The demands of World War II created a shortage of agricultural workers here at home. To alleviate the problem, the Prisoner of War Special Projects Division of the United States Army established some 500 camps with a total capacity of 378,000 prisoners to supply laborers.
Camp Blanding, near Starke, was headquarters for the 22 Prisoner of War camps in Florida, with the Dade City camp being designated Branch Camp No. 7. Before the assignments were made, U.S. officials picked out the hard core Nazi party members for placement at locations away from the rank and file prisoners. Operations began here in March 1944, and the camp housed an average of 250 men-many from Rommel's famed Afrika Korps-during its two-year existence.
Built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, this camp had a three-tent mess hall which was also used for church services, classes and movies; a canteen attached to a small day room; a larger day room with table tennis and a piano; sleeping quarters and latrines.
The prisoners (PWs) worked at Dade City's Pasco Packing Association at the McDonald Mine in Brooksville where they made limestone bricks for Pasco Packing Building No. 7, and at Cummer Sons Cypress Mill in Lacoochee. They were paid local prevailing wages for their labor with the money - except for an $.80 daily allowance for personal needs - going to the U.S. Government.
Although guarded by U.S. officers, the PWs were under the command of a German officer. Religious needs were met by the minister of the Zion Lutheran Church of Tampa and priests from nearby Saint Leo Abbey.
Several who were incarcerated here have kept in touch by letter, a few have returned for nostalgic visits and many fondly recall the care they received here during this difficult time.