Now the site of the a UT Experiment Station and 4-H camp, Camp Crossville housed over 1,500 German and Italian prisoners of war between the first prisoners’ arrival in November 1942 and the camp’s closing in December 1945. The federal government purchased the land from former US Marshal Amos Wilkes in 1941. Wilkes was an unwilling seller, but the federal government forced the sale. UT played a role in choosing the site for the camp, with UT extension agents working with federal officials to determine the suitability of the soil for the camp. Within the 155 prisoner-of-war camp system, Camp Crossville was the only US POW camp officially designated for officers. The German and Italian officers were kept in separate quarters, and farmers in the area could sign up through UT’s county agent to receive prisoner help for harvesting crops and for other selected farm work. Only one soldier—a German prisoner—is known to have escaped from the camp, and he was caught in Texas and returned.
When the camp was closed and some of the barracks were dismantled for a move, several tunnels were found under the stoves. But because of the shallow, sandy soil, and the fact that the building foundations went to bedrock, extensive tunneling was impossible. At the close of World War II, UT received 194 acres of the land, with 160 being added to the Plateau Research and Education Center and 30 being used for the Clyde M. York 4-H Camp. UT also used on the campus some of the barracks buildings from Camp Crossville.