Camp Tophat, a virtual city of thousands of black 20-man tents on the outskirts of Antwerp, Belgium, also qualified (technically) as a Cigarette Camp since it was named after Belgian Tophat cigarettes (see additional photos of labels further below; Antwerp had a very large and entrenched black market, and cigarettes, especially American brands, were more valuable than currency). Like the camps in the Red Horse Staging Area around Le Havre, Tophat had been set up in close proximity to Antwerp's world-class harbor facilities in order to process the masses of American troops who were either going home or being redeployed to the Pacific Theater of Operations following V-E Day. Antwerp lies 80 kilometers from the North Sea on the Scheldt River.
By May 1945, Tophat was a pretty luxurious place, what with her five movie theaters, good food, a gift PX, officerís and enlisted menís clubs, an ice-cream bar, a 20-seat barber shop where the haircuts were free (but you were encourage to tip the barber on your way out), and excellent English-speaking Belgian service personnel. More information about the camp, including the role of German POWs as a camp labor force and the GI experience in Antwerp in 1945, is available at Bob Gallagher's Web Page.
Two rare photos of Camp Tophat. Top, the main entrance to the camp with the "penny arcade"
in the background; bottom, the arrivals-departures board for U.S. ships.
Camp Tophat welcome letter issued to new arrivals. Any reader who has an original and can submit a scan of the flip
side, which showed a map of the camp, can contact the Webmaster.