Historic California Posts, Camps,
Stations and Airfields
Corcoran Prisoner of War Branch
(Lakeland Prisoner of War Branch
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.
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
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.
Army Center of Military History
Historical Status Card-Post Camp Station and Airfield