Fort Campbell works to preserve German POW camp history

By Ethan SteinquestDecember 9, 2021

Lieutenant Colonel Siegfried J. Balk, German liaison officer, United States Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, and Sgt. Maj. Kay Jan Wittmann, German army liaison, MCoE, receive an update on Fort Campbell’s German POW cemetery Dec. 1 during a visit to Fort Campbell. Pictured are Karsten Haake, project director, Campbell Crossing, left; Balk; Wittmann; Ron Grayson, Cultural Resources Management Program manager, Fort Campbell Directorate of Public Works; and Nichole Sorensen-Mutchie, archaeologist, Cultural Resources Management Program, DPW.
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Lieutenant Colonel Siegfried J. Balk, German liaison officer, United States Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, and Sgt. Maj. Kay Jan Wittmann, German army liaison, MCoE, receive an update on Fort Campbell’s German POW cemetery Dec. 1 during a visit to Fort Campbell. Pictured are Karsten Haake, project director, Campbell Crossing, left; Balk; Wittmann; Ron Grayson, Cultural Resources Management Program manager, Fort Campbell Directorate of Public Works; and Nichole Sorensen-Mutchie, archaeologist, Cultural Resources Management Program, DPW. (Photo Credit: Ethan Steinquest) VIEW ORIGINAL
Nichole Sorensen-Mutchie, archaeologist, Cultural Resources Management Program, Fort Campbell Directorate of Public Works, gives Lt. Col. Siegfried J. Balk, German liaison officer, United States Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, an overview of the upcoming Erevia Park subdivision site Dec. 1 during his visit to the installation. The site includes land that was once used as a German POW camp. Balk and his team work closely with the Cultural Resources Management Program to ensure items of historical significance are properly cared for and preserved.
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Nichole Sorensen-Mutchie, archaeologist, Cultural Resources Management Program, Fort Campbell Directorate of Public Works, gives Lt. Col. Siegfried J. Balk, German liaison officer, United States Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, an overview of the upcoming Erevia Park subdivision site Dec. 1 during his visit to the installation. The site includes land that was once used as a German POW camp. Balk and his team work closely with the Cultural Resources Management Program to ensure items of historical significance are properly cared for and preserved. (Photo Credit: Ethan Steinquest) VIEW ORIGINAL

Fort Campbell’s Cultural Resources Management Program, or CRMP, has worked closely with the German army liaison staff for years, and now their partnership is preserving rediscovered artifacts from one of the installation’s three World War II-era prisoner of war camps.

CRMP archaeologists found intact remnants of Camp D-D, which operated 1943-1946 and held approximately 1,000 German POWs at a time, while conducting a historical review for the new Erevia Park post housing development.

“Using GIS, which is a mapping software program, we were able to look at current aerial views of the field where Erevia Park is planned to be built,” said Nichole Sorensen-Mutchie, archaeologist, CRMP, Fort Campbell Directorate of Public Works. “By overlaying the 1943 cantonment engineering map, which shows the POW camp, with a modern map, we were pretty much able to see where X marks the spot.”

Multiple entities including representatives from Fort Campbell and Germany collaborated to identify and preserve materials recovered from the area in accordance with federal law.

German army liaison staffers, who are part of the process, visited the installation Dec. 1.

“It’s not just America’s past, it’s also the past and history of the people in the German army,” said Ron Grayson, CRMP manager, DPW. “Working with the descendent community is important for archaeology, whether it’s with Native American tribes or descendent groups of Families, churches or entire towns. Being able to understand the archaeological record really hinges on understanding those descendent communities and getting their interpretation as well.”

Representatives from the German army typically make annual memorial visits to the installation’s German POW cemetery, and this year’s tour provided an opportunity for them to visit the Erevia Park on post housing development before construction begins in 2022.

Although the Erevia Park area once housed German enemy combatants, today Germany is one of America’s closest allies. So “having (U.S. Soldiers) living here using the same ground, that’s absolutely perfect,” said Lt. Col. Siegfried J. Balk, German liaison officer, United States Army Maneuver Center of Excellence, Fort Benning, Georgia.

Erevia Park will include approximately 200 homes for junior enlisted Soldiers and their Families. Lendlease Communities, the Army’s privatized housing partner, is funding those developments through its project reinvestment account and plans to include historical signage about Camp D-D for residents.

“The first prisoners got here July 24, 1943, and everybody was out by April 1946,” Grayson said. “We had a total of three camps out here with 1,000 prisoners each in different locations. Camp D-D., which is where Erevia Park is, was one of those.”

Camp D-D was largely destroyed by the former Lee Village housing development, which stood on the installation 1953-2010. Historians believed its construction had completely wiped out the camp until the remnants were found earlier this year.

“Initially, we did walk-over surveys to try and find anything on the surface,” Grayson said. “We found an intact fire hydrant, some chunks of concrete and things like that, and we also found vegetation in the form of yucca plants and rosebushes that people would have had to plant. They were sorted by color and lined up fairly well with the design drawings.”

From there, CRMP excavated locations across the footprint to confirm that sections of the camp remained intact underground, including part of a storehouse used to feed POWs.

“What’s interesting about that particular storehouse is that it also had a cellar feature with cold storage to keep food from spoiling,” Sorensen-Mutchie said. “We found a milk bottle there from Hopkinsville, which is really interesting because it tells us the local communities helped provide food and meet those ration requirements for the POWs, but it also helped the local economy because they were purchasing from local communities.”

A majority of the items excavated from the site were sent off for cleaning, and once they return to CRMP archaeologists will work with the German army to identify them and learn their cultural significance.

All the artifacts will be kept in an on-site curation facility on post. Grayson said CRMP is also planning to write a book on Camp D-D based on what they learn from the German army about each of the artifacts.

Balk said he is honored to play a role in that process and thanked the installation for preserving both the German POW cemetery and artifacts from the POW camp.

“Today I got a little bit more insight on the installation, on the history of the POW camp and on the planning of the site where the former POW camp was,” Balk said. “For that, I’m absolutely grateful that we have a permanent connection between the Cultural Resources Program here at Fort Campbell and the German liaison staff.”