Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
Corcoran Prisoner of War Branch Camp
(Lakeland Prisoner of War Branch Camp)

LOCATION: The Lakeland Prisoner of War (POW) Camp was located on property which is currently within the Corcoran Industrial Park in the City of Corcoran, Kings County, California. The
property is approximately 60 miles southeast of Fresno, California. Specifically, it is located in Section 14, T21S, R22E, Mount Diablo Meridian and Baseline. The site is accessed by driving south from Fresno on the 99 Freeway to Highway 43. Travel south on Highway 43 to the Whitley Avenue exit, which is the main street running in an east-west direction through Corcoran. Take Whitley Avenue west to Gardner Avenue. Turn north (right) on Gardner Avenue and follow it to Patterson Avenue. The former Lakeland POW Camp was located immediately northwest of the intersection of Patterson and Gardner Avenues.


Pacific Sugar Corporation's sugar mill which became the Corcoran/Lakeland Prisoner of War Branch Camp
HISTORY: Several Prisoner of War (POW) camps were established in California during World War II. One of the main POW camps was located at Camp Cooke, which is presently part of Vandenberg Air Force Base. Ultimately, 16 branch camps were activated within a 200-mile radius of Camp Cooke. The Lakeland camp was one of those branch camps. The Lakeland camp consisted of a four-story building previously occupied by a sugar beet refinery operated by the Pacific Sugar Corporation. A 1944 newspaper article appearing in the Corcoran journal indicated that the factory building was constructed prior to WWI. Information regarding the exact date of construction of the building was not available. The building was purchased by a local rancher, Elmer C. von Glahn in June 1944, initially for the purpose of housing Mexican workers. Because of government restrictions, Mexican nationals were not allowed in the Central California area during this period, and, as an alternative, von Glahn contracted with the Army for POW labor. The former sugar beet refinery was refurbished and became known as the "Casa Grande Labor Hotel". The hotel was opened for German prisoners on May 14, 1945.
The Casa Grande Labor Hotel had the capacity to house 700 men. The prisoners at the camp picked cotton and fruit for many ranchers in the area. On October 5, 1945, the Lakeland branch camp was deactivated and was turned over to the Service Command Unit 1908 for temporary use as a Japanese Prisoner of War camp. After the Japanese departed, the camp was placed under Camp Cooke jurisdiction and it was reactivated as a German POW camp on January 3, 1946. On February 15, 1946, the camp was deactivated for the last time. After the POW camp was closed, the property on which it was located reverted to the private use of Mr. von Glahn.
According to a representative of the City of Corcoran Department of Public Works, a portion of the property which once was part of the Lakeland POW camp property subsequently was occupied by a ceramics factory. Further information regarding this facility was obtained from the Corcoran City Manager's office. According to the Assistant to the Corcoran City Manager, Ms. Connie Harris, a soil investigation was performed in the early 1990s at the ceramics factory warehouse located on the northwest side of the former POW camp property. The ceramics facility was called the Hang `em High Pottery Factory. This building subsequently was purchased by the Homac Companies/CDR. The Homac Companies presently occupies three buildings in the Corcoran Industrial Park, and is involved in the manufacture of fiberglass containers for underground utilities, as well as electrical components. Ms. Harris indicated that the soil contamination at the Hang `em High Pottery Factory involved chemicals used in the ceramics glazing process. Ms. Harris stated that contaminated soil was removed from the property and transported off-site to a disposal facility, and that the "State had indicated that no further action was necessary" regarding this site.
Research has revealed that three additional POW camps were located in the vicinity of the community of Corcoran. One was established on the J.G. Boswell Ranch in the El Rico district of
Kings County on December 1, 1944. Four hundred German prisoners were established in a tent encampment. Most of the men worked picking cotton on the Ralph Gilkey and J.G Boswell Ranches. In April 1945, the prisoners and staff were relocated to a new camp on the Los Posos Ranch, also a J.G. Boswell interest, one and one-half miles west of Corcoran. The new camp was officially activated on May 1st , and occupied facilities formerly used by the Civilian Conservation Corps. The buildings were remodeled, and guard towers and security fences were constructed. The stockade was 400' x 700' feet in area and was designed to house 500 men. The Boswell camp was officially deactivated on October 5, 1945 and the POWs and staff were relocated to army facilities at Fort Ord and Stockton.

The third camp was at Tachi Farms in the old Tulare Lake bed. This POW camp was activated on November 21, 1945 and contained an estimated 250 prisoners sent from a POW camp at Glasgow, Montana. The prisoners were housed in tents supplied by the government. The men picked cotton at various locations in the valley. On January 2, 1946, this camp was deactivated. In addition to the above camps, all located in the vicinity of Corcoran, a November 30, 1945 Corcoran Journal newspaper article stated that 1,250 POWs who had been working in Utah were to be transferred to California to harvest cotton for the J.G. Boswell company. These prisoners were to be housed at the Lemoore Army Air Field (AAF) located northwest of Corcoran. The POWs were scheduled to arrive during the first week of December 1945; no information regarding the duration of their stay at the Lemoore AAF was available among the documents reviewed.

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Updated 23 June 2017