Andruss Library hosts program on Italian POWs in Pennsylvania

BLOOMSBURG —Bloomsburg University will host a presentation by researchers Flavio Conti and Alan Perry on, “Italian Prisoners of War in Pennsylvania, 1944-1945” on Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018, at 7 p.m. in Andruss Library's Schweiker Room. This event is free and open to the public and sponsored by the Friends of the Bloomsburg University Library Association (FOBULA).

During World War II, the U.S. government interned more than 1,200 captured Italian soldiers at the Letterkenny Army Ordnance Depot located near Chambersburg. These troops collaborated with the United States in a collective effort to defeat the Axis powers.  They formed the 321st Italian Quartermaster Battalion, and their work consisted mainly of stocking and shipping materials — ammunition, military vehicles, weapons, and machinery parts — to war fronts in the European and Pacific theaters of operation.

For entertainment, the soldiers formed an orchestra and band and for sport, several different company soccer teams. As a sign of their faith, they built a chapel and bell tower, which are still used today. Countless Italian Americans provided them with emotional and material support and many forged deep friendships with Pennsylvanians from all over the commonwealth. After the war, a few even married their sweethearts and returned to live in the United States.

Oral histories from surviving POWs, memoirs and photographs generously donated by family members of ex-prisoners, and rich information newly available from archival material in Italy, aided by documents found in the United States, make this fascinating historical experience come alive more than seventy years after the war.

Flavio Conti is an independent historian and his longest-standing historical interest has centered on the experience of Italian POWs held by the Allies during World War II. Alan Perry is currently professor of Italian Literature in the Department of Italian Studies at Gettysburg College. Conti and Perry have collaborated on two books: Italian Prisoners of War in Pennsylvania, 1944 – 1945. Madison, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2016 and World War II Italian Prisoners of War in Chambersburg. Mount Pleasant, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2017. Copies of the latter book will be for sale following the presentation.

Light refreshments will be provided, along with a historical display on one of the prisoners of war, longtime Berwick resident and former Bloomsburg State College faculty member Alfred Tonolo. Please contact Robert Dunkelberger at (570) 389-4210 or at rdunkelb@bloomu.edu with questions regarding this event.

Bloomsburg University is one of 14 universities in Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education. The university serves approximately 8,900 students, offering comprehensive programs of study in the colleges of Education, Business, Liberal Arts and Science and Technology.