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A prisoner-of-war camp is a site for the containment of combatants captured by their enemy in time of war, and is similar to an internment camp which is used for civilian populations. A prisoner of war is generally a soldier, sailor, or airman who is imprisoned by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict. Some non-combatant enemy personnel, such as merchant mariners and civil aircrews, were also considered prisoners of war.

American Revolutionary War

Following General John Burgoyne's defeat at the Battle of Saratogamarker in 1777, several thousand Britishmarker and German (Hessian and Brunswick) troops were marched to Cambridge, Massachusettsmarker. For various reasons, the Continental Congress desired to move them south. One of Congress' members offered his land outside of Charlottesville, Virginiamarker. The remaining soldiers (some 2,000 British, upwards of 1,900 German, and roughly 300 women and children) marched south in late 1778—arriving at the site (near Ivy Creek) in January 1779. Since the barracks were barely sufficient in construction, the officers were paroled to live as far away as Richmondmarker and Stauntonmarker. The camp was never adequately provisioned, but the prisoners built a theater on the site. Hundreds escaped Albemarle Barracksmarker because of the lack of guards. As the British Army moved northward from the Carolinas in late 1780, the remaining prisoners were moved to Frederick, Marylandmarker; Winchester, Virginiamarker; and perhaps elsewhere. No remains of the encampment site are left.

Napoleonic Wars

The earliest known purposely built prisoner-of-war camp was established at Norman Crossmarker, England in 1797 to house the increasing number of prisoners from the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars.

  • Norman Cross - Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, England [88428]

American Civil War

Lacking a means for dealing with large numbers of captured troops early in the American Civil War, the U.S. and Confederate governments relied on the traditional European system of parole and exchange of prisoners. Both Union and Confederate prison camps had their share of atrocities resulting in starvation, disease, and death. The most notorious was the Confederate POW camp at Andersonvillemarker.

Union camps

Confederate camps

Boer Wars

Boer camps

  • Pretoria
  • Waterval
  • Nooitgedacht
  • Barberton

British camps
  • Cape Town
  • Simonstown
  • Natal


  • St. Helena
  • Ceylon
  • India
  • Bermuda
  • Portugal

World War I

The first international convention on prisoners of war was signed at the Hague Peace Conference of 1899. It was widened by the Hague Convention of 1907. These rules proved insufficient in World War I, and the International Red Cross proposed a more complete code.


(this is only a partial list - please help to expand it, although also see [88438])

Polish–Soviet War

Tucholamarker was the most notorious POW camp for Red Army POWs (1919-1922).

From autumn 1920, thousands of captured Red Army men had been placed in the camp of Тuchola, in Pomerania. These POWs lived in trenches. Famine, cold and infectious diseases killed tens of prisoners daily. In the winter 1920/1921 PoWs had a death rate of about 25% which was attributed to malnutrition, poor sanitary conditions, lack of fuel and medicines and physical maltreatment by the Polish supervisors.

From the moment of opening an infirmary in February, 1921 till May 11, 1921 there was registered epidemic diseases 6491, not epidemic 12294, 2561 deaths (W.Rezmer, Zbigniew Karpus, G.Matvejev Red Army POWs in the Polish POW camps 1919-1922, p. 671).

Lieutenant Colonel I. Matuszewski, the head of the II department of the Polish Joint Staff, informed the military minister of Poland in the letter on February 1, 1922, that 22,000 PoWs were lost in the camp of Tuchola during its existence. (Red Army POWs..., p. 671), however according to Karpus, Rezmer the total death toll in all Polish POW camps was near 16,000, while Matvejev's estimate is 20,000.

On the other side of the frontline about 20,000 out of about 51,000 Polish POWs died in Soviet and Lithuanian camps (Karpus, Zbigniew, Alexandrowicz Stanisław, Zwycięzcy za drutami. Jeńcy polscy w niewoli (1919-1922). Dokumenty i materiały (Victors behind the fences. Polish POWs (1919-1922). Documents and materials). Wydawnictwo Uniwersytetu Mikołaja Kopernika w Toruniu, Toruń, 1995, ISBN 83-231-0627-4).

While the conditions for Soviet prisoners were clearly exposed by the free press in Poland(Karpus op.cit.), no corresponding fact-finding about Soviet camps for Polish POWs could be expected from tightly controlled Soviet press of the time. Available data shows many cases of mistreatment of Polish prisoners. There have been also cases of Soviet army executing Polish POWs when no POW facilities were available (Karpus op.cit.).

World War II

The Third Geneva Convention (1929) established the certain provisions relative to the treatment of Prisoners of War. One requirement was that POW camps were to be open to inspection by authorised representatives of a neutral power.
  • Article 10 required that POWs should be lodged in adequately heated and lighted buildings where conditions were the same as their own troops.
  • Articles 27-32 detailed the conditions of labour. Enlisted ranks were required to perform whatever labour they were asked and able to do, so long as it was not dangerous and did not support the captor's war effort. Senior Non-commissioned officers (sergeants and above) were required to work only in a supervisory role. Commissioned officers were not required to work, although they could volunteer. The work performed was largely agricultural or industrial, ranging from coal or potash mining, stone quarrying, or work in saw mills, breweries, factories, railway yards, and forests. POWs hired out to military and civilian contractors were supposed to receive pay. The workers were also supposed to get at least one day per week of rest.
  • Article 76 ensured that PoWs who died in captivity were honourably buried in marked graves.

