In the fall of 1944, 265 German prisoners of war were brought by train to Hannibal from Clarinda, Iowa, for a six-week project. More than two million shoes had been donated to the war effort from all across the country, and the Germans were brought to Hannibal to aid in sorting the shoes and preparing them for repair. Bluff City Shoe Company had received the army’s contract to refurbish the shoes, which would then be sent to Europe. The Europeans (particularly those in Greece) would receive the repaired shoes, as their countries had been devastated by the war and all essentials were needed to help them rebuild their lives.
Clemens Field was converted into a temporary encampment for the prisoners, who lived in tents behind a barbed-wire fence inside the compound. By all accounts, the German POWs were well received in Hannibal. Bread and fresh vegetables were regularly brought to the camp by Hannibal residents concerned for the Germans’ well-being. There was even talk that the POWs might be allowed to attend a football game at Hannibal High School, but the U.S. Army vetoed the idea. One Hannibal resident recalled groups of locals gathering at the edge of the bluff at the end of South Fifth Street to listen to the prisoners singing as they sat around their evening campfires.
Clemens Field was converted into a German P.O.W. camp in 1944 during World War II.