How many German POWs stayed in the U.S.?

8/14/2012 • Ask Mr. History


How many World War II German prisoners of war interned in the United States stayed in the United States after the war?

Thank you.


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Dear KM,  

Officially, none of the more than 425,000 Axis POWs kept in the United States should have stayed there after the war—POWs are supposed to be repatriated after the war is over. It is believed that about 1 percent of Germans did stay, and an unknown percentage later came back to the United States, largely because of poor employment prospects in the immediate postwar Germany. A few Germans who escaped from the camps settled in under assumed names—one finally “surrendered” in 1985, then acquired American citizenship and as of 2009 was living on in the U.S. under his now-legal name of Dennis While.  

A higher percentage of Italian POWs probably worked their way into American citizenship. Of the 51,000 held in the United States, 45,000 agreed to take up work for the war effort and a good many fell in love with American women (I interviewed a fighter pilot who did). They were not allowed to marry, but after being repatriated (and again, this applies to my interviewee) the women traveled to Italy, were married there and their husbands took them back to the U.S. to find work and process their way into citizenship.  

Under these not-so-simple circumstances, however, exact statistics are hard to ascertain.

For additional information on German POWs held in the United States, see German POWs: Coming Soon to a Town Near You by Ronald H. Bailey in the September/October 2012 issue of World War II magazine.  

For some further reading, also see  



Jon Guttman
Research Director
World History Group
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