The Cowra breakout, on August 5 1944, is believed to be the largest escape of POWs in recorded history and possibly the largest prison breakout ever. At least 545 Japanesemarker POWs attempted to escape from a camp near Cowramarker, Australia. Most sources say that 234 POWs were killed or committed suicide. The remainder were recaptured.

Allied camps

Click here for another List of World War II POW camps

Axis camps

Cigarettes as money

In many POW camps, cigarettes were widely used as 'money'. They performed the function of money as a medium of exchange. This was because they were generally accepted among the prisoners for settling payments or debts. They also performed the function of money as a unit of account. Prices of other goods were expressed in terms of cigarettes. Compared with other goods, the supply of cigarettes was more stable, as they were rationed in the POW camps, and cigarettes were more divisible, portable and homogeneous.

Korean War

U.N. camps

The International Red Cross visited U.N. POW camps, often unannounced, noting prisoner hygiene, quality of medical care, variety of diet and weight gain. They talked to the prisoners and asked for their comments on conditions, as well as providing them with copies of the Geneva Convention. The IRC delegates dispersed boots, soap and other requested goods.

  • Koje-domarker Island - a prison camp where over 170,000 communist and non-communist prisoners were held from December 1950 until June 1952. Throughout 1951 and early 1952, upper-level communist agents infiltrated and conquered much of Koje section-by-section by uniting fellow communists, bending dissenters to their will through staged trials and public executions, and exporting allegations of abuse to the international community to benefit the communist negotiation team. In May 1952, Chinese and North Korean prisoners at Koje Island rioted and took Brigadier General Francis T. Dodd captive.

Communist camps

In the communist POW camps, U.N. prisoners suffered starvation and the deprivation of sleep, food and medical care; many endured various levels of torture. Communist guards often retained relief packages and food for themselves.

While these POW Camps were designated numerically by the communists, the POWs often gave the camps a name.

  • Camp 1 - Changsong - near Camp 3 on the Yalu River. [88440]
  • Camp 2 - Pyoktong - on the Yalu River. [88441]
  • Camp 3 - Changsong - near Camp 1 on the Yalu River. [88442]
  • Camp 4 - north of Camp 2
  • Camp 5 - near Pyoktong. [88443]
  • Camp 6 - P'yong-yang
  • Camp 7 - near Pyoktong. [88444]
  • Camp 8 - Kangdong
  • Camp 9 - P'yong-yang.
  • Camp 10 - Chon ma
  • Camp 11 - Pukchin
  • Camp 12 - P'yong-yang- (Peace Camp) was located in the northwestern vicinity of the capitol. Nearby were several other camps including PAK's Palace.
  • Bean Camp - Suan
  • Camp DeSoto - P'yong-yang locale - The camp was near to Camp 12.
  • Pak's Palace Camp - P'yong-yang locale - Located in the northern most area near the Capitol, this camp was so-named after a notorious interrogator, Col. Pak. The camp was near Camp 12.
  • Pukchin Mining Camp - between Kunu-ri and Pyoktong - (aka. Death Valley Camp).
  • Sunchon Tunnel - - (aka. Caves Camp) Site of a massacre of prisoners.
  • Suan Mining Camp - P'yong-yang
  • Valley Camps - Teksil-li

Vietnam War

South Vietnamese Army camps in South Vietnam

By the end of 1965, Viet Cong suspects, prisoners of war, and even juvenile delinquents were all mixed together in South Vietnamese jails and prisons. After June 1965 the prison population steadily rose until by early 1966 there was no space for more prisoners in the existing jails and prisons. In 1965 plans were made to construct five POW camps, each having an initial capacity of 1,000 prisoners. Each camp would be staffed by the South Vietnamese military police, with U.S. military policemen as prisoner of war advisers being assigned to each stockade.

Prisons and jails
  • Con Sonmarker National Prison
  • Chi Hoa National Prison
  • Tam Hiep National Prison
  • Thu Duc National Prison
  • plus 42 Province jails

  • Bien Hoa camp - in III Corp area was opened May 1966
  • Pleiku camp - in II Corps area was opened August 1966
  • Da Nang camp (Non Nuoc) - in I Corps area was opened in November 1966
  • Can Tho camp - in IV Corps area was opened December 1966
  • Qui Nhon (Phu Tai) - opened March 1968 (for female PoWs)
  • Phu Quoc Island - off the coast of Cambodia opened in 1968

North Vietnamese Army camps

  • Alcatraz - North Central Hanoimarker
  • Briarpatch - WNW of Hanoi
  • Camp Faith - West of Hanoi
  • Camp Hope - Son Tay, WNW of Hanoi
  • Dirty Bird - Northern Hanoi
  • Dogpatch - NNE of Hanoi
  • Farnsworth - SW of Hanoi
  • Hanoi Hiltonmarker - Hoa Lo, Central Hanoi
  • Mountain Camp - NW of Hanoi
  • Plantation - Northeast Hanoi
  • Rockpile - South of Hanoi
  • Skidrow - SW of Hanoi
  • Zoo - SW suburb of Hanoi

Yugoslav wars

Serb Camps

Other Camps

Afghanistan and Iraq wars

The United States has refused to grant prisoner-of-war status to many prisoners captured during its 2001 invasion of Afghanistan and 2003 invasion of Iraq. The legality of this refusal has been questioned and cases are pending in the US courts. A recent U.S.marker Supreme Courtmarker decision seems to have given all prisoners under US control POW status. This is under dispute. Other captives, including Saddam Hussein, have been accorded POW status. The International Red Cross has been permitted to visit at least some sites. It has been alleged that many prisoners are held in secret locations or by friendly governments.Known sites include:

See also


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