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Descendents of Italian POWs to soon arrive in Chambersburg

Written by Vicky Taylor/Chambersburg Public Opinion | Oct 22, 2015 12:26 PM
italian_pow_letterkenny.jpg

Italian Service Unit Members at Letterkenny are pictured, circa 1945. (Photo Courtesy of CPL Alfredo Arienti)

 

 

(Chambersburg) -- It's countdown time for a special reunion for the descendants of Italian POW's who lived and worked at what was in the mid-1940s called Letterkenny Ordinance Depot Franklin County.

About 20 such descendants have packed their bags and are ready to board an airplane for the United States, where they will be welcomed in Chambersburg Friday by an equally eager reception committee representing the community and the board of the Historic Letterkenny Chapel, which their fathers and grandfathers built during their almost two-year stay here before being repatriated to Italy 70 years ago.

These descendants are eager to see where their fathers and grandfathers lived as soldiers taken prisoner during World War II and brought to the United States.

POWs who swore allegiance to the U.S. after Italy surrendered in 1943 were integrated into Italian Service Units and 1,250 of them were brought to Franklin County, where they lived at Letterkenny and helped with the war effort as part of the 321st Quartermaster Battalion.

They spent 17 months at the depot before being repatriated in October 1945.

When they got home, their descendants said, they often talked about their Letterkenny experiences, including the building of a unique chapel on ground next to the post's assembly hall, a venue for recreational events.

This weekend's event, sponsored by the Historic Letterkenny Chapel and Franklin County Veterans and 9/11 Memorial Park, is designed to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII and the repatriation of those Italian prisoners -- as well as to remember their contributions to the war effort.

The weekend program includes an invitation-only reception for the Italian visitors at the Knights of Columbus in Chambersburg on Friday and a Saturday morning Mass led by Corpus Christi's pastor, Rev. Luis Rodriquez, and program that will include special music by two of the Italian visitors and dedication of a permanent display inside the chapel depicting the history of Letterkenny's Italian Service Unit. The program and dedication are open to the public.

Following the dedication of the display, activities will move to the Corpus Christi Parish Center on Second Street, where a special lunch prepared by Chef Fabio Carella for the Italian visitors and ticket holders is planned, followed by a lecture by Dr. Flavio Conti of Rome and Gettysburg College professor Dr. Alan Perry.

Tickets to the luncheon and lecture are sold out.

Titled "Italian POWs at Letterkenny Army Depot 1944-1945: Allies on the Home Front," the lecture will incorporate Dr. Conti's research on the POWs capture and transport to the United States.

Conti and Perry will discuss the service unit's work at the depot, their pursuits in free time and their construction of the chapel and bell tower.

The two men are collaborating on a book about this unique chapter of WWII history.

Perry is a professor of Italian at Gettysburg College and chair of the college's department of Italian studies. His specific field of interest is the Italian Resistance of World War II and Italy in the Cold War.

Conti has a degree in philosophy from the University of Rome, an MA from Loyola University of Chicago, and a PhD in political sciences from the University of RomaTRE.

Recently retired, he is an independent historian and writer, with a special interest in the experiences of Italian POWs held by the Allies during WWII. His latest book, "Italian Prisoners of War in the United States," won the prestigious "De Cia" award in 2013.

One of the Italians coming from Italy for the event, Signor and Milan Mayor Antonio Brescianini, will represent Italian hometowns the POWs returned to after the war, bringing greetings to Chambersburg representatives from his own town, Vimodrone (Milan). In that capacity, he will present several pennants to the city of Chambersburg during the that symbolically represent the Italian cities and towns where the Italian POWs returned to after the war.

Brescianini is the son of Luigi Brescianini, one of the POWs at Letterkenny. His wife, Maria, will be with him for the event.

During the chapel service, Fabio Trevisan, grandson of another Italian POW, Zefferino Trevisan, will sing, accompanied by Carlo Broghetti, a council member from the region of Lombardy.

Italian Military Attache Col. Rodolfo Sganga will represent the Sons of Italy and the national Italian American Foundation at the event.


This article comes to us through a partnership between Public Opinion Online and WITF.

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