Phoenix — Arizona Military Museum
Arizona Military Museum ¹
During World War II, Camp Papago Park was a prisoner of war (POW) facility located in Phoenix, Arizona. It consisted of five compounds, four for enlisted men and one for officers. Called “Schlaraffenland” (land of milk and honey) by its mostly U-boat-crew inmates, Camp Papago Park was very different from Axis POW camps, especially with regard to how prisoners were treated. Inmates were not required to work or study, though many chose to as a means of combating boredom. The camp had a theater where films were screened twice a week and the camp choir could practice.
In December 1944, twenty-five POWs escaped from Camp Papago Park into the surrounding desert. Among them Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross recipient Kapitänleutnant Hans-Werner Kraus. Originally thought to be impossible to tunnel through, the hard clay of the surrounding area turned out to be conducive to tunneling as it softened greatly when wet. Over time, the escapees dug a tunnel 176 feet long, three feet high and half as wide, without being detected. Though the guards proved easy to get past, the vast distances and desert terrain were insurmountable, resulting in most returning to the camp within a few weeks. One escapee turned himself in on seeing the camp's planned Christmas menu. Most of the escapees were aware that returning to Germany was nearly impossible and had "escaped" as more of a prank. This did not mean all had abandoned any hope of making it home, and a few of the men brought along boards they intended to fashion into a raft. This would then be used to float down the Salt River to the Gila River, which they had seen on local maps but not personally. Unfortunately for their plan, the river was not flowing at the time of their escape, and what they found was a dry arroyo instead.
When two escapees were recaptured, subsequent events further illustrated differences between Axis and Allied POW operations. The two men dined with a local customs official at his home. Later nearby residents came to see the escapees first hand after their story appeared in the news, as did a handicapped boy looking for a game of chess.
The property now is divided between the Papago Park Military Reservation, belonging to the Arizona National Guard, a city park, residential neighborhoods and a car dealer's lot. We currently know of three aircraft on display at the Papago Park Military Reservation. A LTV A-7D-16-CV Corsair II (AF 74-1741) and a Bell AH-1S Cobra (Army 68-15064) are displayed as gate guards near the Main entrance. The third aircraft, a Bell UH-1M Iroquois “Huey” (Bell UH-1C-BF conversion, c/n 1280, AF 64-14156) is on display inside the Arizona Military Museum.
The Arizona Military Museum is operated by the Arizona National Guard Historical Society, a private non-profit corporation. The officers and directors serve as docents, and they perform other necessary functions in conjunction with National Guard support to operate and maintain the museum. On September 30, 2006, the Arizona Military Museum celebrated its 25th anniversary. The Museum building is a significant part of Arizona's military history. The raw adobe building was constructed in 1936 as a Depression-era public works project. It served as a National Guard arsenal until World War II, when it was converted into a maintenance shop for German prisoners of war confined at a nearby POW camp. The museum has a Bell UH-1M Iroquois “Huey” (AF 64-14156) on display.
AFIA Photos ³
Recently A Friend In Arizona (AFIA) visited the Papago Park Military Reservation and the Arizona Military Museum on 9/24/2011. While there, AFIA was able to get some nice "walk-around" photos of “Gate Guards” and the “Huey” inside the Museum. The aircraft at these locations are: (1) LTV A-7D-16-CV Corsair II (AF 74-1741) gate guard; (2) Bell AH-1S Cobra (Army 68-15064) gate guard; and (3) Bell UH-1M Iroquois “Huey” (AF 64-14156, c/n 1280) located inside the Arizona Military Museum.
Museum and Grounds, Arizona Military Museum, 9/24/2011 (Photos by AFIA)
Bell UH-1M-BF Iroquois “Huey” (Army 64-14156, c/n 1280) on display (9/24/2011) at the Arizona Military Museum, Papago Park Military Reservation, Phoenix, Arizona (Photos by AFIA)
LTV A-7D-16-CV Corsair II (AF 74-1741) on display (9/24/2011) at the main entrance to the Papago Park Military Reservation, Phoenix, Arizona (Photos by AFIA)
Bell AH-1S Cobra (Army 68-15064) on display (9/24/2011) at the main entrance to the Papago Park Military Reservation, Phoenix, Arizona (Photos by AFIA)
A very special thanks to A Friend in Arizona (AFIA) for providing us with some excellent “walk-around” photos of the “Gate Guards” and the “Huey” at the Papago Park Military Reservation and the Arizona Military Museum on 9/24/2011.
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