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

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 Army Service Command Unit 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.

Posted 3 January 2009

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