Inspiration for this project was a conversation with a friend where the question, “Is the U.S. prison population greater than the total number of imprisoned people during World War II? ”

We intend on answering this question once we complete our data collection.

General statistics
WWII Timeline

This timeline is a reminder of events during WWII. The war in Europe was raging for almost two years before the United States entered the war. Canada had established its POW and internment camps much earlier than the U.S. By the time the U.S. entered the war, the UK had so many POW camps, it asked the U.S. to house many of their POWs. When the U.S. enetred the war in North Africa, the captured Italian and German soldiers were sent to POW camps in the United States.

Italy surrendered to the Allies on September 8, 1943. Italian POWs in the United States, thus had their status changed from POW to non-combatants and had more freedoms in the camps. Of course, German troops still occupied Italy, and fighting there didn't end until mid-1944.

There were few camps that had Japanese POWs because Japan's doctrine demanded that Japanese soldiers not be captured—that capture was dishonorable. However, there were some Japanese POWs and a small number of camps housed them. How they were dealt with when they were returned to Japan after the war ended is a story that we'll investigate in the future.

Note that in the final days of the war with Japan, Japanese troops were more willing to surrender when, for example, the Soviets attacked the Kurile Islands. Up to 60,000 Japanese officers and men were taken prisoner in the Kuriles. We're trying to identify where they were taken. We think they were taken to gulags in Kolyma in the Russian Far East.

40 1941 1942 1943 1944 1945 September 1, 1939 to May 8, 1945 World War with Germany U.S. War with Germany U.S. War with Italy Africa Italy Western Europe War with Japan Mid & South Pacific Aleutians Kuril Islands
Internment Camps

President Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066 enacted the policy of interning people of Japanese descent, including U.S. citizens. These people were removed from their homes.

Also interned (but not because of Roosevelt's order) were the native peoples of the Aleutian and Pribilof Islands in the territory of Alaska. Alaska was not yet a state during WWII.

The Who's Who of Jailers


Here are maps showing the locations of POW and internment camps throughout the world during WWII as well as prisons in the U.S today.

North American camps European camps Pacific camps U.S. prisons today
Additional reading

Executive Order 9066: Resulting in the Relocation of Japanese

History: Japanese Internment Camps

Wikipedia: Civilian Public Service

Weingarten POW Camp, Missouri

Forgotten Sites: POW Camps in Ontario

World War II POW Camps in Wyoming by Cheryl O'Brien

Prisoners of War Camps in Rochester - Were they humane?

Wikipedia: War Manpower Commission

Guests of the Third Reich

Mapping POW Camps in Japan during World War II

Wikipedia: Italian concentration camps in Libya

Wikipedia: Manifesto of Race

My Italian Father’s Internment in Egypt

Archive Reveals New Details Of Holocaust In Moldova

Wikipedia: The Gulag Archipelago

Russian Historian Accused Of 'Religious Hatred' Over Account Of Solovki Gulag