World War II Taunton POW camp attempted to become the headquarters of the United Nations
The SouthCoast played a major role in WWII with a bit of history you may never have known.
During World War II, Taunton was the site of a prisoner of war camp. Because of this camp, Taunton actually officially requested that the United Nations Headquarters be on the site of the prison camp.
In 1942, shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States entered World War II. An embarkation center in Boston chose Taunton as their station, meaning 1.5 million troops passed through Camp Myles Standish before being dispatched to Europe.
“If you were to walk there today, you wouldn’t see anything that reminds you of the prison camp,” said Dr William Hanna, professor of history at Bridgewater State University. All that remains, he said, is a cave in honor of the Virgin Mary which was built by Italian internees.
The camp’s original role of training our soldiers changed and it became the Myles Standish prison camp for Italian and German captives.
“On the 1,620 acres – 1,620 for Myles Standish – you’ll find 35 miles of roads, 10 miles of railroad tracks, 1,500 buildings and a 16,000-seat amphitheater,” Hanna said.
The reason Taunton has such a large Italian community today, Hanna said, can be attributed to Italian prisoners of war. After the war, many local girls followed the soldiers to Italy and married them there before returning to Taunton to start a family.
German prisoners were a different situation. During the war, Italy surrendered and became one of our allies, unlike Germany. Hanna described in detail what a former German POW told her.
“I asked him how he was treated? He was only 17 when the parachutist was captured,” Hanna said. “He told me that most of the time he had been treated very well, but towards the end of his stay he said graphic photographs were returning from the liberation of the concentration camps, which showed some of the six million Jews. who had been slaughtered by the Nazis. We set them up so the POWs would know what Germany had done.
“A guard said to the young German: ‘Don’t think just because the war is over, that it is over for you, because you are going to be sent back to Europe and you are going to work, rebuilding the destroyed cities, Hitler said. Hanna said.
The whole story is told in detail at the Old Colony History Museum in Taunton, whose mission is to keep history alive.
What about Taunton and the United Nations?
“When the government was done with the Myles Standish camp, Taunton had to find a use for it, and if you can believe it the city actually requested that the UN headquarters be centered on this location,” Hanna said. .
Of course, the United Nations was ultimately located in New York, the first city of the United States.
“The locals did not understand why they finally chose Manhattan. It seemed to us that the solution was there,” thought Hanna.