This poster is part of Preserving U.S. Military Heritage: WWII to the Cold War, Fredericksburg, Texas, June 4-6, 2019.
by Shelly L. Wunderlich and Brandy M. Harris
This paper presents the history of Fort Reno during World War II and the results of recent preservation efforts of a bridge built there by POW labor circa 1945. Fort Reno was established in 1874 as a temporary camp to protect the Cheyenne-Arapaho Agency at Darlington from Indian conflicts in the region. The post ceased operations as a military base in 1908 and was subsequently reactivated as a remount station. It continued operating in this capacity until 1948 when ownership was transferred to the U. S. Department of Agriculture. During its final years under military control, Fort Reno was selected in 1943 to serve as a POW camp. Allied victories in North Africa resulted in the capture of over 250,000 German and Italian troops from northern Tunisia. Fort Reno housed over 1,500 prisoners of war, including members of the Afrika Korps, until their release in May of 1946. The POWs were used to fill vital labor shortages both at the base, in the community, and elsewhere in the state. At Fort Reno, the prisoners bred and trained horses and mules and engaged in improvement projects, such as construction of a chapel and a bridge. The historic bridge is in need of replacement. In 2018, USDA and the Oklahoma State Historic Preservation Office established a Memorandum of Agreement to mitigate adverse effects to the National Register of Historic Places-eligible bridge under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act. Mitigation efforts included careful removal and preservation of the POW inscription carved into the bridge during construction, high-quality, high-resolution photographs and FARO 3D scans of the bridge prior to demolition, and development of a written historic context of POWs held at the fort.
Shelly L. Wunderlich is a Senior Cultural Resources Specialist at Burns & McDonnell’s Austin, Texas office. Shelly serves a Principal Investigator for archaeological surveys and excavations to locate, record, and evaluate archaeological and historic sites prior to development. Shelly received a Bachelor of Science in Archaeological Studies from the University of Wisconsin- La Crosse and a Master of Arts in Anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin.
Brandy M. Harris is a Senior Cultural Resources Specialist at Burns & McDonnell’s Austin, Texas office. Brandy serves as Project Manager and Principal Investigator for historic resources surveys and assessments and archival research projects. Brandy received a Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and a Master of Arts in Public History from Texas State University.